Its a moment that brings those painful memories all back. If you're on Twitter, right around 7PM CST, tweets came pouring in about the scary situation developing around Dallas' Rich Peverly who suddenly keeled over while sitting on the bench. The team's training staff and medical personnel immediately sprang to action where it was determined that Peverly was suffering from a cardiac event. With their immediate response, excellent training and access to proper technology they were able to save Peverly's life without too much difficulty. Peverly was taken to a hospital where he's considered to be in stable condition and the game was postponed. He had a procedure done over the summer to correct an irregular heartbeat. When he collapsed he was quickly taken to a nearby hallway that led from the team benches where he was defibulated, administered oxygen and his heart quickly returned to a normal rhythym. I doubt I was alone in immediately flashing back to when we heard news that Sergei Zholtok had collapsed in a similar condition while playing in a Russian league game in Belarus during the 2004 NHL Lockout. Yet there were no doctors at nearby to attend to him nor were there any defibulating equipment and Zholtok died in the arms of current Wild assistant coach Darby Hendrickson. The parallels between the two are downright eerie except the ultimate outcome. Like Peverly, Zholtok was had also been diagnosed with an irregular heartbeat in the months before his death, and both were 31 years old at the time of the incident. Zholtok's death was a big reason why just about any arena from the pro's on down to local rinks have portable defibulators on hand to address situations like this. Could you argue that Zholtok's tragedy saved Peverly's life?!?!
Another club that could use a tiny bit of revival is the Minnesota Wild after having lost its last two games against Dallas and St. Louis respectively. Fortunately for the Wild, the league's winning cure is coming to town in the Edmonton Oilers, the worst team in the Western Conference. Easy one right? Or is it the perfect set up for a trap game? Minnesota still holds a slight edge over its fellow Central Division and Western Conference wildcard peers but it really needs to come away with 2 points in this game. So will the Wild's winning woes be cured this evening or will Wild fans' nerves become a bit more frayed?
Click on "Continue Reading" for the rest of the article…
1st Period Thoughts: After a nice tribute to Matt Cooke the Wild had a pretty rancid start. The Wild were passive and having trouble handling the puck and the Blues were quick to go on the attack. Edmonton worked the puck deep and poor decisions by Marco Scandella were magnified when he lost his stick giving the Oilers a brief advantage which turned into a quick shot by Ryan Smyth. Minnesota would finally respond with a little pressure of their own as Charlie Coyle dangled around a defender before being ridden off along the wall but he'd re-gather the puck and he'd swing a pass out front to Kyle Brodziak for a quick shot that Viktor Fasth stopped but Nino Niederreiter backhanded the rebound off the left post and out. The Wild would start to tilt the action into the Edmonton end, but they still had trouble generating much in the way of shooting opportunities. A few minutes later the top line had the best shift of the period as Mikael Granlund, Zach Parise and Jason Pominville cycled well down low before feeding a back door pass to Parise who ripped a shot wide of the mark. They'd gather up the puck and they would work it back out to the point where Ryan Suter stepped into a slap shot that was held onto by Fasth. Minnesota would then draw a holding call as Taylor Hall held up Jared Spurgeon. On the power play the Wild struggled through the first minute, hurting their own cause with bad passes that made it easy for the Oilers to clear the offensive zone. Minnesota would regroup and Granlund found Parise out front for a quick shot that we denied by the outstretched leg of Fasth but he'd gather up the puck and pull it around the sprawling goalie and fire it home before getting checked and the Wild went up 1-0. A few minutes later the Wild would add to its lead on a strange goal as Dany Heatley fed a puck out to the point to Spurgeon who blasted a slap shot that deflected off the back of the leg of Edmonton's Justin Schultz and by Fasth to make it 2-0. Minnesota would sense the blood in the water, and predictably as the Oilers fall farther behind his team doesn't work as hard and this led to more scoring chances for the Wild. The top line would start buzzing in around the crease as Granlund found Pominville for a quick shot that was stopped by Fasth and the puck ended up behind the goal which was gathered up by Parise who sent it to Granlund who directed a quick pass back to Pominville who one-timed a shot by the Oiler's goalie to make it 3-0. The Oilers would answer back as the Wild got caught sleeping in their own zone and Jeff Petry carried the puck deep before sending a pass into the slot that went off the skate of Jonas Brodin and by Kuemper to make it 3-1. Ryan Nugent-Hopkins got credit for it initiallly but it will be changed to Petry's goal. Edmonton would keep applying pressure until the end, and they'd nearly cash in a 2nd time as Nate Prosser would get shoved into Kuemper as David Perron was looking for a goal in the paint but a diving Matt Moulson would move the puck over to Kuemper who covered it up with his glove on what looked to be a sure goal for the Oilers. The Wild had to feel more than a little lucky to be up 3-1 going into the 1st intermission. Throughout major portions of the period they didn't play all that well and the Wild got some fortunate bounces at both ends of the ice that was giving them a two-goal lead. I thought Coyle had a pretty good period, showing good jump and assertiveness on his shifts. Also, the top line of Granlund, Pominville and Parise keep getting better and better.