The Formidable Rival

Now some of you may disagree with me calling the Chicago Blackhawks formidable but with the longstanding rivalry between Minnesota and Chicago, yes including the North Stars days, it seemed fitting. As much as I would like to say I hate the Blackhawks, I actually don’t. I have a respect for Chicago that any true sports fan would have to agree with and when you look at their record, it demands respect because it is hard to deny that they are a very talented team.

Chicago is one of the few teams that Minnesota has always been pretty evenly matched with. The Blackhawks play quite similar and don’t rely on just one name to win games. The fact that they have quite a few “superstars” doesn’t hurt either but it can be a hindrance when everyone knows who those players are and teams focus all their efforts on shutting those players down. Players such as Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and even their defensemen like Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook

With that being said even those guys couldn’t put a stop to the Minnesota Wild this evening. Despite having an early two goal lead before the halfway point of the game, Chicago wasn’t safe and the saying “a two goal lead is the hardest to keep” came true. The Wild were able to answer back with two goals of their own and end the second tied.

Going into the third it was a whole new game and a clean slate until Minnesota’s Jason Pominville found the perfect opening on the side of the net for a pass from Marco Scandella that Pominville was able to slide right past Chicago goaltender Scott Darling and capture the lead for the Wild. Minnesota kept the lead for the last 15 or so minutes left in the game and took both the game and FIRST PLACE in both the Division and the Conference from the Blackhawks. Yep, the Wild are officially in sole possession of the conference! Now they just have to keep winning and not look back, there’s still 41 games left of the season and anything can happen.

The Wild have been playing some damn good hockey this season and in this game alone they held Toews to zero shots on goal which rarely happens and Devan Dubnyk stopped 33 of 35 shots with a .943 save percentage. Kane had two goals and 12 shots but hardly any team can keep him at bay no matter how good they are and the Wild were still able to come out on top. Kane isn’t always scoring goals either, he nearly had a giveaway in front of his own net that the Wild’s Mikeal Granlund almost capitalized on.

Minnesota was out-shot but their defense made sure to play the box and keep the puck to the outside or not let Chicago control it for long meaning they forced the Blackhawks to take shots. Dubnyk had full support from his team and there weren’t very many Chicago players that ended up alone in front of the net. The Wild were also good at making Chicago panic with the puck and make blind passes that wouldn’t connect.

One thing the Wild need to focus on is staying out of the box in the last-minute of the game. I know this doesn’t happy all the time but Ryan Suter received a penalty in the last 40 seconds or so and at that time in the game with a one goal lead we need all of our players on the ice. It wasn’t an intentional penalty by any means but the Wild really need to keep an eye on that. Overall they only had six penalty minutes while Chicago had four and that is quite low for these two teams when they play each other.

The Wild now get to head for home and earned a day off before they face off against Zach Parise’s former team the New Jersey Devils who currently sit 12th in their conference and are 500. on the season. Former Edmonton Oiler Taylor Hall is now with the Devils and Parise’s former teammate from both the Devils and his time with the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux, Travis Zajac is still skating with the DEvils as well (Yes, I had to throw UND in there of course!). So it will be an interesting match-up as always whenever a a Wild player’s former team shows up.

The game will start at 7pm at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Tuesday evening. The Wild will be looking to defend their first place standing and continue to grab all those points necessary for playoffs. Thanks for reading!

Hockey rocks!

The Former North Stars

Tonight the Wild will face the Dallas Stars, or as most Minnesota fans know them as… the former North Stars. There are still quite a few people who are upset over that whole deal that went down right before/during the time I was born. I think I was about three months old when the Stars moved south to Texas.

But now the Wild are here and have established a home in the short 16-17 years they’ve been playing in the beautiful Xcel Energy Center located just off the Mississippi River in downtown St. Paul. The Wild won’t have that hometown feel tonight as they visit Dallas.

Both teams are coming off victories and it will also prove to be a big game points-wise. The Wild could tie for first place in the division with a victory and could take over first place tomorrow when they face the Chicago Blackhawks who currently sit atop the division and conference.

This is a big game for the Stars because they could climb closer to getting into a Wild Card position for the playoffs. They would also need Nashville to lose and the Predators are playing Colorado, so who knows with that one.

The Stars season has been a bit more difficult than the Wild with the team’s stats just floating above .500. This struggle may be in part due to Ales Hemsky’s hip injury that happened back in October and has caused him to miss 37 games thus far. He has already missed almost three of the expected 5-7 months, more than likely the rest of the season will be without him playing. He has played one total game this season and that was the game he was injured in. Last season he had 39 points with 13 goals and 26 assists so Dallas could really use his presence but it may not be until next season.

