Team message boards are places where you can find fiercely loyal fans that want to discuss their teams, sing the team's praises and shred their organization at just about every level when things are going rough. There are homers, skeptics, trolls, and those in between that all add to the conversation. When the team is winning the fans are happy and jubilant as they celebrate the success. However, as the Wild have lost their last 3 games, in seemingly more pathetic fashion each time the activity at the message boards is predictably doom and gloom. On the Wild's top two message board sites, at Hockey's Future and Wild.com both places feature threads asking whether its time for head coach Mike Yeo to be fired. These threads are very active and fans seem compelled to share their thoughts, angst and frustration with the 40-year old bench boss. The Hockey's Future thread named "Bring your pitchforks and torches its time for Mike Yeo to go!" minces little words about what it thinks is necessary to bring about positive change to the Wild. Just a small sampling from the thread; "I don't just want Mike Yeo fired, I want him banished to Yeo Island for life and pepper sprayed on site if he tries to leave. He shouldn't be allowed to coach an old timer boot hockey team, " said HF poster Willi Plett. Wild.com poster JuiceSimpson, "He's a terrible rookie coach with good systems but has no ability to think on the fly, and the lack of emotion from him makes me want to kick him in the face with a golf shoe." Glad to see the fans are holding back eh?
The Wild have their next two games at home which are crucially important for the team and even more so for Yeo. Whether the Wild want to admit or not they've registered 1 point in their last 3 games. Minnesota has scored just 3 goals in those games. Something has to give and playing against a team like Nashville whom the team has had a growing rivalry could make things interesting. The Wild should show a little desperation to their game, but can they finally earn a victory for a change? Or will the heat under Mike Yeo get that much more intense?
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1st Period Thoughts: Minnesota had great pace to start the game as Zach Parise was flying around early, as he ripped a shot on goal that was steered aside by Pekka Rinne. The increased intensity was very evident as Zenon Konopka would drop the gloves with Richard Clune after he missed a big check on Jared Spurgeon. Konopka wanted to discuss the near miss and Clune did not hesitate and both players dropped the gloves instantly. It was a spirited fight, with Clune having the upper hand early on as Konopka was patient trying to free his right arm so he could start trading some bombs. Once he finally got his arm free, he was able to re-establish himself in the fight but right about then the officials moved into stop it and Clune would let up but Konopka would not stop and he pulled the Nashville pugilist forward and tossed a few more jabs that drew the ire of Clune, and especially the Nashville bench. As the officials led Clune and Konopka to the penalty box, Konopka was not happy the officials stepped in when they did but both would sit 5 minutes for fighting. The Wild would then have a scary moment when Nashville's Gabriel Bourque tried to dump the puck deep in the zone and he'd fire it right into the mouth of Jonas Brodin who fell to the ice in pain. Wild Head Athletic Trainer Don Fuller went out onto the ice to attend to Brodin as he helped the young defenseman make his way back to the Minnesota locker room. The chippiness would continue as Shea Weber would try to check Zach Parise through the goal post and he'd go to the box for cross checking. Minnesota's power play would waste little time working the puck on goal as they created a myriad of prime scoring chances. As they wheeled and dealed to set up quick shots on goal but each time Pekka Rinne was up to the task. It was a total shooting gallery as the Wild did just about all they could to score, other than bury the biscuit. The Wild kept attacking and their aggressiveness would draw another Predators' penalty as Ryan Ellis cross checked Nino Niederreiter into the boards. Minnesota's power play sputtered a tiny bit at first but once they got set up in the zone the shooting gallery resumed as Rinne found himself under siege. However, the result was the same. No goals scored. You knew the next penalty was going to go against the Wild and you feared with Minnesota's horrendous penalty kill that it was going to end up in the back of the net. Justin Fontaine was tagged with a tripping penalty as he got his stick in the skate of Viktor Stalberg. Luckily for the Wild the Nashville power play was pretty suspect as they struggled to handle the puck that led to some easy clears of the zone. Minnesota would escape the Predators' power play mostly unscathed although in the closing moments Marco Scandella would painfully block a Shea Weber bomb from the point but the period would end with both teams knotted at 0-0. Minnesota outshot the Predators 13-3, and another familiar period of so many chances that were close but no cigar. I thought Nino Niederreiter had a good period and was assertive in taking his chances to shoot the puck. Pretty good opening period for the Wild beyond the fact they didn't managed to score, again.
