Team America: World Police is a film by the creators of South Park, Trey Parker and Matt Stone and in this film about diabolical plans of now-deceased dictator Kim Jong Il, the movie featured a song called Montage. By the film's own crude standards the lyrics are completely tame here's just a sample. "Show a lot of things happing at once, Remind everyone of what's going on (what's going on?) And with every shot you show a little improvement, To show it all would take too long, That's called a montage, Oh we want montage" As you can see the song simply explains a common plot advancement device known as the montage which is commonly used in movies; particularly sports and action movies. If you love the Rocky movies like I do, it would be synonymous 'training' scene where Rocky endures a myriad of different training exercises from running up a snow covered mountain to punching cow carcasses at a meat plant.
So what would we see in a montage of the Minnesota Wild so far in this 2013 season? We would see the first day of training camp, maybe a scene or two from the clubs Red & White scrimmage, then the first game where the Wild prevailed at home, then scenes from the team's game in Detroit, but then some struggles with footage from the debacle in Anaheim (with a shot of Head Coach Mike Yeo telling the media "we didn't show up.") followed up by more practice scenes and perhaps a few short pictures of the arrival of Mike Rupp, Jonas Brodin and Charlie Coyle, and finally topped off with Devin Setoguchi's overtime game winner. Can you picture it in your head? Will the Wild be able to add something positive to this montage tonight?
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1st Period Thoughts: The Wild would start the game by dumping the puck deep and trying to establish the forecheck. The Canucks' defense was able to retreat well enough to win the race to the puck and then work it out of their own zone. Minnesota would get a little lucky as Jason Garrison held up Devin Setoguchi as he dumped the puck in, giving him two minutes in the box for interference. The Wild's power play was not overly creative, with Mikko Koivu setting up Zach Parise who moved from behind the goal where he moved out front trying to jam it through Roberto Luongo 5-hole but the savvy Canucks' goalie shut the door and was serenaded by a "Looouuu" chant. Minnesota really did not get much else going on the man advantage as a quick cross-ice pass from Koivu just failed to click with Charlie Coyle who swung and missed on the back door. The Wild came up empty on the man advantage and the Canucks would try to go on the attack. Minnesota's blueline was moving its feet well, and forcing Vancouver to settle for shots from the Vancouver and Darcy Kuemper was able to come with some big stops. Jonas Brodin again looked poised beyond his years as he chased down a Vancouver dump in and then calmly evaded the Canucks forecheck and chipped the puck off the glass and out of the zone. A few minutes later the Wild would get an interference penalty of their own as Koivu held up Alexandre Burrows as he chased down a dump in. Koivu's penalty would prove costly. The Wild's penalty killers did a pretty good job at getting sticks on pucks and clearing the zone and keeping Vancouver to the perimeter. Vancouver would be patient and then move in off the rush as Zack Kassian moved deep into the zone and he'd swing a pass towards the slot that was quickly one-timed by Kevin Bieksa who had joined the rush that beat Kuemper to give the Canucks a 1-0 lead. On the very next shift, Koivu would be tripped up by Chris Higgins who sort of reached a leg out towards the knee of the Wild captain and after the call was made Higgins and Koivu chirped at one another as the Vancouver forward went to the box. Minnesota's power play showed a little more variety and the result was a few quality scoring chances. The Wild kept Parise down low near the goal as they worked the puck to Koivu who drew it back to the defense who moved it back to Koivu who thread a pass to the slot where Coyle unleashed a quick shot that was denied by a good save by Luongo. Minnesota continued to control the play in the Vancouver zone as they now worked the point where Ryan Suter stepped into a slap shot that was redirected by Coyle just wide of the mark and Minnesota came up short. As the penalty expired a pass out to the point to Brodin was bobbled and Jannik Hansen looked to have a 1-on-1 against Jared Spurgeon who managed to get just enough of the puck to break up the play. After the failed Wild power play the Canucks would go on the forecheck with its 4th line of Andrew Ebbett, Jordan Schroeder and Andrew Volpatti. Minnesota looked tired as it chased Ebbett all over its own zone and the former Wild forward set up Garrison for a one-timer that was just wide of Kuemper. Moments after that Brodin would mishandle a puck at the blueline sending Burrows on a break away but he'd push a shot wide of Kuemper who sprawled to cover the puck behind the Wild goal. Minnesota's Zenon Konopka would get tangled up with Burrows along the wall and both players would get sent to the penalty box for roughing. That was a good trade of a enforcer for a scorer / pest like Burrows. A few minutes later, the Wild would draw a penalty late in the period as Keith Ballard got his stick up into the grill of Cal Clutterbuck as Brodin fluttered a shot on goal as he had Kyle Brodziak crashing the crease. Minnesota would carry nearly 1:50 left of power play time into the 1st intermission. It wasn't a great 1st period, but it could've been a lot worse. The Wild's power play needs a dose of creativity and need to take a page from the Canucks and try to create some offense off the rush instead of sticking solely to a static style of attack. Brodin looked the shakiest I've seen him thus far this season. Kuemper has been ok; making 12 saves but you could tell he was a bit nervous too. The Wild were outshooting the Canucks 13-12 in the period.