Oshie nets hat trick in weak Wild effort as they lose 5-1 to the Blues

Mikael Granlund

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.  

Mikko Koivu

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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Kyle Brodziak

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.  

Wild Notes:

~ 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.  

Jack Jablonski & Jenna Privette

About Derek Felska

I am a lifelong hockey fan from Minnesota who loves and appreciates the game at all levels. I have been blogging about the Minnesota Wild since 2005. I cover just about every aspect of the organization from the team itself, its coaches, its management, its broadcast as well as its AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild and the club's pool of prospects. In addition to the NHL I occasionally take the time to cover college and high school hockey as well. We are the State of Hockey and I want to make this blog informative and objective from the eyes of a fan. I am a fan of the Minnesota Wild, but I am no homer. I hope what you read reflects this approach!

Wild end 8-game losing streak with 3-2 shootout win on the road in St. Louis

Nick Schultz

Spring break, a time for many people to relax or go on a vacation to be away from the last vestiges of winter if you live in the Upper Midwest like I do.  It used to seem so fun back when I was in college, more or less free time to go do as you wish as you try to re-energize before the final push of the Spring semester of final exams and projects.  More often than not the good times were so good that they left you wishing you had another week to recover.  Once you get older though, Spring Break doesn’t seem nearly as fun as it simply is an opportunity to sleep in and be lazy.  For many, they’re probably saying “What Spring Break?!?!”  For myself, Spring Break means the start of tennis practice.  With most of my team attending a band trip, it means putting 3 players through their paces in what better resembles private lessons than a team practice.  I wonder if the Wild are looking for a break, or a break from practices?  Their coach Todd Richards certainly seems to be looking forward to the break giving the team a day off after getting beaten 8-1 by Montreal just a week and a half ago.  Although after the extended post-game rant after another embarrassing one-sided home defeat at the hands of the Blues on Saturday may make both coaches and players wish they were someplace away from the arena.  Yet its not all about guys wanting to leave; this time of year it can be about the team adding players. 

Last year it was push to try to woo California-born phenom Casey Wellman to come to the Wild after being a stud at the University of Massachusetts.  Minnesota was determined to win that race for Wellman’s services, as General Manager Chuck Fletcher met with the youngster to convince him of the great opportunities that would be involved in playing for the Wild.  This year is no different as he voyages back to Massachusetts in an attempt to try to convince coveted skilled Merrimack sophomore forward Stephane DaCosta.  The native of Paris, France is one of the top scorers in Hockey East with 14 goals, 45 points and 42 penalty minutes in 33 games.  Not a big player at just 5’10″, 185lbs, DaCosta has great speed and excellent hands and is not afraid to handle the puck in high traffic areas.  No doubt Fletcher will attempt to promote the Wild as an ideal opportunity since there are so few young skilled forwards in the team’s prospect system.  Having seen DaCosta play in the NCAA regional against Notre Dame, he’s certainly a dangerous player who reminds me a lot of Andy McDonald who was another undrafted college player of similar stature and adding more skill is never a bad thing.  Meanwhile the Wild have another game to play against St. Louis who has rebuilt itself rather well via the draft and why it won’t mean the playoffs this season they look like they have lots of good young talent in their system.  So will the Wild give DaCosta a victory to consider or will they lose their 9th straight? 

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1st Period Thoughts:  I did not like the start to this period, I thought the Wild looked slow and uninterested.  They just looked like they were gliding around their zone without a care in the world.  Minnesota would get a lucky spark early in the game as Eric Nystrom raced into the zone and he flung a wrister that surprised Jaroslav Halak and beat him cleanly to give the Wild a 1-0 lead.  It was a yogurt soft goal, one that Halak most certainly would want back.  The goal gave Minnesota a bit more jump in its skates and they followed up Nystrom’s goal with a nice shift from its top line of Andrew Brunette, Mikko Koivu, and Antti Miettinen where they worked the puck down low that kept St. Louis bottled up in its own zone.  Apart from Minnesota’s fast start, the other main story of the period were bad penalties.  A lazy tripping call on Mikko Koivu put Minnesota a man down, and Minnesota’s penalty kill was remarkably relaxed.  Relaxed is too kind of a word, I’d say lazy is more appropriate and John Madden would help make it a 2-man advantage for the Blues as he tripped up Patrik Berglund.  With St. Louis having a 5-on-3 power play, actually simplified the penalty kill for Minnesota who sat back in a tight triangle and the Blues didn’t quite know what to do.  They attempted a few quick bang-bang plays that failed to click and Minnesota got the big penalty kill.  The most dangerous chance came off a rush where Jose Theodore attempted to play a puck near his crease and it glanced off a stick and nearly caromed back into his goal before he reached back to make the stop with his paddle.  With the penalty killed off, you’d swear Mikko Koivu forgot he was just in the box because he promptly took a hooking penalty.  Koivu’s lack of discipline would prove to be costly as Patrik Berglund moved the puck down low and fed nice little backhand pass to Chris Stewart who fired it by Theodore to tie the game at 1-1.  Minnesota would get a power play of its own and they had a great chance in the first 30 seconds where Koivu worked a tic-tac-toe play to Miettinen who had to settle the puck and pass it to Brunette who had a chance on the doorstep that was stonewalled by Halak.  If Koivu’s first pass wasn’t to Miettinen’s skates and it was simply a one-timed feed I really believe Brunette would’ve scored.  The rest of the power play was marred by more poor passing that squandered the last 1 minute and 20 seconds of the man advantage.  A few minutes later there would be some rough stuff as Mikko Koivu was ran by Berglund, and Brent Burns answered back by taking a run at Nikita Nikitin.  Chris Stewart did not like Burns’ hit and he moved into confront the Wild defenseman and the two would exchange a few facewashes as well as some profanity and both would be given matching roughing penalties.  With the ice a bit more wide open, the Wild looked poised to make something happen but poor passing often thwarted their attempts; a weak pass by Martin Havlat in the offensive zone was particularly egregious.  The Wild can feel good about being tied but they really had some chances to be leading.  We’ll see if their missed chances come back to haunt them. 