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Wild would get into penalty trouble early to start the period thanks to some bad giveaways by Marco Scandella who was coughing up the puck a lot. Coyle would get a hold the stick penalty in the offensive zone which is something that drives coaches crazy. However you'd be hard pressed to recognize the Wild were at the disadavantage as their hustle created some great scoring chances shorthanded. A turnover allowed the Wild to have a rare 3-on-1 shorthanded rush but Kyle Brodziak would misplay the puck and a golden opportunity was lost. Moments after that, Erik Haula raced in and he let loose a shot that missed wide but the puck was gathered back up by Haula who turned and fed a beauty of a pass to Matt Cooke but he didn't get much of it and he'd feather it wide. Cooke would gather up the puck and he'd feed a pass to Haula who was moving right down the slot that was stopped by Fasth as the crowd gave an appreciative cheer for their efforts. Yet as the penalty seemed to have been killed off, Kyle Brodziak would hook Nail Yakupov giving the Oilers another power play. Again the Oilers were not able to do much of anything with it as the Wild challenged the entry to the zone well and some misplays of the puck by Edmonton cleared the zone and didn't put the Wild in any sort of danger. Predictably, the Wild would go back on the power play themselves after Nugent-Hopkins was tagged with a hooking penalty. Shortly after that, Ryan Smyth would hook Dany Heatley (uh why, he's not moving too fast) and suddenly the Wild had a 1:24 of a 5-on-3 power play to work with. As much of an advantage that'd be to other teams, the Wild's lack of creativity and their slow puck movement never really forced the Oilers to deviate from their triangle in front of Fasth and the Wild were only able to create a few shots from the point by Ryan Suter and Minnesota came up empty with the long power play. Minnesota then would go right back on the penalty kill as Coyle knocked the stick out of Yakupov's hands earning him an interference call (isn't that supposed to be slashing?). Good thing for the Wild the Oilers were so disinterested they never really threatened Kuemper or the Wild all that much and Minnesota got another successful kill. The Wild had one last push late in the game as a bad line change by the Oilers led to a Wild rush that nearly resulted in Spurgeon cashing in on a rebound chance. It was not a great period of hockey, but the Wild still were happy to carry their two-goal lead into the 2nd intermission. Coyle won't be playing on the 2nd line very long if he keeps committing dumb penalties like those.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Wild would put their foot on the gas a bit in the 3rd period as they tried to work the puck deep into the Edmonton zone and then would attempt to get their cycling game going. Minnesota was dominating possession and it was obvious Minnesota was trying to kill time more than it was trying to add to its lead. The Oilers would start to attack themselves as they begin to take more chances to direct pucks on goal. Minnesota would ease up and Edmonton would put a scare into the sellout crowd as Andrew Ference sent a puck near the top of the crease that was redirected by Kuemper by Perron and you could sense the Oilers were energized by the tally as they cut the Wild's lead to one, 3-2. With a little over half the period behind them the Wild seemed to be more interested in defending their lead than adding to it. Minnesota was really flirting with disaster and their passiveness would comeback to bite them as a long dump in by Ference that skittered on goal was stopped by Kuemper who gave up a big rebound and Jordan Eberle was able to chip a puck up and over his shoulder to make it 3-3. You could sense the sellout crowd was more than a little anxious at this point and the Wild would call a timeout to try to get their head back in the game. It didn't start out too well as the Wild seemed to be a step too late and the Oilers looked hungry and in the mood to play the role of the spoiler. Minnesota wasn't able to answer back with a goal in regulation so the game would go to overtime. This was an absolutely pathetic period by a team thinking its good enough to coast, its not and they will be lucky to come away with 2 points. Where was the 1st line this period, it looked like the Wild wanted to win this game playing its 2nd and 3rd lines only for most of the stanza. The Oilers would give the Wild a little help as Blaine's Matt Hendricks backhanded a clearing attempt up and into the stands for a clearcut delay of game call. With just a little over 8 seconds left int the game the Wild won the faceoff and the puck went right over to Parise who was wide open and he ripped a wrist shot that was gloved by Fasth.
Overtime Thoughts: The Wild started overtime with nearly a full 2-minute 4-on-3 power play. The Wild's power play told you precisely what to expect. Nothing. Slow puck movement, virtually no player movement other than a few switches at the point but zero initiative and even less creativity. Edmonton more or less stayed in a tight triangle with almost no movement at all so its doubtful they even got tired trying to kill it off. The Oilers immediately went on the attack and Taylor Hall and Martin Marincin nearly gave Edmonton the upset as Marincin dangled around a Wild defender to get a backhand chance that Kuemper stopped and then he stonewalled Hall's rebound chance. Minnesota tried to answer back as Mikko Koivu dangled around an Oiler's defender where he fed a puck to Matt Moulson that pushed a shot just wide of the mark. The Oilers attacked one last time and Talyor Hall again found a little space where he'd rip a shot that was kicked aside by Kuemper sending the game to a shootout. It is still ridiculous the Wild are finding themselves in this situation in the first place.
