Despite all the Wild's troubles as of late it certainly could be worse. I am not talking about losing seasons where the team wasn't even close to the playoffs either. I am talking about if my favorite team was a college basketball team as opposed to an NHL team. Imagine how painful would it be to have watched the Wild as a college basketball team where the team drags out the last 60 seconds with a bunch of timeouts. A recent study of the current NCAA Basketball Tournament, compiled the real time it took to go through the last 60 seconds of the first 52 bsketball games played in the tournament. It took 5 1/2 hours to complete those 60 seconds combined. For one game, it took 14 minutes to complete the last minute of a game between timeouts and other stoppages of play. That alone makes me thankful, that despite the current woes of the Wild, that at least its hockey and not basketball. Just one timeout, no plethora of pointless stoppages as a team tries to turn the last 60 seconds into a whole half of basketball. The Wild go into St. Louis tonight perhaps wishing it was playing basketball instead of hockey. They might stand a better chance against the Western Conferences' top squad, but considering the Blues are bigger perhaps the Wild should ask if they can play a game of 'HORSE' instead.
Minnesota players are becoming irritated at the fact the media is questioning their level of focus and readiness to play in these games towards the home stretch. My advice them. Get used to it. Fans across the State of Hockey know what they're watching and they know a good effort from a bad one and we've seen this team at its best and its worse and have a pretty accurate idea of what they're capable of. Right now, we're not seeing it. We're seeing players that seem to think if they show up its good enough and through osmosis they'll be in the playoffs. I don't think that's good enough and they certainly will not be able to show up tonight in St. Louis and expect to win, so hopefully they pick up their game soon. Time is running out, and so is the patience of fans all across the State of Hockey. So will the team play to its potential or will it be more woulda, coulda, shoulda?
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1st Period Thoughts: Minnesota had a tremendous start to the game as the top line of Mikael Granlund, Jason Pominville and Zach Parise worked the puck deep and then battled well along the wall before Parise was able to chip a puck behind the Blues' defense and Pominville would find a little space off the rush and he'd rip a shot that was kicked away by Ryan Miller. The Wild followed that up with a great shift from its 2nd line as Charlie Coyle carried in deep where he got off a backhander but he'd pick up his own rebound and work it back out front where Matt Moulson got tackled by Roman Polak right to Mikko Koivu who had Miller out of position and trying to pick up his stick. There was a clear space between Miller and the post but Koivu took his time, waited for Miller to get set and then shot a puck right into his Blues' crest. The Wild still drew an interference penalty. On the power play, the Wild's approach was simple and straight-forward; get pucks on the net. Minnesota was taking every chance to direct shots on goal and Miller was forced to make some saves with some traffic near his crease. The Wild peppered Miller with chances but just couldn't get to the rebounds for the 2nd chance opportunities. Minnesota would send out its 2nd unit; made up of young players and while their puck movement was fast and efficient no one seemed to want to shoot the puck despite open shooting lanes available and all they would manage is a shot by Mikael Granlund that failed to make it on goal and the Wild came up empty on a valuable opportunity. As is the case with this team lately, a missed opportunity has to cause the Wild some kind of pain and the Blues went back on the attack and a blast from the point would deflect off a few skates and as Wild players tried to sweep it out of the way they failed to clear it and the puck was swept up by T.J. Oshie and he rifled a shot from the slot that found the twine behind Darcy Kuemper, 1-0 St. Louis. Minnesota had outshot the Blues 8-1 but found themselves down by a goal. The Blues would start to take control a bit and Minnesota would get tagged with a hooking call on Erik Haula. The Wild's penalty kill gave the Blues the dangerous shot from the point but they were good at tying up Blues players and making the short pass to get the puck out of the zone and Minnesota got a huge