Its one of the side effects of that world of information that social media like Twitter and Facebook provide. It takes just a few seconds to type in a 140-character message and send it out for the whole world to see. People learn of all sorts of notable historic events this way, almost at the instant they happen. Social networks are tremendous or terrible (depending on how you look at it) at spreading news and rumors and all it takes is one tweet and suddenly someone has to go in damage control mode. A great example of this was seen this week when it was splashed all over Twitter that Vancouver Canucks' Ryan Kesler was demanding to be traded. The rumor exploded, and speculation immediately turned where Kesler was headed. Kesler tried to refute the rumors with the hope that it would not create a distraction. Really Ryan? A rumor like that isn't going to be distraction in hockey mad Vancouver?!?!
So with a major distraction swirling on Canada's 'left coast' the Wild come to town after playing the Oilers the night before. Minnesota has some rumors swirling of its own, but nothing all that caustic that could cause strain in the locker room or the front office, yet at least. The next few days before the trade deadline will ultimately prove if any of these rumors have any merit or its just empty guessing. So can the Wild earn a win over a distracted Canucks squad?
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1st Period Thoughts: What an odd period. The play was fast and intense as one would expect early, with both clubs trading chances. Minnesota was doing its best to trade chances with Vancouver early. The Wild thought it had a good omen when it drew an early power play as Daniel Sedin was tagged for hooking. Unfortunately, the power play would boomerang on the Wild as Keith Ballard couldn't hold the zone and as he mishandled the puck it gave Ryan Kesler a shorthanded opportunity and the Livonia, Michigan-native raced down the ice where he ripped a wrist shot by Darcy Kuemper to make it 1-0. It was soft shorthanded goal for the Canucks. Minnesota would answer back fairly soon as the 4th line had a solid forechecking shift where they kept the Canucks bottled up in their own end and Eddie Lack would be forced to freeze the puck. On the ensuing draw, Erik Haula won it back to the point where Keith Ballard fired a wrist shot from the point that rang off the left post and in as Lack was well-screened by Haula. However, NHL referee Brad Meier disagreed and he'd waive off the goal, saying that there was incidental contact between Haula and Lack. The replay clearly showed that Erik Haula was not in the crease, nor did he make any contact with Lack but because the official determined interference occurred (even though it did not) it couldn't even be reviewed. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo was deservedly upset as Minnesota was screwed out of a goal. Haula executed a textbook-style legal screen that you see all the time in the NHL it is unreal Meier saw interference on that play since he had an unobstructed view of it and was standing just 15 feet away. With the Wild feeling as though it had tied the game you had to wonder how the team was going to respond to this latest setback, especially after feeling the sting of a shorthanded goal. The response was pretty damn good. The Wild really put their noses to the grindstone and put Vancouver on its heels with a determined attack. Great hustle, quick and efficient little passes and most of all a willingness to shoot meant the Canucks were scrambling in their own end and it was only a matter of time before the Wild would strike. A boarding call on Jannik Hansen would provide the opportunity. Scary part of that was how Jonas Brodin that went face first into the boards that left him a bit worse for the wear as Wild Athletic Trainer Don Fuller went out to check on the health of the Swedish blueliner. Minnesota moved the puck well, taking every chance to send shots on goal. This approach would be rewarded as Zach Parise flung a heavy wrist shot that benefitted by a nice screen by Dany Heatley and by Lack to make it 1-1. Amazingly Brad Meier didn't see anything wrong with that screen even though it was in the exact same place as Haula's screen that caused Ballard's goal to be waived off. Minnesota continued to attack, playing with the kind of vigor of what you'd expect from a team playing with a bit of a chip on its shoulder. Minnesota's top line of Parise, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville were really cycling the puck well and causing the Canucks' fits. The Wild's pressure also started to create turnovers as Vancouver was guilty of attempting some long weak diagonal passes out of its zone. Minnesota was certainly trying to fire shots high as they were picking corners all period long. Wild to have felt it deserved to be up 2-1 instead of 1-1 going into the intermission.
2nd Period Thoughts: The first half of the period it was all about Darcy Keumper who weathered a Canucks' storm. Kuemper had to be on his toes as the Canucks were pressing hard for the go-ahead goal, and he came up with some dandies. A pretty stop on a partial breakaway for Henrik Sedin demonstrated Kuemper's coolness under fire as he waited for the slick Swede to commit before dropping to his pads to make the save. Kuemper had a few more great stops on point-blank range opportunities as the Canucks were trying to crash the crease looking for rebounds. Minnesota was also playing well defensively, getting in the way of shots as Nate Prosser and company had some big blocks when the play got a little frantic in their own end. Minnesota's defenseman were being timely with their physical play to separate Canucks from the puck and the Wild were supporting the play well and picking up the loose puck and breaking out of their own end. Minnesota would start to carry the play in the 2nd half of the period as they started to get their forecheck going. The Wild were again taking any chance it could get to put pucks on goal. Zach Parise would try to wrap home a backhander that was denied by a diving save by Lack who was just able to stretch enough to get a glove on the puck. Moments after that it was Heatley chipping a pass to Nino Niederreiter who made a niftly little move to split the defense but unfortunately he was not able to get much on his shot and it was easily batted aside by Lack. Minnesota's pressure would draw a hooking penalty on Ryan Kesler. On the power play, the Wild moved the puck very well but struggled to find the time and space to get an uncontested shot and the period would end with both clubs still knotted at 1-1. Minnesota was outshot 11-6 in what was a pretty tight checking period.