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Wild had 1:50 of power play to work with and it was a complete practice in futility as Minnesota looked disorganized and befuddled by the simple puck pressure the Canucks penalty killers provided. The best scoring chance of the power play was a shorthanded chance by the Canucks as Alex Edler gunned as shot just wide of the Wild goal. Minnesota was getting bunched together and opting for area passes even though they had the man advantage, an absolutely ugly effort. The Wild's sloppy play continued into the 2nd, as they seemed to be standing and watching (what you'd expect from a team that is either tired or uninspired) and this was bound to lead to trouble as Setoguchi hauled down Bieksa giving Vancouver its 2nd power play of the game. Minnesota's penalty killers were patient and passive, staying in a fairly tight diamond in front of Kuemper forcing the Canucks to settle for shots from the point that never really managed to get through and the Wild got an important kill. Yet it only seemed to delay the inevitable as the Canucks' hustle continued to cause the Wild problems and the speedy forecheck of Jordan Schroeder yielded a win along the boards by Mason Raymond who skated out towards the point drawing the defense towards him and he'd pass it over to Ballard who would thread a pass to Hansen who fired a shot by Kuemper to make it 2-0. Tic-tac-toe, it doesn't get any easier than that, and it seems to be the type of play that eludes even the Wild's top line from executing. The Wild finally registered their first shot on goal of the 2nd period at 9:41, ouch as Matt Cullen pulled the trigger. The line kept moving their feet and Cullen would fire anothe shot that rang off the left post and then seconds after that Clutterbuck swung a shot from the boards that Luongo stopped with the leg pad and the Canucks cleared down the ice for an icing call. The good shift got the Wild moving a bit more as Mikko Koivu won a race for the puck in the Canucks zone as he passed a puck back out to the left faceoff dot where Heatley stepped into a slap shot that richocheted off a defender and then off the leg of Parise who wasn't able to control it for what would've been an easy tap in goal. As the play continued there would be a scrum as the Canucks took issue with a hit delivered by Justin Falk. Ultimately it was Maxim Lapierre getting sent to the sin bin and the Wild would go on the power play. Minnesota's power play would try to work the point more and Ryan Suter would wrist a shot on goal with lots of Wild forwards nearby but Luongo was like a vacuum, eliminating any rebounds. The Wild's power play persisted, and Matt Cullen gave a quick little pass to Setoguchi who quickly moved the puck from backhand to forehand for a incredibly quick shot up and over the shoulder of Luongo to cut the Vancouver lead in half, 2-1. The goal was shades of John LeClair as that puck went upstairs quickly. After the Wild's goal, the Canucks tried to rally back as Kassian hammered a shot that was fought off by Kuemper. There wasn't a lot of action through the closing minutes of the period until the last 30 seconds. A slightly early whistle saved the Wild as Kuemper made the initial stop but he didn't have control of it and as Raymond crashed the crease the whistle blew and then crossed over the line. It was a fortunate whistle as it saved what probably should've been a goal and Minnesota could go into the 2nd intermission trailing by one instead of by two. Not a good period in many ways for the Wild as they managed just 4 shots on goal compared to Vancouver's 7. The line of Cullen, Mikael Granlund and Setoguchi seemed to be the only one that is able to get itself free to get shots on goal.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Wild would give up an early break away to Daniel Sedin who tried to shoot it against the grain as he was stopped by the leg pad of Kuemper. Mike Rupp would deliver a hard check into Bieksa who seemed to be dinged up as his knee crashed against the boards and he'd make his way to the Canucks bench in pain. Minnesota would try to take advantage of the hard-nosed defenseman's absence as Parise picked the pocket of Edler and he'd dish a pass back to Koivu for a one-timer that was denied by Luongo. A few minutes later Kuemper would provide his own drama as he tried to be a ltitle fancy with a pass that was intercepted by Lapierre who turned and fired it on goal as Kuemper was just able to direct it away. A somewhat careless play that almost cost the Wild. Minnesota would then go back on the attack and it was a quick pass by Heatley to Parise for a quick shot that was stopped by Luongo who gave up a big rebound and Suter moved in and bombed a shot off the crossbar as the Wild missed on a great opportunity. The near chance seemed to spark the 2nd line who showed a little physicality; as even Granlund got involved as he delivered a nice check to Jannik Hansen before moving into the offensive zone and firing a shot that was held on by Luongo. Minnesota's pressure would draw a hooking call on Burrows who held up Tom Gilbert. Minnesota was a little too patient through the first half of the power play, waiting a long time just to let Parise take a shot that missed high and wide of the goal. The 2nd power play unit would go out and they were not much better just moving the puck from the wall out to the point and the puck movement lacked and speed giving the Canucks penalty killers plenty of time to get sticks and bodies into shooting lanes and the Wild came up with nothing on the man advantage. The Canucks would start to sit back and try to wait for Minnesota to make a mistake that they could pounce upon in transition. The Canucks had a few transition chances but Kuemper was there to make the big stops keeping Minnesota's hopes alive. Minnesota would continue apply pressure, pulling Kuemper with about a minute left and the Wild would have some good opportunities as Setoguchi rifled a heavy wrist shot that was stopped by the leg pad of Luongo. The Wild just didn't have quite enough as they fell 2-1.