2nd Period Thoughts:  It was a whole lot of ugly in the 2nd period.  The bad passing that plagued the second half of the 1st period got even worse in the 2nd as both teams struggled to pass the puck as the puck bounced around the ice.  It was kind of hard to watch actually as both teams mucked up the play in the neutral zone as they waited for the other to make a mistake.  Both clubs were being physical and finishing their checks.  Minnesota had an early power play due to a tripping call on Adam Cracknell.  It was a great opportunity but again it would be foiled by poor passing.  Marek Zidlicky and Matt Cullen had some lazy passes near the blueline that nearly turned into disaster and it was another power play with little to no pressure on Jaroslav Halak.  For the next 12 minutes of the period, it was mostly ineffective rushes foiled in the neutral zone and the game lacked flow.  The doldrums was finally interrupted by a bone crunching hit by Brad Staubitz on Alex Pietrangelo, which earned him a charging penalty.   Minnesota’s penalty killers challenged the Blues’ puck carriers well and the Wild got a huge kill.  The Blues were also finishing their checks as well as David Backes rubbed Clayton Stoner out pretty well along the boards.  Cal Clutterbuck tried to get things going with a few hits of his own although he’d get bounced pretty good on his attempts by the solid frame of Roman Polak.  The period looked destined to end without incident until the last 4 minutes where both clubs did everything they could to try to give the lead to their opponent.  It started with a horrible turnover by Andy McDonald to Mikko Koivu who intercepted it in the slot where he threaded a pass to Pierre-Marc Bouchard who fired a shot on goal that was stopped by Halak.  Minnesota then started to turn the puck over as Brent Burns made a foolish pass that was intercepted by Vladimir Sobotka and he stepped into a slapper that caromed rather slightly off the skate of Burns and then tipped partially by Backes and through the pads of Theodore only to have the puck hit the left post and then sit in the crease before it was swept to the corner by Nick Schultz.  Theodore thought he had been scored on and more or less stopped and as the Blues got the puck back they flung another shot on goal that skittered through the crease before the Wild goaltender was ready and luckily it just harmlessly made its way about 2 feet in front of the goal.  It was a crazy end to the 2nd and the Wild should feel lucky to still be tied, very sloppy hockey reminiscent of a pre-season game.  

3rd Period Thoughts:  The 3rd period started out rather miserably as the Blues took the lead just 1:19 in as Chris Stewart made a power move around Greg Zanon before flinging a backhander on goal that made its way through the pads of Theodore to give St. Louis a 2-1 lead.  At this point I thought the Wild were toast, and the sad thing is the Blues were giving Minnesota lessons to learn from.  Halak had not been too solid in this game but for whatever reason the Wild were not pulling the trigger when the opportunities presented themselves.  Minnesota would answer back a few minutes later on a nice individual play by Pierre-Marc Bouchard who looked a lot like shades of Jim Dowd as he circled around the Blues’ zone where he pulled the trigger on a wrister that beat a partially screened Halak to tie the game at two apiece.  The goal sparked Minnesota a bit and they started to skate a little harder and you could sense a level of frustration for the Blues who seemed to be coasting a bit this evening.  Cal Clutterbuck really started to get fired up after watching a few of his teammates get lit up by David Backes and he started to really crash and bang along the wall as he sent Ian Cole onto his back with a big hit and then followed it up with a solid check on Pietrangelo.  The Wild are starting to press the attack late as they could sense an opportunity to end their losing streak and the pressure drew a penalty as Matt D’Agostini cleared a puck into the crowd for a delay of game penalty in the last minute of regulation.  At this point I felt the Wild were far too relaxed and nonchalant with the puck on the power play as they very calmly skated up the ice and didn’t even attempt a shot until the final 5 seconds of the period.  Its unforgivable to waste nearly a power play time like that, especially when you have an 8-game losing streak going for you. 

