Instant replay is something that football fans are very familiar with. Whether mandated by the booth or from a coach's challenge the goal of such a practice is to make sure the right call is made. The NFL only allows certain types of things to be challenged. Some fans have hoped the NHL would adopt some kind of coach's challenge. I doubt the league would want a coach to throw a flag onto the ice ala the NFL. But it does bring up an interesting point. What plays could a coach challenge. Could they challenge a bogus high sticking call? Or would they be limited to scoring plays and something like a delay of game called if a player clears a puck up into the stands? To my readers out there, what sorts of calls would you allow to be challenged? Or would you leave that to the NFL and keep it out of hockey? The Wild certainly have some calls I'm sure they wished were reviewed. Yet until league General Managers feel that is something that is needed all we can do is wait and see.
As the season seems to be rolling along at a grueling pace as it tries to fit as many as they can before the Olympic break the Wild are trying to keep themselves in the Western Conference playoff picture. Ottawa is still trying to establish some consistency as they hope to get back into the playoff picture. Will the Wild earn a win to keep pace in the super competitive West or will Senators make Minnesota fans wish their club to take a mulligan?
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1st Period Thoughts: The game had a very cautious start. The Wild spent the first few minutes defending rather than attacking as they retreated quickly to take away passing and shooting lanes. The Senators were only able to take a few shots from the perimeter that seemed to be no problem for Darcy Kuemper. While Minnesota's dfensive structure was holding well, the Wild were get absolutely nothing going offensively and you could sense the anxiety level in the crowd slowly starting to rise as time went on. Minnesota would ironically get the first penalty of the game in the offensive zone as Justin Fontaine tripped up Ottawa's Zack Smith. It was a bad offensive zone penalty from a team that looked a little groggy and reactive through the first half of the 1st period. On the power play, the Senators moved the puck fairly well but Minnesota was staying in a fairly tight diamond doing their best to deny the middle of the ice and forcing Ottawa to shoot from the perimeter. Minnesota did a good job of getting to loose pucks and working the puck out of the zone and the Wild got an important early kill. Still, the Wild looked a little sleepy at this point coming out of the penalty kill. Give the Senators' credit, they were standing up Wild forwards as they tried to work pucks towarsd the net and Minnesota just seemed to either lack the strength or the will to force the issue. Mikael Granlund would get tagged with a double-minor as he tried to track down Senators' wunderkind Erik Karlsson as he lifted the stick right into the grill of the All Star defenseman and Ottawa would go back on the man advantage. On the power play, the Senators tried to work the puck down low and some good active sticks denied some passes but the Wild failed to clear the zone and Minnesota found themselves scrambling in their own end for nearly the first minute of hte Ottawa power play. The Senators would strike as Kyle Turris would glide into the offensive zone where he made a perfect saucer pass to a crashing Clarke MacArthur who just got the blade of the stick on the puck to direct it up and just underneath the arm of Kuemper and in to make 1-0. The Wild bench was insensed, as they felt MacArthur was offsides and the replay was inconclusive, at the very least it was extremely close as MacArther had a full step inside the offensive zone but you can't tell if Turris had the puck over the blueline at that critical moment. The goal was scored with 35 seconds left on Granlund's first minor so the Senators still had a full two-minutes of power play time. The Wild would lock things down the next two minutes and escape without anymore damage. Minnesota seemed to lack focus and poor decisions with the puck was yielding a plethora of quality opportunities for Ottawa shooters. The Wild tried to get something going offensively late in the period but time and space were hard to come by and all they could manage was one shooting opportunity for Charlie Coyle. Kuemper would make one other fine save late on a close range bid by Milan Michalek in the closing seconds of the period, and Minnesota would have to feel a little lucky to only be down 1-0 after being outshot 15-3. The Wild really needs to pick up the intensity, and they can't allow themselves to be stood up so easily.