You can't blame Darcy Kuemper, who made 28 saves in his NHL debut. He certainly had some moments which were a little tense but he did about all you can ask for a player in his situation as Kuemper did well enough to give the Widl a chance to at least earn a point in this game. Defensively I thought Brodin was a little shaky in a few moments but he made some fine plays too. Jared Spurgeon seemed to struggle with the speed of the game a bit. I thought Suter had another fairly solid game, even if I already know he'll be getting lots of crap from fans for not burying that chance late in the 3rd period.
Offensively, the Wild's top line looked winded and tired and was not able to create pressure on a consistent basis. The 2nd line of Setoguchi, Granlund and Cullen / Coyle was the Wild's best line and I thought Setoguchi had the best night amongst the Wild forwards. The power play continues to be a sore spot and I think they need to utlize a bit quicker puck movement and they need to embrace the one-timer to put goaltenders off balance and create secondary opportunities. Waiting and waiting and then taking a long range shot (almost always unscreened) is easy for any opposing goaltender to deal with let alone Roberto Luongo. Charlie Coyle was ok, but was a bit more invisible. Granlund had a relatively decent game although I'd advise for him not to hang out along the boards too much because he is way to easy to pin against the wall and be neutralized.
I like how the Wild dug deep in the 3rd period to give themselves a fighting chance to win this game, but they needed a bit more in the 2nd so it wouldn't had been such an uphill climb. It was a good character game but I think its another one where the Wild may be wondering woulda coulda shoulda. The Wild had the power play chances and if they'd capitalized on one more of them they'd be flying from Vancouver with a point in the standings and those points are crucial in a compressed season like this one. The Wild do not have much in the way of turnaround time as they will be returning to St. Paul to play the Avalanche on Thursday. One can only hope the Wild's decision to call up Kuemper that it was precautionary decision to let Josh Harding rest after a team practice where he said he felt 'a little off'. I don't think we can question Harding's desire and I think we have to admit the fact he's trying the way he is rather courageous. We can only wish the best for him and the Wild.
~ The Wild roster was as follows tonight: Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, Zach Parise, Devin Setoguchi, Mikael Granlund, Charlie Coyle, Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck, Matt Cullen, Mike Rupp, Zenon Konopka, Torrey Mitchell, Ryan Suter, Tom Gilbert, Jonas Brodin, Clayton Stoner, Justin Falk and Jared Spurgeon. Niklas Backstrom backed up Darcy Kuemper. Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Nate Prosser were the healthy scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were:
~ Attendance was 18,910 at Rogers Arena.
~ Darcy Kuemper wore #35 for the Wild, joining Manny Fernandez as players who have donned the number.
~ The Houston Aeros earned a huge 2-1 shootout win over in-state rival Texas Stars. The Stars took the lead on a goal by Patrik Nemeth, and in a game where the Aeros were outshot big time they'd get a clutch shorthanded goal by Carson McMillan. The game would go to a shootout where Zack Phillips, Johan Larsson and Justin Fontaine buried the biscuit to give the Aeros a victory. Matt Hackett was outstanding, making 35 saves in the win.
Wild Prospect Report:
(G) Johan Gustafsson (Lulea, SEL) ~ A person could understand if Gustafsson would have a bit of a letdown, but no such thing has happened for the athletic goaltender. Gustafsson has been tremendous, sporting a 30-14 record to go along with a stingy 1.75 goals against average, an impressive .930% save percentage and 3 shutouts. Not too shabby.
(F) Christoph Bertschy (SC Bern, NLA) ~ It has been a muted year for the speedy Swiss-born forward playing his 2nd full season in the ever competitive Swiss National League. Bertschy is a bit off his scoring pace from a season ago, with just 3 goals and 5 points 16 PIM's and +2 in 36 games. Now that the lockout is over and his former NHL teammates like Joe Thornton are now back in the NHL his ice time has increased a bit and hopefully he can have a strong playoffs.