2nd Period Thoughts: As active and up-tempo as the first period was, the 2nd period was more of a chess match. The Wild started to become more selective with its shots, as they tried to set up the perfect chance and at times they'd pass up prime chances to attempt low-percentage passes that were failing to click. Shots became few and far between and some of Minnesota's best chances in the period came from the 4th line as Stephane Veilleux made a pretty cross ice pass to Torrey Mitchell for a bomb from just above the left faceoff circle that was stonewalled by Rinne. Nashville flirted at a few prime scoring chances on some flurries near the net that looked a little dangerous but smart plays by the Wild's defense kept it out of their net. The Predators seemed to fade more and more as the period went on, just simply unable to chase down the puck. Mikael Granlund had a nice shot that Rinne struggled with a bit as the game opened up a little bit in the latter parts of the period. Craig Smith would draw the defense towards him as he dished it over to Eric Nystrom who moved in all alone but his backhand chance was stopped by Josh Harding who hadn't had much work in this game to this point. Minnesota would strike late as a long range wrist shot by Clayton Stoner caused Rinne to juggle it a bit and Justin Fontaine would race in and chip in the rebound to give the Wild a 1-0 lead with just over a minute left to play. Huge goal for a team that had been outplaying the Predators most of the game. The 4th line of Konopka, Veilleux and Mitchell had a great period. Minnesota again outshot Nashville 11-6.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Predators would start the period, looking focused and a little dangerous as a shot from the point by Craig Smith that was fought off by Harding. The Wild tried to respond with a scoring chance of their own as Dany Heatley set up Mikael Granlund for a one-timer that he hammered high and wide of the mark. In a bit of a freaky moment, Parise would send Predators' defenseman Victor Bartley into the boards by the Wild bench where he'd crash into the gate which was not secured getting his arm caught in the hinge but amazingly he was ok. Eric Nystrom would deliver a big hit to Nate Prosser and then goad the Wild defenseman to a fight. Nystrom got off the initial few punches but Prosser would rally back as he caught the veteran forward with a few good punches to the mouth before Nystrom swung wildly and caught Prosser on the nose. Pretty good fight, but it would put Minnesota another defenseman down. As if it was timed this way the Predators got a little pressure in the Wild zone and they would draw a hooking penalty on Matt Cooke. The Wild were going to get scored on right? Nope, their power play again struggled to handle the puck and this led to some big turnvovers that allowed the Wild to clear the zone. With another Predators' power play rendered useless the Wild went back on the attack and Minnesota's 3rd line had a fine shift where they controlled the offensive zone as well as being able to get a few nice shots on goal to alleviate pressure at a crucial point in the game. A few minutes later the 3rd line was again pesky as Nino Niederreiter tried to set up Kyle Brodziak near the crease but he wasn't able to jam it home. Minnesota would do its best to hold off a late push by the Predators where Matt Cullen was denied near the post and the puck would roll perilously close to the goal line before being swept out of danger by an alert Jared Spurgeon. Minnesota's Jason Pominville would bury the empy netter to seal a 2-0 victory.
Josh Harding stopped all 16 shots he faced in order to earn his first shutout of the season. Harding came up with the clutch saves when the team needed him to do so and finally the team in front of him gave him just enough goal support. Defensively, the loss of Jonas Brodin to a facial injury forced the Wild to play a man short for virtually the whole game but they shuffled successfully between Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella and his loss wasn't nearly as noticeable as one would expect. I thought Nate Prosser had a good game, as did Marco Scandella. Ryan Suter was his normal dominant self but I'd like to see him pull the trigger a bit faster in the offensive zone.