Overtime thoughts:  Minnesota was only marginally more assertive with the minute-long 4-on-3 in overtime.  The Wild would get a little more help as Bouchard was tripped up by Sobotka giving Minnesota a rare 5-on-3 overtime power play for about 12 seconds.  The Wild would move the puck around the points but no one wanted to shoot it; even as the power play became a 5-on-4 no one seemed to really wish to pull the trigger.  Halak was able to make the stops look easy as he had little in the way of traffic near his crease except a roving Andrew Brunette.  The Wild would come up empty on the long power play and both teams seemed content to play for a shootout. 

Shootout Thoughts:  In the shootout, the Blues elected to have the Wild shoot first.  Minnesota’s first shooter was Pierre-Marc Bouchard and he raced up the ice with lots of speed and he ripped a wrister 5-hole on Halak to give the Wild a 1-0 shootout lead.  St. Louis’ first shooter was Chris Stewart, who would move in a lazy zig zag where he attempted to beat Theodore with a wrister which was directed aside by his leg pads.  Minnesota’s next triggerman was Mikko Koivu, and the Wild captain moved up the ice with speed where he looked like he was going to go forehand to backhand but instead of making the deke as Halak expected he instead fired a forehand right by him to put the State of Hockey up 2-0.  St. Louis now needed a goal from Andy McDonald to stay alive and he’d move very slowly up the middle of the ice but his wrist shot would slide through 5-hole to keep the Blues in it, 2-1.  Minnesota’s 3rd shooter was Antti Miettinen and the Finn would move right up the middle where he made a quick little deke before attempting to lift a backhand over Halak who got a piece of it to keep it out allowing the Blues a chance to tie it up.  The Blues 3rd shooter was Matt D’Agostini, and he skated in rather slowly where he fired a wrist shot that was directed wide by Theodore to give the Wild a 3-2 shootout victory. 

Jose Theodore was rather solid, making 27 saves in the victory.  For a guy who starts once in a great while was very sharp, seeing the puck well and anticipating puck movement very well.  Defensively the Wild did a decent job of supporting their goaltender, sweeping away rebounds and loose pucks near the crease.  The defenseman did a nice job of weathering the aggressive Blues’ forecheck, and moving the puck quickly. 

Offensively the Wild may have ended the night almost tied in shots, but they victimized themselves at being a little too picky in taking their chances to shoot the puck.  Halak was a goaltender who did not have his best night and I think if the team took its opportunities to shoot the puck with greater frequency it may not have had to have won the game in a shootout. 

It was good to end the losing streak but it was by far a great game by the Wild.  In fact, both teams will not be too happy when they look at the film of this game.  Sloppy passes, some ugly penalties but losing streaks have to end at some point and if it ends this way I guess we can live with that. 

Wild Notes:

~ Wild roster tonight is as follows: Mikko Koivu, Antti Miettinen, Andrew Brunette, Brad Staubitz, Casey Wellman, John Madden, Matt Cullen, Cal Clutterbuck, Kyle Brodziak, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Martin Havlat, Greg Zanon, Jared Spurgeon, Clayton Stoner, Marek Zidlicky, Nick Schultz and Brent Burns.  Niklas Backstrom backed up Jose Theodore.  Chuck Kobasew, Cam Barker, Marco Scandella and Guillaume Latendresse were the ‘healthy’ scratches.  Josh Harding (knee) and James Sheppard (knee) are on injured reserve. 

~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Mikko Koivu, 2nd Star Chris Stewart, 3rd Star Pierre-Marc Bouchard

~ Attendance tonight was 19,150 at Scottrade Center.

Wild Prospect Report:

LW – Colton Gillies ~ Houston Aeros (AHL)

2010-11 Stats:  61GP  11G  15A = 26pts  75 PIM’s  +2

The Wild may start to be seeing a functional NHL’er emerge with the development of Colton Gillies.  Providing a lot of points certainly will not be in the cards for the lanky 6’4″ winger, but consistency from shift to shift has shown some noticeable improvements this season.  A gifted skater, Gillies is using his size and speed to punish the opposition on the forecheck.  While he may not seem to have the upside initially projected when the team selected him 16th Overall in 2007, he seems to be very close to being the fast forechecking force that should fit well in the up-tempo system the organization has pledged to deliver to the fans.  At this point, its about getting a serviceable player rather than hoping he’ll develop into something he’s not. 
 