kill. Minnesota would get a small break as Polak got a stick into the face of Cody McCormick. With Polak in the box again for high sticking, the Wild's power play was discombobulated and ineffective. It all started with a bad pass and decision by Koivu to try to dish the puck back to Pominville who was to be on the point but instead he cleared the zone for the Blues and the Wild power play never really recovered. Bad passes, stepping on the puck meant Minnesota wasted another great opportunity against a club that gives you precious few chances. McCormick continued to be a lightning rod in the period as he'd get Maxim Lappierre and Kevin Shattenkirk angry with him and both Blues players sort of jumped him in the corner of the Blues' zone. McCormick wasn't throwing punches but Shattenkirk tagged him with a punch that caused a nasty cut to the eye of the Wild pugilist. Kyle Brodziak tried to rush in to defend his teammate but it was more about pulling away guys than any kind of thuggery. Brodziak would go to the box for roughing as did Lapierre while Shattenkirk got a supposed double-minor for roughing and punching McCormick in the face. The result was a 4-minute power play for the Wild. It was more of a curse than a blessing. The Wild again looked disorganized and confused on the man advantage as Dany Heatley fumbled the puck like it was a live hand grenade and then the puck made it to Jared Spurgeon who whiffed on an apparent pass and it was picked up by Oshie who raced in and ripped a shot by Kuemper to make it 2-0. The shorthanded tally was just more salt in the wound for Spurgeon who for the 2nd game in a row coughed up the puck for a goal the other way. Minnesota would still have 2 minutes of the penalty left as the period expired. You'd swear it was a Blues' power play with the apathetic way the period ended by the Wild. Minnesota outshot St. Louis 9-8 but on the scoreboard where it mattered it trailed 2 zip and didn't look like they were getting any better.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Wild would start the period with 2 minutes of power play time but you never would've noticed it with the lack of effort shown early on. Minnesota looked lethargic and mostly uninterested on the remaidner of the double-minor to Shattenkirk as they helped kill their own power play with bad passing and half-hearted attempts to chase down the puck along the wall. With the 4th Wild power play of the game ending in failure Minnesota would then try to start something on the forecheck which seemed odd. It didn't result in anything positive as Mikko Koivu, would reach with his stick and haul down Kevin Shattenkirk for an easy tripping call. Fortunately for the Wild, the Blues were kind of just going through the motions on their power play and they were content to settle for shots from the point that wer off target and Minnesota would kill another St. Louis man advantage. After a few minutes of inconsequential play the Wild would get another power play as David Backes was sent to the sin bin for cross-checking, and as he was being ushered to the box by the officials the Blues tried to take a few liberties with the Wild who just sat back and took the shoves with no response. On the power play the Blues let Minnesota move the puck around the perimeter where Ryan Suter and Mikko Koivu made the same inconsequential passes as the Wild were only able to set up one chance down low as Zach Parise tried to jam a shot in from near the right post. Towards the tail end of the power play, Mikael Granlund would get an interference call as he stepped in front of a Blues defender as Minnesota tried to work the puck down low. This negated the power play and with just seconds left in Backes' penalty the Blues would end up with a long power play. During the power play, Kuemper would get into it with Backes who was posting himself just in front of the blue paint. Backes would continue to trash talk Kuemper from the bench as the Blues kept working the puck out to the perimeter where Jaden Schwartz flung a heavy wrist shot over the shoulder of the Wild goalie to make it 3-0 St. Louis. The Wild tried to cut into the Blues lead and the 2nd line nearly capitalized as a blast from the point by Spurgeon was kicked out by Miller and the puck was swept up by Coyle who managed to swing a shot right through the blue paint as he was falling backwards. Minnesota would again come up empty in the period, where shots were hard to come by. The most disturbing part was how the Blues continually bullied the Wild to virtually no push back all period long.
