"Your cheatin' heart, will make you weep, you'll cry and cry and try to sleep, The whole night through, Your cheatin' heart, will tell on you, when tears come down, like falling rain, you'll toss around, and call my name, you'll walk the floor, the way I do, your cheatin' heart will tell on you, your cheatin' heart, will tell on you, your cheatin' heart will pine someday, and crave the love you threw away," that of course is the song Your Cheatin' Heart by country music legend Hank Williams. That could very well be the song on the minds of fans of the Nashville Predators as Ryan Suter makes his first return to 'Smashville' since signing as a free agent with the Minnesota Wild this summer. Since that time Suter has been public enemy #1 amongst Music City's hockey fans who saw his pre-signing comments about wanting to stay with the Predators as being disengeneous. So expect to hear plenty of boo's everytime he touches the puck from the always hostile Predators crowd, especially those up in the 'Cellblock' in section 303 at Bridgestone Arena. Speaking of boo's, Minnesota hockey fans should be saving their boo's for the Minnesota State High School League for some horrendous late-game officiating that marred a fantastic Class A Championship between Hermantown and St. Thomas Academy. A very marginal call a long way from the puck gave the Cadets a power play with 1:57 left and then in the closing moments, the Hawks' star defenseman Jake Zeleznikar was just feet from clearing the puck out of the zone as he was tackled on the play and St. Thomas Academy gets the go ahead goal with just over 6 seconds left. Hermantown Head Coach, Bruce Plante (father of former NHL'er and Stanley Cup winner Derek Plante) was incensed and he berated the officials at the end of the game. Here is a picture of the blatant non-call in question.
It is an absolute shame, and the boo's at Xcel Energy Center were loud and continuous as St. Thomas Academy recieved their travesty of a trophy and 1st place medals. Wild fans can expect the same sort of intense 'hate' being directed towards Suter all game long. The Wild's little hiatus was nice for fans like myself so we could focus on the best State High School Hockey Tournament in the nation (albeit one marred by some terrible late-game calls). So will Ryan Suter make his return to Nashville sweet or will he look like a typical hard luck story which is normally the subject of a country song?
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1st Period Thoughts: Minnesota had good energy to start the game. Moving their feet well and making quick decisions with the puck to elude the Predators' forecheck. A modified 2nd line of Matt Cullen, Jason Zucker, and Torrey Mitchell that created a nice shooting opportunity for Zucker off the rush after an interception in the neutral zone by Mitchell. The Wild's top line of Charlie Coyle, Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise caused the Predators some trouble by working the puck down low and winning some battles along the wall where it turned into a quick shot for Coyle that rang off the crossbar. Nashville fans were boo'ing incessantly everytime Ryan Suter touched the ice, even touching the puck was not necessary as they just continued to boo on and off throughout any of his shifts. The Predators tried to work the puck out the point and then did their best to deny Niklas Backstrom the ability to see the shot coming at him but luckily for the Wild they were missing wide. Minnesota would start to employ a semi-passive 1-2-2 with the 1 forechecker chasing the Predators in its own zone and this led to some cheap turnovers. Jonas Brodin would show off his ability to win 1-on-1 battles as he shut down a charge by Craig Smith, stripping him of the biscuit and making a quick pass. Kyle Brodziak would inadvertently trip up Gabriel Bourque, giving the Predators its first power play of the game. Minnesota's penalty killers were aggressive and denying the Predators' puck carriers much in the way of time and space and they would struggle to get comfortable in the Wild zone. When Nashville did get set up; Minesota closed down near Backstrom and they swept away potential rebound chances and the Wild got a big kill. In the closing minute of the game the Predators really started to run Wild players as they worked for one last shot on goal. Jared Spurgeon would take a huge hit from Martin Erat and Charlie Coyle moved in to answer back for his teammate and Minnesota had to feel fortunate getting out of the first period tied at zero. I thought the Wild were being a bit too passive, and be prepared to pay the physical price in order to create scoring chances. It was nice to see Cal Clutterbuck back on the ice for the Wild; his simple approach of attacking the offensive zone with speed and his willingness to shoot can only be a good thing for Minnesota. Nashville outshot the Wild 9-5.