D – Justin Falk ~ Houston Aeros (AHL)

2010-11 Stats:  53GP  3G  11A = 14pts  41 PIM’s  +15

Justin Falk surprised many at the start the of the season by making the team out of training camp.  After a strong start, his game would fall apart about 15 games into it and he was sent back to Houston.  If he was unhappy about being sent down, you can’t tell by the way he’s performed.  Falk has been rock solid in a pairing with Nate Prosser.  The 6’5″ blueliner from Snowflake, Manitoba combines a big body with great mobility and who has developed into a stable stay-at-home defender.  He has steadily learned to be a little meaner with his big frame, but his solid positioning makes him tough for opposing forwards to work around.  His +15 is a testament to his responsible play, as he leads the team in this category. 

NCAA Men’s Hockey Tournament Preview:

Michigan Wolverines (28-10-4)  vs.  North Dakota Fighting Sioux (32-8-3) ~ The first match up pits two of the most fabled college hockey programs in the NCAA.  The Michigan Wolverines may be wondering if they’ve joined the WCHA after earning a controversial overtime victory over Nebraska-Omaha and then another one-goal victory over Colorado College in the regional final only to now play WCHA champion North Dakota.  Red Berenson‘s squad is led by shifty senior forwards Carl Hagelin (New York Rangers prospect) and Louie Caporusso (Ottawa Senators prospect).  Freshman blueliner Jon Merrill (New Jersey Devils prospect) has played like a seasoned veteran and is the Wolverines’ best defender.  Michigan is a solid team, but they do not possess nearly the same amount of firepower as their opponent.  North Dakota rolled through their regional, crushing RPI 6-0, and then brushing aside Denver in the final.  The Fighting Sioux are led by senior scoring sensation Matt Frattin (Toronto Maple Leafs prospect) who leads the nation with 36 goals and power forward Brad Malone (Colorado Avalanche prospect) who has been a force in the post-season.  North Dakota also has a host of blueliners led by Plymouth, Minnesota-native Ben Blood that love to be physical which just adds more misery after facing an already rough and tumble team.  Between the pipes, the Wolverines will lean on Shawn Hunwick who is the brother of Colorado’s Matt Hunwick and the Fighting Sioux will turn to Aaron Dell who has been fantastic.  Both goaltenders will be tested a lot in this game.  OUR PICK:  I think North Dakota’s physicality, speed and scoring will simply overwhelm the Wolverines and it won’t hurt they wil have a huge contingent of fans at the Xcel Energy Center to make it feel like a home game at ‘the Ralph.’   

Notre Dame Fighting Irish (25-13-5)  vs.  Minnesota-Duluth Bulldogs (24-10-6) ~ This could be a very interesting game as neither team has a lot of post-season experience.  For Notre Dame, inexperience is certainly a factor when you consider the fact they have 8 freshman in their lineup.  Yet that inexperience did not matter in their overtime victory over Merrimack and one-goal victory over New Hampshire.  The Fighting Irish are led by a pair of freshman in the small and elusive T.J. Tynan and Edina, Minnesota power forward Anders Lee (New York Islanders prospect) who is the team’s top sniper with 24 goals.  Secondary scoring trails off considerably behind Lee and Tynan, and senior forwards Ryan Guentzel and Calle Ridderwall are some of the few veterans on the team.  Defensively the Irish blueline led by sophomore Sam Calabrese will be tasked with shutting down the Bulldogs high powered attack.  The Bulldogs have plenty of firepower balanced throughout their lineup led by Mike Connolly with 27 goals, shifty Wild prospect camp tryout Justin Fontaine and Duluth, Minnesota-born set up man Jack Connolly.  As formidable as the forwards are, the Bulldogs have one of the best young defenseman in the nation in freshman phenom Justin Faulk who has mobility and a lethal shot that can give opposing goaltenders nightmares.  Between the pipes Notre Dame will be placing responsibility on Mike Johnson who was really tested in the two regional games, and the Bulldogs will go to its main man Kenny Reiter who was very solid in regional action against Union and Yale respectively.  OUR PICK:  I think Jeff Jackson‘s defensive style will keep the game close, but I think the Bulldogs’ superior offensive balance will be the x-factor that will make for an all-WCHA NCAA Championship game.  A large UMD-friendly crowd will not hurt either. 

About Derek Felska

I am a lifelong hockey fan from Minnesota who loves and appreciates the game at all levels. I have been blogging about the Minnesota Wild since 2005. I cover just about every aspect of the organization from the team itself, its coaches, its management, its broadcast as well as its AHL affiliate the Iowa Wild and the club's pool of prospects. In addition to the NHL I occasionally take the time to cover college and high school hockey as well. We are the State of Hockey and I want to make this blog informative and objective from the eyes of a fan. I am a fan of the Minnesota Wild, but I am no homer. I hope what you read reflects this approach!

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