3rd Period Thoughts: Minnesota would start the period with its 6th power play of the game and you'd think the purpose was to waste time. The Wild calmy passed the puck ineffectually around the perimeter where Suter flung a long range shot that was knocked down and covered up by Miller. The Blues were ok with playing defense as the Wild were trying to create turnovers in the offensive zone and attempt to create offense through transition. The sad thing is, the Blues were not even trying and they'd add to their lead with a great amount of pressure as St. Louis would add to their lead as a point shot from Bouwmeester would be dellected by Kuemper by Oshie. The goal would be reviewed but Oshie's stick was underneath the crossbar and he'd earn a hat trick, 4-0 Blues. The hats would rain down from the crowd and the game would be stopped as they'd pick up the caps from the fans who celebrated Oshie's first NHL hat trick. Lucky us. The pain would only continue as the Wild's frustration continued as Jason Pominville would sit for tripping. Shortly into the Blues power play, the Wild would take another penalty as Brodziak would slash Derek Roy and the two would exchange some nasty words where the Wild penalty killer would get tossed with a game misconduct. The Blues would cash in on the 5-on-3 power play as another big point shot was blocked by Kuemper but the puck would go up into the air and fall back down in the crease where it was tapped home by Brendan Morrow before Marco Scandella could sweep it away and it was 5-0 St. Louis. Minnesota would then skate with a little anger as Charlie Coyle motored into the Blues' zone and he saucered a pass across to Parise for a one-timer that be drove home behind Miller, 5-1 now. With the Blues just sort of floating around the ice the Wild tried to get another goal for pride purposes but St. Louis would lock things down defensively and all Minnesota could manage was a few shots from the perimeter and they'd fall 5-1.
I wonder how Darcy Kuemper feels about his game now after being shellacked for another 5 goals. The first shot by the Blues found the back of the twine and then late in the period would give up another on a chance where Minnesota needed him to come up with a big save. I am not blaming Kuemper for the outcome of this game but again the timing of the goals resulted in maximum psychchological damage in the 1st period. Defensively, Kuemper was also betrayed by some questionable work in front of him. For a 2nd straight game Jared Spurgeon coughed up a puck near his own zone and it resulted in a goal. The sad thing is, the Blues exposed the general weakness of the Wild blueline which lacks both snarl and the strength necessary to outmuscle opponents. Too many stick checks and not nearly enough nastiness means the Blues controlled the Wild zone whenever they wished to do so. The penalty kill started out ok, but as the team started taking dumb penalties the Blues struck twice on the man advantage.
Offensively its amazing how this team can go from hustling, working hard down low along the wall to creating chances to then play so timid and hesitant for most of the rest of the game. The first 5 minutes or so the Wild were creating quality shooting opportunites but then the Blues score and the Wild rolled over and played dead. It was pathetic. 0 for 6 on the power play including giving up a back breaking shorthanded goal. Minnesota had zero push back all game long, even Cody McCormick who got a little roughed up this evening was more or less a punching bag and the Blues kept taking liberties all night with virtually no push back from the yogurt soft Wild. This was a thoroughly defeating game in just about every facet of the game.
To use the fact it was "Star Wars Night" at Scottrade Center, the Wild's playoff chances were a lot like the planet Alderaan with the Blues as the Death Star. Alderaan, peaceful and virtually helpless was obliterated with ease by the Death Star just like the Wild were tonight by St. Louis. Wild fans are like Obi-Wan Kenobi, sensing a disturbance of the destruction and then being silenced by ambivalence towards the team's fate. Mike Yeo said before the game that he was 'excited' to see how Dany Heatley would do, so what did he do? He was -2 (which was the worst on the team) and had no shots on goal. Why in the hell do we keep playing this guy? There is absolutely no reason for it, he's not hustling nor is he shooting so what is he doing out there? How is this helping us win. Heatley hasn't scored in a month, but Yeo's 'excited' to see what he can do? Right Mike, sure you are. While you're at it Mike check out the clip before its a perfect metaphor for our playoff chances at the rate this team is winning games.
The only 'statement' the Wild made tonight was surrender. It was too late for Alderaan and it might be too late for Minnesota to recover from this deah spiral.
