Gone are the days when the Wild were New Jersey West. They are right up there with the Capitals on goal differential, and playing under Bruce Boudreau, have some of the “ scoring from all lines depth” Canuck fans will remember fondly from about five years ago. Good times.
That was then, and this is now, but that will be the difference as much as the fact the games pick up from here on in. I mean, the Sharks had Joel Ward on their fourth line last game. Whatever you think of his game, that is a luxury in that team’s depth. The Wild have the same sort of thing going. They also have Granlund and Steal as a great one two up the middle.
Once again, it would be up to the “plucky” Canucks to see how they stand up to a West contender. They had a bad first period before competing very well in that last two in the previous game. Did they get off to a good start in this one ? Jannik Hansen got the start, with Megna getting to try the press box popcorn.
- I have to ask first though, so indulge me readers. When Megna does something noticeable, is it just me that references Dr Evil in the first Austin Powers flick with a “liquid hot Meg-Ma” impression ? I have gotten good laughs with it, I swear ! I can’t be the only one, can I ?
- The Canucks do the ceremony thing pretty well. The tribute and cheers for Henrik Sedin were pretty awesome. As befits a player of his stature and talent. Well done. The result was not what was desired on the night, but that can’t diminish his and his brother’s contributions to the team and this city.
- As for the start, it was actually pretty good. The first shifts for each line was good. But the Wild were generating shots on their rushes and chances, and the home team was not. That would become a theme on the night. Like I mentioned above, against deep teams, this young and learning team can struggle at times. Add to that another aspect of how things have went during this now three game losing streak, execution.
- Credit the Wild there. Bruce Boudreau teams play a strong forecheck and a quick transition game. Their up ice pressure surely contributed to the Canucks’ struggles. There were plenty of occurrences from young and veteran players alike where passes were fanned on without pressure, or into skates, or missed to lead to yet another icing and another opportunity for a strong team like the Wild to get a chance in the offensive end.
- The scoring started at the 13 minute mark of the first, when the Wild took advantage of a break. I am not going to rag too hard on the linesman, as they do a tough job. But that was a bullshit puck drop on the faceoff. It was almost like he faked out Henrik, who was tied up and unable to do anything when the guy eventually dropped the puck. Just blow the whistle there guys. It was a gift for a team that does not really need them. They worked it around nicely to allow Reilly to walk into a puck and pound it from the high circle, as he beat Miller with a shot that went off both posts and in.
- It was answered less than five minutes later, on a strong forecheck by Jannik Hansen. He drove the middle off the boards and his hard work allowed Brandon Sutter the opportunity to slam it home. a nice greasy goal and a point for Beaker on his return in typical fashion.
- The story of this game was how well the Wild played offensively ( 39 total shots ), but a definite theme of this game was the Canucks giving up late goals in both the first and second periods. The Canucks looked to be playing a decent period ( it was 12-11 in shots through one period, and while the visitors had more of the puck and offensive zone time, 1-1 would have been a good result through twenty minutes ). They gave up late pressure by a couple lines in a row in the last few minutes before a Dumba drive to the net resulted in Mikael Granlund’s first into the empty net after Miller had already reacted to a shot attempt by Zucker. Maybe a good bounce ? Sure, but they were full marks for their lead after one period.
- The late penalty on Nikita Tryamkin was a bit weak. He slashed down hard on Granlund’s stick, yes ( maybe a question of “Big Guy Problems”. I bet Chara got these ones early in his career too ), but he dropped it pretty easily too. It was at centre ice, and was something I wouldn’t have called. It gave the Wild a power play to start the second. It was killed off ( a Miller ROBBERY on Parise in close notwithstanding . ), but did help the momentum to keep on rolling for the Central Division leaders.
- Miller came into this one 7-1 at home recently. He was a ridiculous .940 save % in his last dozen games. Even though there were a couple he would want back tonight, he was not the only problem on the night. This one got away from the entire team, not just the goaltender.
- The game went from 2-1 after one to 5-3 after two on the strength of a 14 - 7 doubling of shots by Minny’s team. It was mostly pretty predictable in hindsight, but the killer was a shorthanded goal from Granlund. His second of the night came on a simple play. A faceoff loss by the first unit caught the Canucks flat footed, with Granlund keeping all the way on the resulting two on one and beating Miller cleanly. It was a good shot, but definitely one of those “ones I want back” for a goaltender. The goal was made worse by the power play being pretty freaking ineffective as well.