2nd Period Thoughts: Minnesota finally started to show a few signs of life offensively after a few minutes into the 2nd period. The first chance came off of some forechecking work by the Mikael Granlund, Jason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter line as Pominville forced a turnover deep in the Ottawa zone as Robin Lehner had left his neck thinking he'd play the puck. The puck moved out front where Jonathon Blum stepped into a slap shot that was steered away by Lehner who just managed to get back into his crease. A minute or two later as Dany Heatley wound up and blistered a slap shot that was absorbed by Lehner. The Senators would counter a bit with some offensive pressure of their own and Minnesota would have to scramble in its own end as Keumper made some saves to keep his team within one. It seemed like whenever the Wild wanted to really turn on the jets, it was a mishandle of the puck or an untimely loss of an edge. Minnesota clearly was a little annoyed as the whistle seemed to be swallowed when Wild players were being hauled down to the ice. The Wild would finally get a power play as Jonas Brodin had his stick slashed out of his hand by Jason Spezza. On the power play the Wild had a hard time getting set up in the Senators zone and overhandling of the puck and bad passes combined to make the man advantage a complete waste of time. As time evaporated quickly on the power play, you could sense the anxiety level of the crowd rising that much higher. When the Wild were getting shots on goal, it was one and done as the Senators were sweeping away rebounds and preventing Minnesota forwards from pouncing on loose pucks. The Wild tried one last big flurry late but still were unable to get too many quality shots through to Lehner to even test him. Minnesota needs to simplify its game and play with the mantra that any shot is a good one to take. One player who I think has played like a shell of himself the last few games has been Jason Pominville, despite being reunited with Granlund who had great chemistry with earlier in the season he seems to want to be more of a playmaker than a sniper and I think that deprives the Wild of its best goal scorer.
3rd Period Thoughts: The one silver lining going into the period was the fact the Wild were still just one shot away from tying the game. Minnesota had good energy to start the period and they were not being picky, taking any shot that was available. Most of these shots were over the weak variety being taken from the perimeter. The Wild were still exhibiting more anticipation and aggressiveness on the puck than they had shown in the previous two periods. It was during these first few minutes that disaster would strike. Marco Scandella wanted to step into a slap shot and as he swung the stick would shatter and the puck was swept up by Erik Condra who raced down the ice on a breakaway. Scandella tried to tackle the former Notre Dame star but he'd move in and beat Kuemper low stick side, 2-0 Ottawa. The goal killed the crowd and the Wild seemed to relax their pressure a bit after the goal. The Senators were waiting and pouncing on passes as they entered the neutral zone and this kept Minnesota contained in its own end. Jonas Brodin would get a holding penalty as he got tangled up with Mika Zibanejad giving Ottawa a power play. The Senators power play would be short-lived as off the ensuing draw in the Wild zone, Michalek stepped in front of Prosser foor an interference call. With the ice a bit more open with 4-on-4 hockey, Minnesota tried to regroup and attack, poor passing would continue to thwart potential scoring chances. A good example of this was a quick transition out of their end resulted in a 2-on-1 for Pominville and Ryan Suter and with Suter wide open Pominville missed the defenseman by 12 feet with his pass which was out of reach and instead of a scoring chance they got nothing at all. The 'energy line' of Matt Cooke, Kyle Brodziak and Justin Fontaine tried to get something going on the forecheck as Fontaine tried to beat Lehner with a wrap around which he kept chopping at as he hoped to jam it in to no avail. Minnesota would draw a power play a few mintues later as Kyle Brodziak was tripped up by Kyle Turris. On the power play, Minnesota's issues continued as they won the intial draw but no one was there to hold the zone. The Wild would then carry it in, and Erik Karlsson high sticked Suter to no call which drew the ire of Wild players and fans, and the angst against the officials continued as Dany Heatley would appear to hold the zone but the linesman saw it otherwise even though the replay clearly showed the puck never crossed the line. Minnesota would manage a few long range shots but that was it. At this point you could tell the fate of the Wild was more or less sealed. Ottawa would put the final nail in a few minutes later on another power play off a Suter tripping call. The Senators moved the puck quickly around the points before setting up a back door one-timer by Turris who rang it off the post and in to make it 3-0. It was a beauty of a slapper taken from just beyond the left faceoff dot. Minnesota tride to push for a 'Pride" goal, but their best chance on a Jason Zucker backhander was gloved out of the air by Lehner and they'd fall 3-0 tonight.
Darcy Kuemper kept the Wild in the game long enough for the team to get its act together, making 29 saves in the loss. He stepped up with a number of good saves when the team wasn't doing anything in front of him. While I am sure he wants Condra's goal back, he still gave the team a chance to win. Defensively I did not think it was a banner game for Minnesota's blueliners who were not being strong enough in their own end to seal off Senators' skaters they way Ottawa was able to do at the other end of the ice. The outlet passes were a problem much of the game making it difficult for the Wild to break out of their zone cleanly.