3rd Period Thoughts: This was a scary period. The Wild were clearly gassed. The legs were heavy and Minnesota just didn't have the jump in the skates to do much other than try to prevent the Canucks from taking the lead. Luckily for the Wild, its goaltender was not as exhausted as the rest of the team as he was busy down the stretch. Kuemper's huge sprawling stop on Ryan Kesler really personified the period. Kesler thought he had his 2nd goal of the game only to be denied by the up-raised leg of Kuemper as he dove to make the stop. MInnesota only managed 3 shots on goal, but most of the period looked like a prolonged Wild penalty kill. Somehow the Wild forced the game to go to overtime.
Overtime Thoughts: In overtime, the Wild tried to press hard for the win early and they looked as though they had a golden opportunity when Ryan Suter carried the puck in deep and as his pass would be deflected out into the high slot to Zach Parise who would step into a slap shot that was blocked by Chris Tanev. As the puck went to the corner Tanev was a little closer to the biscuit than Parise who gave him an ill-timed shove into the boards for an easy boarding penalty. This gave Vancouver a long 4-on-3 power play. Minnesota's penalty killers of Ryan Suter, Matt Cooke and Kyle Brodziak did their best to stay in a tight triangle to deny the middle of the ice for the Canucks as much as they could. That meant they had to block some big shots, but they did enough to get a clear of the zone with about 25 seconds left in the power play and Minnesota would survive and send the game to a shootout.
Shootout Summary: The Canucks would opt to have the Wild shoot first in the shootout. Minnesota's first shooter was Zach Parise and Team USA's captain would move take a slow and winding approach towards Lack where he tried to fire a shot through 5-hole but Lack was quick to shut the door. Vancouver's first shooter was Zack Kassian and the power forward would look like a bad ice dancer as he took a slow turning approach before trying to change speed and beat Kuemper with a wrist shot that he easily dismissed. Minnesota's next shooter was Charlie Coyle. Coyle would use a bit more speed as he closed the distance between himself and Lack as he lifted a wrist shot up and over the goal. The Canucks next shooter was Alexandre Burrows, and the Vancouver pest tried raced up the ice where he tried to make a quick deke and beat Kuemper only to have him denied by a fine save by the Wild goalie. Minnesota's next shooter was Jason Pominville. Pominville would take a slow serpentine route towards the goal and as he tried to fire a wrist shot it was blocked away with confidence by Lack. This meant the Canucks' Chris Higgins could win the game. Higgins would move in where he made a trickly forehand to backhand move and he thought he had Kuemper beat only to have him denied by the toe of Kuemper who A-framed to make the stop. The Wild's next shooter was Mikael Granlund who moved out to the left with speed before racing in on Lack where he tried to draw Lack to flow with him as he shot against the grain but the Canucks' goalie was wise to the move and he made the save look easy. The Canucks would go to former Golden Gophers' star Jordan Schroeder, and the slick skating forward took a slow approach where he tried to work a shot 5-hole that Kuemper stymied. Minnesota's next shooter was Dany Heatley who took a slow approach as many others attempted and he tried to lift a shot blocker side that was deflected up and over the goal by Lack. Vancouver's next shooter was Raphael Diaz, and the swift defenseman moved in with a few shifty moves but Kuemper was cool and collected as he denied the opportunity. Minnesota's next shooter was Justin Fontaine and the former Minnesota-Duluth Bulldog moved from left to right and patiently waited for Lack to sprawl before sliding a shot underneath him to give Wild a 1-0 shootout lead. This meant Darcy Kuemper could give Minnesota a victory with a save. The Canucks' backup for the night, Roberto Luongo gave Vancouver's next shooter David Booth some last second advice. Booth, would race in from right to left where he attempted a spin-a-rama and Kuemper didn't bite at all and he matter of factly made the stop to give Minnesota a 2-1 shootout victory.
Kuemper was tremendous, making 30 saves in the victory. He really bailed his team out as their legs got tired in the latter half of the game where the Canucks really were able to tilt the ice into the Wild's zone. He made some huge saves to keep the home crowd out of the game and make it a non-factor. Defensively the Wild had some bad miscues but they also did a reasonable job of helping him out by blocking shots. The Wild's penalty kill continues to step up with some big kills, especially so in that 4-on-3 man advantage in overtime. I thought Jonas Brodin and Ryan Suter were outstanding.