- That was answered in under five minutes ( again ) by the Canucks’ leading scorer. After some Minny pressure where Reilly stayed in too deep ( and no forward covered for him at the point ), Bo Horvat and Alexandre Burrows broke the other way. With the d’man taking away the pass, Horvat went to the “A” shot and went post and in to make it a one goal game again.
- Unfortunately, Bo’s nice goal was answered a minute later by Zach Parise. It was a simple play, and I don’t really want to blame Nikita Tryamkin for this one. It was such a veteran, smart play by Parise. He read that Spurgeon might be able to hold the line ( he did, and even was able to direct it toward the net and the only guy dangerous on the play as well ), and with Big Nik’ reacting only slightly to the clear ( he had checked on Zach before looking out top ), he was unable to even use that long reach. All Parise did was tip it. It went top shelf and in.
- It was another late period goal that pretty well iced this one. The Wild had a two goal lead, and that is pretty good. But once again, their Granlund was better than our Granlund. The man with the longest point streak in the NHL made a great play on the rush, shifting to the centre of the slot before artfully faking the shot and feeding Koivu at the side of the net for the tap in. It came with less than two minutes left in the period, and was a dagger of a goal.
- That goal was answered by a third for the home team, and glory be to the Puck Gods, it came on the power play. A faceoff win, a shot from the point that got through ( it may have bounced off someone, and was touched by Baertschi ( he was given an assist and then had it taken away and given to the guy with the point shot, Larsen ) before Brandon Sutter showed his hand / eye coordination and batted it home with less than a minute left.
- The Wild may not have the “lock it down” mentality of a Mike Yeo or Jacques Lemaire anymore, but they do know how to grind it out. The home team, down by two, had only a couple or three shots in the first ten minutes of the last period. That, and the fact Granlund got his first hat trick on a lucky one ( a save, a Tryamkin play on it in front that was a good block with a bad bounce ) looked to be a play that would work out, but Granlund got his stick in just as Larsen was clearing it away and it was in the net. So maybe he made his own luck, as they say.
- Once again, credit the Canucks for still working. They had pressure right until the final whistle in the last minute, and at a good number of times after going down by three goals, and showed no quit. Burrows was back with the Twins after Hansen got a few shifts there in the third, and they looked to be finding some old chemistry, but no doubt the TSN folks ( the radio station pays big dollars for rights, and then perfects the “passive aggressive”, “couch coaching” gas bagging from guys like “The Moj”, a football guy who thinks he knows more than the entire management team as it regards the hockey team. Just ask him.... #sigh ) will whine about things like the fourth line being out after a TV time out instead.
- Seriously, check Skille, Gaunce, and Chaput’s stats in this one here. The line had 6 shots, and 3 blocks. Gaunce had 4 hits to lead the team with less than ten minutes TOI. It was not a bad call. Regardless, it was also a game both teams were matching lines in. FWIW, they also won the faceoff battle again, with Chaput going 5 for 9, and Sutter going 15 for 21 to power them to a 41-36 edge.
This one hurts the “playoff race”, as the team now heads out on a six game road trip against some tough competition ( see here ) that includes that ridiculous 10 am Pacific game against the Bruins that they always seem to get a few of against, surprise surprise, Western conference teams. I guess if your owner is the head of the owners’ committee, it helps get those “perks”.
Nonetheless, the have to win more than the number of fingers on one hand on the road to have a shot at the post season. Nevermind the fifty bucks ( at 2 to 1 ) I have on them making it there. ( It has been worth it so far in banter at work alone, what with them being a hard working team that is close in comparison to the one the experts hades a 63 point team ). Like Jim Benning said recently, being in games that “mean something” is important to the young players.
Getting the results against good teams, and on the road, would be even better. Let’s hope they turn it around on this long trip back East. Otherwise, another “going on a run” period is going to be needed again.
Unless you are on #TeamTank . Then you hope they crash and burn, the TSN guys are right to relentlessly couch coach ( more than anyone before. AV never got treated this shabbily by the rights holder than the small town Saskatchewan boy at the helm has been treated ).
Wins will keep that silly talk from starting before springtime.
See you next weekend for the Boston and Buffalo back to backs.