~ The Wild roster tonight is as follows: Mikael Granlund, Jason Pominville, Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Charlie Coyle, Matt Moulson, Dany Heatley, Erik Haula, Nino Niederreiter, Cody McCormick, Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cooke, Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, Jonas Brodin, Nate Prosser and Jonathon Blum. Ilya Bryzgalov backed up Darcy Kuemper. Stephane Veilleux, Mike Rupp, Justin Fontaine, Clayton Stoner and Keith Ballard were the scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by the St. Louis media were: 1st Star T.J. Oshie, 2nd Star Ryan Miller, 3rd Star Brendan Morrow
~ Attendance was 19,646 at Scottrade Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Recent Score: Iowa 0, Charlotte 7
It was one of those games that if you attended it, you'll probably never forget it for the rest of your life. From an Iowa Wild fan perspective, that might seem odd when you consider the score. Another lopsided loss for Iowa, but for the 4,675 in attendance it may just have been the most memorable game of the year nexxt to the season opener. It certainly didn't start out all that memorable or different from many Wild games this season, as Charlotte jumped out to a 1-0 lead on Zach Boychuk's goal. The Checkers would add to their lead early in the 2nd period on the power play as Brett Sutter scored to make it 2-0 Charlotte. Its right about here where the game started to show signs of where it was headed as the culmination of a very frustrating last few weeks was about to boil over. Corbin Baldwin would get tagged with a tripping penalty, and shortly into the power play Warren Peters would get tagged with a delay of game call for sending a puck into the stands. Peters decided to share his disgust with the call to the officials who did not hesitate to give him a 10 -minute game misconduct. Meanwhile the Checkers had a 5-on-3 power play and as they had done the night before they'd take advantage of it as Boychuk scored on the power play to make it 3-0 going into the 2nd intermission. It must've been during the intermissiong that the players or the coaches decided that enough was enough and the fireworks started early. Just 53 seconds in, Brad Winchester would get sent to the sin bin for cross checking, and again the Checkers scored on the power play to make it 4-0. Perhaps the Wild felt that they had already sort of waived the white flag of surrender but the Checkers wanted to rub it in Iowa's collective facecs and Viktor Rask lit the lamp just prior to the 4-minute mark and this is where everything hit the fan. With Charlotte holding onto a commanding 5-0 lead, shortly after the next faceoff Carson McMillan would try to start something by cross checking an opposing player and this turned into a fight between McMillan and the Checkers' Nicolas Blanchard who was then had Raphael Bussieres jump in as well. McMillan would get two for cross checking as well as 5-minutes for fighting while the fiesty Bussieres got 5 minutes for dropping the gloves and a 10-minute game misconduct for being the 3rd man in. Just less than two minutes after that fight Iowa's Marc Hagel would take the puck hard to the crease where he crashed into John Muse, Charlotte's Mark Flood would move in to rough up Hagel before being intercepted by Jake Dowell and they would drop the mits and again the Wild would get the raw deal as Dowell was given a game misconduct in addition to his fighting major. Brett Bulmer and Winchester decided to get their pound of flesh as he challenged Matt Corrente and Brett Sutter to a fight and you had an ol' fashioned donnybrook going on as other skaters talked about starting their own skirmishes. Needless to say the game wasn't really a game anymore as the crowd just waited for the next fights to occur. Zack Boychuk would skate into Wild goaltender John Curry and another brawl would ensue as Riley Brace, Kris Foucault and Tyler Cuma got into a crazy melee with Keegan Lowe, Brett Sutter and Boychuk. Misconducts and fighting majors were doled out like candy and both clubs benches were pretty spartan while the penalty box was standing room only. The Checkers would add two more goals which did not go over well with the ornery home crowd or the Wild's bench. The officials finally had decided enough was enough and they started to toss players out of the game if they did just about anything. Iowa's Kyle Medvec and Zach Miskovic as well as Charlotte's Bo Dolan would get the gate for talking trash as Blanchard fought Peters in a vicious fight. Brad Winchester would run a Checkers' player late in the game and he'd get tossed too and the penalty filled game was finally over. Charlotte had collectively 91 minutes in penalties while Iowa had accumulated 142 minutes of its own, mostly in the 3rd period for a combined 233 PIM's! Curry had 28 saves in the loss. Somehow Tyler Graovac, Zack Phillips, Nicholas Rioux, Steven Kampfer and Bryce Aneloski did not have any penalty minutes to their credit. After the game, Wild Head coach Kurt Kleinendorst was asked how his team will move on after a game like this one, he said,"The guys will sleep on it, wake up, short memory, move on." Really? Are you sure? The 7-0 victory hurts but Iowa fans will not soon forget this one. The Wild's next game is this Saturday in Toronto.
Wild Prospect Report:
D – Mathew Dumba (Portland, WHL) ~ Portland earns a series sweep of Vancouver with a 6-1 victory Wednesday night. Dumba did his part contributing an assist and was a +2 in the win. The Calgary, Alberta-native has 4 assists in 9 PIM's and is a +6 in 4 playoff games this season.