Offensively the Wild had a diminished effort due to fatigue; or at least that is how it appeared. I thought the line of Parise, Granlund, Pominville continued to look dangerous and was effective at creating opportunites on most of its shifts. The 2nd line of Heatley, Coyle and Niederreiter took a step back tonight. They were not nearly as effective on the forecheck and while I thought Niederreiter was pesky at times the team needed more from Heatley and Coyle than it got this evening. The 3rd and 4th lines didn't create much offensively either and they at least need to create some scoring chances to take some pressure off the top two lines.
You have to give the Wild some kudos (Mike Yeo echo'd that sentiment in his post-game press conference) for some mental toughness after the absolutely atrocious no-goal call where they had to feel as though a goal was stolen from them in a tight checking game. The team was tired, but they dug deep and did enough to win. Kuemper keeps providing clutch performances between the pipes and now the team can get some rest. Every point is crucial and they didn't let some bad luck cost them 2 points tonight. Vancouver may not be a Western Conference super power right now, but they're a team that wanted those points badly and Minnesota didn't take the night off. This is a good sign as the home stretch towards the playoffs now returns to the friendly confines of the Xcel Energy Center.
~ The Wild lineup tonight is as follows: Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Mikael Granlund, Dany Heatley, Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Justin Fontaine, Matt Cooke, Kyle Brodziak, Stephane Veilleux, Erik Haula, Torrey Mitchell, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Keith Ballard, Nate Prosser, Jonas Brodin and Clayton Stoner. Niklas Backstrom backed up Darcy Kuemper. Mike Rupp, Steven Kampfer and John Curry were the healthy scratches tonight.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game by Rogers' Sportsnet were: 1st Star Ryan Kesler, 2nd Star Zach Parise, 3rd Star Zack Kassian (huh? Really? Not Kuemper who stonewalled the Canucks virtually game long? What a joke)
~ Attendance was 18,910 at Rogers' Arena.
Iowa Wild report:
Recent Score: Wild 2, Americans 4
As a Klingon proverb once stated, "Revenge is a dish best served cold" was rather fitting in the way that former Wild prospect Johan Larsson came back to haunt his former organization with a two-goal performance as Rochester handed Iowa a 4-2 loss on Thursday night. Larsson got things going for the Americans with a power play marker just past the 4-minute mark of the game. Rochester added to its lead a few minutes later with another player play goal as Mark Pysyk lit the lamp behind Johan Gustafsson to make it 2-0 midway through the 1st period. Zack Phillips would bang home a nice pass by Carson McMillan with just 37 seconds left in the 1st period to cut the Americans' lead to one, 2-1. Shots were hard to come by for the Wild as Rochester seemed to be a step faster all game long. Larsson would rip home his 2nd goal of the game midway through the 3rd to make it 3-1. Iowa would find the back of the net just a little over 2 minutes left in the period as Tyler Graovac ripped home his 7th goal of the season but it wasn't enough as Phil Varone scored the empty netter to seal a 4-2 Rochester victory. Gustafsson had 31 saves in the loss.
Wild Prospect Report:
G – Steve Michalek (Harvard, ECAC) ~ The junior goaltender helped lift the Crimson to an important 2-1 victory over Colgate making 26 saves in the win. The former Loomis-Chafee star improves his record to 5-6-2 on the season.
RW – Kurtis Gabriel (Owen Sound, OHL) ~ The rugged power forward managed to find the back of the net tonight, but it wasn't enough as the Attack fell 4-3 in the shootout to London. The Newmarket, Ontario-native has 11 goals, 40 points with 84 PIM's and +2 rating in 52 games played this season.
D – Nick Seeler (Nebraska-Omaha, NCHC) ~ The Mavericks rolled to a 6-0 pasting of the lowly Colorado College Tigers Friday night. Seeler did his part on the 2nd pairing with Jaycob Megna as he registered 2 shots on goal as well an assist and finished the night a +2. Just as a side note, another Wild prospect and Colorado College defenseman Gustav Olofsson finished the night a -3 in the loss.
Boys High School Hockey Report:
A few more teams earned a spot in the best high school hockey tournament in the world. Again, the State of Hockey News would like to pass on our congratulations to the section winners as well as those who were runners-up this evening. On a sadder note, its also the last time there will be hockey played at the State Fair Coliseum which has seen tons and tons of memorable high school hockey moments over the last 50 years. It was decided that the hockey function of the facility is simply too outdated to make it worthwhile so its sad to see hockey leave what really was one of Minnesota's hidden hockey gems. Having watched Boys High School playoff games there; it was a great and classic venue. It will be missed.
4A – Totino-Grace Eagles (def. Mahtomedi)
4AA – Stillwater Ponies (def. Hill-Murray)
5AA – Centennial Cougars (def. Blaine)