2nd Period Thoughts: The Wild started to counter punch and figure out how to attack the Predators' zone in this period. The first attempt came on a beauty of a long pass threaded by Suter to Charlie Coyle for a breakaway that was foiled by the hook of Shea Weber that was not called. Minnesota had 3 power plays in the period, steadily improving on each one. The first one was guilty of over handling the puck and not directing shots on goal and making it too easy for one of the worst penalty kill units in the league. The Wild would take a more simplified approach on its 2nd power play as it was Suter flinging a wrist shot that was redirected off the shaft of Zach Parise's stick and by Pekka Rinne to make it 1-0. Minnesota followed up Parise's goal with a fine scoring chance by Dany Heatley who gathered up a rebound and tried to sweep a backhand on goal only to be stopped by the 6'5" A-frame save of Rinne. On the 3rd power play the Wild were taking every opportunity it could to direct shots on goal and force Rinne to make some big saves with traffic near his crease. Defensively the Wild did a great job of keeping Nashville to the perimeter and for the most part Backstrom never really had to do all that much. Part of that strong defense was being physical at the right times as Justin Falk sort of shoved Colin Wilson into the boards and the youngster and Predators' leading scorer was hurting after the hit and he'd head to the locker room. Even Jared Spurgeon got in on the physical play as he leveled Mike Fisher with a good shoulder check. Jonas Brodin was rock solid, using his stick to deny passing and shooting lanes and forcing his man to stay to the wall and its incredible to see the maturity and smoothness in the way he plays defense. The Wild did a nice job of find ways to enter the zone with speed whether it was a ltitle chip in off the boards or a little dump and chase. A great 2nd period, where the Wild outshot Nashville 8-6.
3rd Period Thoughts: The Predators started the period with more jump, and the Wild appeared a bit complacent despite having a one-goal lead. Nashville was flying around the ice and being physical and their aggressiveness would draw a penalty. As the Predators followed up a chance by trying to get into the face of Niklas Backstrom, Ryan Suter tried to pull away Nate Gaustad but he'd get a penalty for roughing. The penalty itself, because it was on Suter really got the Predators crowd back in the game who relished the fact he was sitting in the box. It would be a costly infraction as the Predators would tie the game after Clutterbuck partially defelected a pass only to put the puck right onto the stick of David Legwand who lifted it up and over the glove side shoulder of Backstrom. The goal served to focus the Wild who went back on the attack with a great forecheck at first spearheaded by the 2nd line of Cullen, Setoguchi, and Zucker which kept the Predators bottled up in their zone and chasing when it was followed up by the top line which drew a hooking penalty on Nick Spaling. On the power play the Wild moved the puck quickly to set up shots on goal where they tried to crash the net but could manage to get a stick on the rebounds that Rinne was giving up. Minnesota was getting good play from its 4th line of Torrey Mitchell, Zenon Konopka and Mike Rupp who were a bit of a physical mismatch for the Predators' smallish lineup. Neither club was able to create much in the way of scoring chances down the final few minutes and the game would go to overtime. Some of the quick decision making that made the Wild so good in the 2nd was not there in the 3rd and the club needs to get that back if it wants to win in overtime.
Overtime Thoughts: Minnesota would control the play in overtime, as they'd go on the forecheck and their pressure would draw an unusual penalty as Pekka Rinne would get caught poking a pass outside of the trapezoid for a delay of game call. The Wild's 4-on-3 power play was pathetic, very static with a minimal amount of movement either with passes or puck handling and ther result was a easy stop and a minute of power play time wasted. I am not sure why the team decided to go with Suter at the point instead of more of a shooting defenseman like Jared Spurgeon but the 2nd half of the power play was better as Wild set up Setoguchi for a big one-timer which caught the arm of Rinne and bounced by the Predators' goalie and then hit the bottom of the right post and stayed out before Mikko Koivu could get there to tap it in.
Shootout Summary: Minnesota would shoot first to start the power play and their first shooter was Zach Parise who moved a little to the left before moving back down the center where he tried to deke and tuck it near the left post but Rinne shut the door. The Predators first shooter was Gabriel Bourque who tried to use a similar move to Parise but he was stonewalled by Backstrom. The Wild's next shooter was Mikko Koivu and the team's captain would move in where he took a wide left approach and seemed to be looking to set up his forehand to backhand shelf move but instead went 5-hole and beat Rinne with ease to give Minnesota 1-0 advantage in the shootout. The Predators next shooter was Craig Smith who moved in and then almost stopped before firing a shot 5-hole that beat Backstrom to tie it up at 1-1. Minnesota's next shooter was Matt Cullen who'd move in and slow down to a crawl before ripping a wrist shot 5-hole to give the Wild a crucial 2-1 edge, meaning Nashville had to score to stay alive. The Predators next shooter was David Legwand who motored right down the middle of the ice but he'd lift a backhander that Backstrom just got a piece of as it hit the crossbar and stayed out giving Minnesota a 2-1 shootout victory.