The Wild’s line-up will be the same as the Habs game and it is as follows:

Parise-Staal-Coyle

Zucker-Koivu-Granlund

Neiderreiter-Haula-Pominville

Schroeder-Graovac-Stewart

This line-up seems to have been working well for Minnesota and we’ll see if it continues especially with Staal who has truly thrived this season with Parise and Coyle as his line-mates. Apparently Kuemper will start tonight because of the Wild’s back-to-back so Dubnyk can start tomorrow against Chicago. Hopefully Kuemper is ready and on top of his game.

The game will be at 7 pm central time and it sounds like it could be a very good game being both teams are vying for every point they can get. There’s also the heated rivalry of the former Minnesota team and the current that will most likely never go away. Thanks for reading!

Hockey rocks!

 

Player Celebration: Charlie Coyle

Charlie, Charlie, Charlie yes Charlie Coyle the Minnesota Wild player who became famous after he waved to a fan in the crowd and it was the most adorable thing ever! If you haven’t seen it yet you should definitely go on YouTube and find it, it’ll brighten your day!

Charlie joined the Wild back in 2012 and he made a name for himself rather quickly, in that season alone he had eight goals as a rookie, it’s pretty rare for a rookie to even get one goal let alone eight. He also assisted on six other goals leaving him with 14 points in his short season. Mind you, Charlie only played 37 total games as well which is just short of half a season, many rookies also don’t get that chance either.

I remember when Coyle first showed up and everyone was like “who the heck is this kid?” and soon everyone knew who he was and the next season he was pretty much a household name and hasn’t had a less than 30 point season in the last four years.

Charlie worked his way up to the first line and was often partners with Captain Mikko Koivu. No matter who Coyle is paired with he usually does fine and often times makes the other players around him better. When he is with the team a bit longer, he could have the potential to be a captain.

Coyle sits second on the team in points right behind Eric Staal and in front of Mikael Granlund. He has 33 points in just 40 games played with a faceoff percentage of 50 which is pretty good considering our top center has 55%. Charlie also has three game winning goals, if he keeps this up he could have a 60-70 point season and shatter his past season highs.

With the way the Wild are playing, Charlie could very well hit those marks and he has greatly helped their play. The Wild just need to keep on track and focus on getting better every game despite if it’s a win or loss and Charlie is a big part in that since he is an up and coming youngster at the ripe age of 24 with many more seasons to go and we hope they are with the Wild! Thanks for reading!

Hockey Rocks!

Two Points

The Minnesota Wild have been playing some outstanding hockey as of late and have secured themselves a second place spot in both the Division and the Western Conference with just 40 games played. The Wild are just two points out of first place, trailing the Chicago Blackhawks who have played four more games than Minnesota, which means the Wild could have a chance to tie or get ahead of Chicago when the time comes for the games to even out.

Minnesota is coming off a recent 7-1 defeat of the Montreal Canadians last evening in St. Paul at the Xcel Energy Center. Six different Wild players had goals in the fury of scoring including Nino Niederreiter who contributed two goals.

Eric Staal and Matt Dumba also had great games, they both had three points each. Staal had one goal and two assists while Dumba had three assists. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk had a pretty good game also as he stopped 20 shots out of 21 and he had a .952 save percentage.

The Wild’s next opponent will be the Dallas Stars in Dallas, yes the Wild will be on another road trip after recently getting back from California where they played three games and went 2-1. Dallas isn’t having such a great season, the Stars are just above .500 and are fifth in the division. They are coming off a recent victory over the Detroit Red Wings so the Wild better be on top of their game to stay in front of Dallas no matter what the records are.

The game will start at 7 pm in Dallas tomorrow evening. Thanks for reading!

Hockey Rocks!

Wild Slope

The Wild’s last two games have not been pretty, on Saturday Minnesota faced Colorado in Denver and let a two goal lead slip away in the third period when the Av’s scored three unanswered goal.

The second game, last night against Dallas in Dallas was a fairly close. Every time the Stars scored, Minnesota scored back, it ended in a two to two tie so the teams went into overtime. Dallas’ Jamie Benn scored the game winner that handed Minnesota its second straight loss on their mini road trip.

It’s not time to panic yet though Wild fans, even though it is a little nerve-wracking to watch your team give up a two goal lead and go on to lose the game, there is still hope. It’s early on in the season and usually every team has a slight slump at some point. This could be the Wild’s and they’ll jump back on the winning bandwagon in time for me to go to their game against the Pens on Friday!

I’m making this recap short because it covers two games that were both losses and the Wild have another game tomorrow that I’ll hopefully have a preview posted for!

Thanks for reading!

HOCKEY ROCKS!