Shootout Summary: Minnesota would opt to shoot first and its first shooter was alternate captain Zach Parise. Parise would start going off to the left before moving to the middle where made a wicked backhand shelf move we haven't seen before, 1-0 Wild. Jordan Eberle would race down the ice with speed and he'd make a few quick stickhandles for firing a forehand stick side to make it 1-1. Minnesota's next shooter was Mikko Koivu who went wide left and back to the right where he basically didn't try to fake a forehand at all as beat Fasth with a backhand to make it 2-1. Edmonton would send out David Perron who moved in and beat Kuemper with a slick backhander to tie it up at 2-2. The Wild's next shooter was Matt Moulson and he'd move off to the right where he'd try to fire a shoot stick side but he didn't get it high enough and Fasth dismissed it easily. Edmonton's next shooter was Sam Gagner, and the son of former North Star Dave Gagner would move in and try a few fancy toe drags but he'd lose control and Keumper was able to poke check it away before he was able to pull the trigger. The Wild's next shooter was Jason Pominville who moved from left to right where he tried to fire a wrist shot glove side but he'd miss wide right giving Edmonton a chance to win the game. And that's exactly what they did as he moved in and beat Kuemper 5-hole to give the Oilers a 4-3 victory.
Darcy Kuemper was just ok, making 23 saves in the loss. The shootout goals are not to blame, with the possible exception of the last one they were nearly flawless moves. Kuemper made enough saves to give this team a chance to win this game, but the team in front of him relaxed in front of him and let Edmonton claw their way to a victory. I thought Marco Scandella was a turnover machine and this helper spawn an Edmonton goal late in the 1st giving a down and out team life. The penalty kill was perfect, and had some proud offensive moments shorthanded.
Offensively this team can be happy about the first 15 minutes. Beyond that it was mostly pathetic. The Wild broadcasters did their best to peddle the excuses that a single power play tally should be good enugh but it clearly was not, nor does it justify their inability to register a single shot during 1:54 of power play in overtime in a game where you really need 2 points. Or how about their dismal performance on a 5-on-3 power play which was over a minute long. The Wild power play formula is painfully prdictable, slow puck movement combined with little player movement means the opposing penalty kill never gets into conflict and Minnesota ends up wasting valuable time waiting for something to open up and accomplishing nothing. If Andrew Brunette is still coaching / advising the power play then send him on vacation for a few days after that debacle.
Players noted the lack of energy and a sense of complacency after the game. The Wild seemed to think once they got to 3 goals they had done enough, especially the 2nd and 1st lines. This was a shameful effort against one of the worst teams in the league that was looking for a reason to give up. But Minnesota decides to coast and it bites them in the ass. It is a travesty people spent their hard-earned money to watch a bunch of millionaires sleepwalk through the game. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said he tried to challenge the group to play hard and it didn't happen beyond a few isolated shifts. He said they needed to address the team's dead-end power play, well its about time. Yeo did say one thing I completely agree with and that the issues with the team within the players' abilities to solve and that "its about us" rather than what their opponents are doing. Minnesota cannot afford stumbles like this and that coveted cushion the team once had is almost gone. Efforts like tonight are not going to get it done and if they done pull their head out of their asses soon, they are going to continue its slide.
~ Wild roster tonight is as follows: Mikael Granlund, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Charlie Coyle, Mikko Koivu, Matt Moulson, Nino Niederreiter, Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cooke, Cody McCormick, Erik Haula, Dany Heatley, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, Keith Ballard and Nate Prosser. Ilya Bryzgalov backed up Darcy Kuemper. Healthy scratches were Clayton Stoner, Mike Rupp, Niklas Backstrom and Justin Fontaine.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by Wild Radio were: 1st Star Matt Cooke, 2nd Star Zach Parise, 3rd Star Jason Pominville
~ Attendance was 18,650 at Xcel Energy Center, the 500th sellout in team history.
~ Matt Cooke played in his 1,000th NHL game this evening. If you predicted this would happen, with the Wild back during the 2003 Playoff run you must be psychic.
Wild Prospect Report:
D - Daniel Gunnarsson (Lulea, SHL) ~ The 6'2" defenseman is just slightly off the pace of his best season so far with Lulea. Lulea finds itself sitting on the very edge of relegation with just a one point lead over Leksand. Gunnarsson has 3 goals and 14 points along with 12 PIM's and is a -3 in 51 games played this season.
F - Christoph Bertschy (SC Bern, NLA) ~ The 5'10" right shooting forward is significantly off his career best scoring pace from 2 seasons ago, but it he has rebounded well after an ugly season last year. Bertschy has the kind of hands that allow him to dangle and control the puck in the tightest of spaces but he'll still need to add more strength to his frame if he expects to compete at the professional level in North America. Bertschy has 6 goals, 14 points, along with 10 penalty minutes and is a -9 in 37 games played this season.