Offensively the Wild still seemed to be on the plane from Nashville. Minnesota was very flat and there was a definite lack of urgency that we hadn't really seen with this current lineup. The Wild looked like a team that felt it could show up and win, and lacked the focus and the hustle to draw penalties and really put Ottawa under pressure in their own zone. I thought the Wild forwards were getting stood up and instead of driving their legs to draw a penalty we saw forwards standing and looking to the official for relief and that just isn't going to get it done.
It was not the way anyone should want to start a 3-game homestand. The Senators were a team that was struggling, and even though they were well rested the Wild still had a day off before it played this evening. Minnesota looked like a team waiting for someone to step up. Poor passing all night long made it nearly impossible for the Wild to get anything going offensively. Perhaps its recent success where it had a different hero each night plays into that, but players need to want to be that guy instead of just waiting and hoping someone else steps up to the challenge. The Oilers are coming off a loss to Dallas so hopefully the Wild play with a little dose of vinegar against Edmonton on Thursday. Minnesota needs cannot afford to let points slip away like this, and hopefully a game like this forces them to redouble their efforts on Thursday and this weekend.
~ The Wild lineup tonight was as follows: Jason Pominville, Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, Dany Heatley, Jason Zucker, Kyle Brodziak, Matt Cooke, Justin Fontaine, Torrey Mitchell, Erik Haula, Stephane Veilleux, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, Marco Scandella, Jonathon Blum, Nate Prosser and Clayton Stoner. Niklas Backstrom backed up Darcy Kuemper. Mike Rupp and Keith Ballard were the healthy scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game according to Wild.com were: 1st Star Robin Lehner, 2nd Star Clarke MacArthur, 3rd Star Darcy Kuemper
~ Attendance was 18,117 at Xcel Energy Center.
Iowa Wild Report:
Record: (15-15-2-2) 34pts Last in the Midwest
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #10 Brian Connelly ~ 1G 18A = 19pts
2. #51 Zack Phillips ~ 6G 9A = 15pts
3. #27 Carson McMillan ~ 6G 8A = 14pts
4. #25 Warren Peters ~ 3G 10A = 13pts
5. #21 Steven Kampfer ~ 3G 9A = 12pts
Top 3 PIM's:
1. #14 Corbin Baldwin ~ 66 PIM's
2. #18 Raphael Bussieres ~ 37 PIM's
3. #21 Steven Kampfer ~ 29 PIM's
1. #31 Johan Gustafsson (6-6-1) 2.85GAA .907%SP 1SO
2. #33 John Curry (2-2-1) 2.33GAA .925%SP
Recent Score: Iowa 1, Hamilton 3
Injuries with the Minnesota Wild certainly affect who plays with Iowa, but American Hockey League affiliate has had its share of its own injuries to contend with that has forced the club to fill out its lineup with Professional Tryout Contract players. The Iowa Wild have added Nicholas Rioux, Justin Mercier and Jim McKenzie to PTC's. These players are doing their best to fill in for injured players like Tyler Cuma, Tyler Graovac and Brett Bulmer as well as NHL call ups Jason Zucker and Erik Haula. In Iowa's most recent game against Hamilton the Bulldogs would take the lead late in the 1st period on a power play goal by Gabriel Dumont. Iowa would answer back in the 2nd on a power play of their own as Hamilton, Ontario-native Marc Hagel buried a shot behind Dustin Tokarski to make tie it up at 1-1. Hamilton would answer back 6 minutes later as Nathan Beaulieu sniped a shot over the shoulder of Johan Gustafsson to make it 2-1 going into the 3rd period. Iowa tried to work for the equalizer but it just wasn't meant to be as Hamilton buried an empty-net goal to seal a 3-1 victory. Gustafsson had 31 saves in the loss. Iowa's next game is tomorrow night in Toronto against the Marlies.
High School (Boys) Hockey Rankings:
These are the High School Hockey rankings as selected by FollowthePuck.com as of January 12th, 2014.
3. East Grand Forks
5. New Prague
6. Mankato West
8. Duluth Marshall
11. St. Cloud Cathedral
13. Thief River Falls
15. St. Paul Academy
2. Lakeville North
6. Duluth East
7. Eden Prairie
8. Elk River / Zimmerman
9. Holy Family Catholic
12. Benilde-St. Margaret's
13. St. Thomas Academy
14. Grand Rapids
15. Cretin-Derham Hall