It’s Staal’s Game

So I haven’t written about the Wild in quite a while and by now all of you Wild fans should know who the new player added to the team of 18,000 is. Eric Staal, yes the eldest of the four Staal brothers has left his home for the past 13 seasons in Carolina and his partial season with the Rangers in the Big Apple to join the hometown boys in good ole Minnesota.

I’m pretty excited to have someone like Staal joining the Red and Green. He has a Stanley Cup and he’s also a leader, previously being the captain of Carolina. That being said, he won’t be looking to take any of Captain Koivu’s thunder being new to the team and all, plus respecting those who have been there longer and earned the spot.

In preparation for writing this post I read through some articles on how Staal may fit into the Wild’s roster and there were two main opinions, the first being he could\should be put into the first line where Koivu normally plays with Parise and Coyle, and the second was that Staal is getting old and may not have much left in him.

Keep in mind, Staal is 31 going to be 32 in October right when the season starts, in hockey terms that could mean he is past his peak but that doesn’t mean he can’t still score a goal or two. In my personal opinion age doesn’t really matter, it’s just a number, the real deciding factor is if his mind and body can still take it; which from recent videos it looks like he can.

Bobby Hull played until he was 41, Wayne Gretzky played until he was 38, Mario Lemiuex played until he was 41 (he did have a brief three year break because of illness), Brett Hull played until he was 41 as well. This is just a brief list of some of the greatest players to ever play and I think you get my point on age just being a number and a player like Staal may have quite a few years left in him.

However the game is constantly changing and players are retiring earlier and earlier but it all depends on the player. Now to the other opinion on Staal and his line placement. It is rather hard to decide where he should fit in because there has also been a dramatic shift in coaching with Bruce Boudreau taking over the team from Mike Yeo (my opinion on that will be in a separate post from this when I dive into everything head coach related).

In my personal opinion from watching the Wild consistently throughout the years and the players that have stuck around, I believe it would be better for Staal not to be on the first line. This isn’t so much because he’s not experienced enough but rather it takes time to get used to a new team and I don’t believe in breaking up good pairings just because they aren’t hitting the numbers you think they should. Sometimes, actually more often than not, those numbers are unrealistic and can’t be hit even by pros who have been at it for years.

I think Koivu should stick with Coyle and Praise because it worked and why mess with your first line. Yes, Staal is fast and could keep up with those two but he doesn’t have the playmaking style that Koivu does. Staal is a goalscorer more than Koivu amd he should be placed with wings that could do that for him. Pominville and Zucker I believe would be great pairings for him, Zucker has the speed and can connect on passes that Staal would feed and Pominville is great at setting guys up for goals and he’s quite speedy as well.

Now Staal is the type of guy who leads without having to be in the captain position, he’s a lot like former Wild players Andrew Brunette and Wes Walz for you Wild statisticians like myself. He leads by example which is something the Wild can always use, there’s no such thing as too much leadership. Well, there might be but that’s if the leaders don’t get along, the Wild really don’t have to worry about that.

So with this new face added to the team, do you fans believe the Wild have what it takes to bring the historic Stanley Cup to the State of Hockey? I do, but I always do, I’m a die-hard wild fan and always will be.

Thanks for reading! Many more posts to come I hope!

Hockey rocks!

THE STADIUM SERIES

First off… IT’S ABOUT DANG TIME THE MINNESOTA WILD HAD AN OUTDOOR GAME..and it’s in MINNESOTA! As a diehard fan of the Wild of course I was excited the second I heard about the outdoor game. Sure it’s not the Winter Classic but it is on HockeyDay USA which is pretty dang cool. The Wild did an absolutely awesome job of hosting this event, everything looks just pristine!

You can tell the home crowd was giving the Wild an extra boost that it clearly needed. They’ve been winning again lately but they finally look like they are back the way they were playing at the beginning of the year. This game clearly showed that the Wild still have what it takes to play with the “big boys” and that people should not give up on them yet. They looked like a rejuvenated team and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the season brings.

Now was the game not perfect or what? The weather was gorgeous and it even snowed a bit, perfect for a hockey game. With the way things turned out I think they should have am outdoor game every year in Minnesota. I may be biased but it did turn out pretty awesome. Sure, things could have been drastically different but so can a hockey game. All of the players seemed to enjoy themselves and had a blast.

The amount of people they were able to involve was also pretty neat from all the youth players, the marching band and getting the fans involved with a really cool ” lets play hockey” sign.
image

The picture was taken from NHL.com.

All in all the game was pretty awesome and the wild couldn’t have played better in their 6-1 victory in their first ever Stadium series. I was very happy to watch and see all the greatness in that game. I vote for it again next year!

Go Wild!