Offensively, the Wild really got much the same effort they have the last few games. They had 29 shots on goal, outshooting the Predators 29-16 but still just 2 goals to show for it and that's including an empty netter. The team had plenty of prime chances, especially in the first period but just couldn't bury those opportunities. Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu are playing like two players who are feeling the pressure to perform and while Pominville got an empty netter I am sure he'll feel better when he rips one past a goaltender. Koivu kind of gave up shooting on goal after the 1st period and started to pass up chances in exchange for low-percentage chances precisely what he shouldn't do. I thought Justin Fontaine looked ok on the top line, I still like Nino Niederreiter better. Nino didn't play too bad on the 3rd line and his demotion kind of sparked the 3rd line to be more of a factor in the 3rd period. If anything, Niederreiter is demonstrating he can be useful all over the Wild's Top 9.
Sure, the Predators were tired tonight after playing the night before in Winnipeg. But the team has lost games against teams in that same situation this season. They found a way to finish even though once again goals were tough to come by. Its good to finally get rewarded but now they have to re-focus and do what they can to earn another victory on Thursday against Carolina.
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Nino Nieferreiter, Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund, Dany Heatley, Jason Pominville, Kyle Brodziak, Justin Fontaine, Matt Cooke, Stephane Veilleux, Zenon Konopka, Torrey Mitchell, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, Jared Spurgeon, Clayton Stoner and Nate Prosser. Niklas Backstrom backed up Josh Harding. Keith Ballard (concussion), Mike Rupp (knee) and Charlie Coyle (knee) out of the lineup with injuries while Mathew Dumba was the lone healthy scratch.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game as selected by wild.com were: 1st Star Josh Harding, 2nd Star Justin Fontaine, 3rd Star Pekka Rinne
~ Attendance was 17,651 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Record: 3-1-0 2nd in the Midwest Division
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #51 Zack Phillips ~ 2G 2A = 4pts
2. #11 Jake Dowell ~ 1G 3A = 4pts
3. #9 Erik Haula ~ 1G 3A = 4pts
4. #13 Kris Foucault ~ 1G 2A = 3pts
5. #10 Brian Connelly ~ 0G 3A = 3pts
Top 3 PIM's:
1. #18 Raphael Bussieres ~ 20 PIM's
2. #23 Steven Kampfer ~ 17 PIM's
3. #14 Corbin Baldwin ~ 14 PIM's
1. #31 Johan Gustafsson (2-0-0) .50GAA .984%SP 1 SO
2. #35 Darcy Kuemper (1-1-0) 3.04GAA .898%SP
Last Game: 7-2 Wild win over Charlotte
The Iowa Wild are off to a great start with a big weekend in Charlotte where they swept the normally difficult Checkers in back-to-back games. Iowa has managed to win with good defense and a style of play where they are regularly oushooting their opponents as well as getting scoring from all over its lineup. Kurt Kleinendorst's squad benefits from two solid goaltenders who are pushing themselves to be at their best. Tyler Cuma has been playing well for the Wild and has been a leader on the blueline along with Bloomington, Minnesota-native Brian Connelly.
Wild Prospect Report:
D - Dylan Labbe (Shawinigan, QMJHL) - The St. Benjamin, Quebec-native continues to do his part for Shawinigan even if the rest of his team struggles. Labbe had a goal and was a +1 with three shots on goal in the Cataractes 5-1 loss to Baie-Comeau on Sunday. The 6'2" 192lbs defenseman has 2 goals and 9 points in 11 games this season.
LW - Mario Lucia (Notre Dame, H-East) - The Wayzata-native tallied his first goal of the season in a 7-3 win over Michigan Tech on Sunday. Lucia was a -2 with 1 shot on goal in the victory. He played on the top line with T.J. Tynan and Bryan Rust.