Niklas Backstrom was terrific, making 24 saves as well as 2 out of 3 in the shootout to earn a big victory this evening. He was solid all night long, even with traffic nearby he came up with big saves and credit to the Wild's defenseman for sweeping away rebounds and preventing the Predators from cashing in on those 2nd chance opportunities. I thought Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin were terrific. Suter who endured both boo's and a "Suter Sucks" chant had a huge smile on his face as the team earned a shootout victory.
Offensively the Wild had mixed results. At times I felt Minnesota tried to be a little too fancy or passive with the puck and they were lucky Nashville wasn't able to capitalize on its chances. It was good to have Clutterbuck back, knocking bodies around all game long delivering a team-leading 8 hits tonight. Minnesota cannot be that picky tomorrow night against Vancouver. I liked the way Charlie Coyle played, especially along the boards but also some of the confidence he showed in creating some scoring chances with some good moves 1-on-1. One thing he does have to learn is how to sell a penalty to the officials as he should've been able to draw a penalty on Shea Weber early in the 2nd on his failed breakaway attempt.
It will be a happy plane ride back to St. Paul but they will have to re-focus for what will be a very difficult challenge tomorrow evening against Vancouver. I think the Wild are in better shape mentally and physically to battle Vancouver than perhaps they were in their first game but the question is how much did they tax themselves tonight in order to have enough saved up for tomorrow. We shall see.
~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows: Mikko Koivu, Charlie Coyle, Zach Parise, Matt Cullen, Devin Setoguchi, Jason Zucker, Kyle Brodziak, Dany Heatley, Cal Clutterbuck, Dany Heatley, Torrey Mitchell, Mike Rupp, Zenon Konopka, Tom Gilbert, Clayton Stoner, Jared Spurgeon, Justin Falk, Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin. Matt Hackett backed up Niklas Backstrom. Nate Prosser, Mikael Granlund and Pierre-Marc Bouchard were the healthy scratches.
~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Niklas Backstrom, 2nd Star David Legwand, 3rd Star Zach Parise
~ Attendance was 17,113 at Bridgestone Arena.
~ The State of Hockey News would like to congratulate the Golden Gopher Women's hockey team by winning the WCHA title with a 2-0 win over North Dakota tonight. Its the 6th shutout in a row for the Gopher women's team and their 46th consecutive victory.
~ The State of Hockey News would also like to congratule the Golden Gopher and St. Cloud State Men's hockey team who both won a share of the WCHA's McNaughton Trophy as each team finished as co-leaders of the WCHA after regular season play concluded this evening. Minnesota won tonight 5-1 over Bemidji State and St. Cloud State missed their opportunity own the trophy just for themselves after a 3-2 loss to Wisconsin.
2013 Boys State Hockey Tournament Summary:
Reed Larson Award (State's top HS Defenseman) - Jake Bischoff (Grand Rapids)
Mr. Hockey (State's top HS player) - Will be named tomorrow
Frank Brimsek Award (State's top goalie) ~ Will be named tomorrow
Class A Championship: St. Thomas Academy 5, Hermantown 4
Class A Herb Brooks Award Winner: Chris Benson (Hermantown)
Class A 3rd Place game: Breck 3, East Grand Forks 2
Class A Consolation: Duluth Marshall 6, Rochester Lourdes 5
Class AA Championship: Edina 4, Hill-Murray 2
Class AA Herb Brooks Award Winner: Ryan Lundgren (Duluth East)
Class AA 3rd Place game: Duluth East 7, Wayzata 3
Class AA Consolation: Moorhead 5, Eastview 2
Wild Prospect Report:
C - Tyler Graovac (Belleville, OHL) ~ The Brampton-native continues to shine for the Belleville Bulls, leading the way with a goal and an assist as his team prevailed 6-2 Friday night over Sudbury. Graovac has 37 goals, 68 points in 55 games this season; with 16 of those markers coming since his trade to the Bulls in just 25 games.
C - Erik Haula (Minnesota, WCHA) ~ The multi-talented forward still leads the Golden Gophers in scoring with 46 points after adding an assist in Minnesota's 5-1 win over Bemidji State. Haula, a junior, has 16 goals which is 2nd on the team behind Florida Panthers' prospect Nick Bjugstad.
D - Colten Jobke (Regina, WHL) ~ It has been a rough season for the Delta, British Columbia-native as injuries have meant the overage defenseman has spent most of the game out of the Pats' lineup. Yet, Jobke, the Pats' team captain returned and chipped in a goal in a 6-2 win over Prince Albert. It was Jobke's 3rd goal of the season, giving him 18 points on the season in just 27 games played this season.
RW - Raphael Bussiseres (Baie-Comeau, QMJHL) ~ It was a monster game for the Wild's 2nd round pick from 2012, as he had a goal and 4 helpers to lead Baie-Comeau to a huge 8-1 win over the Sherbrooke Phoenix. The rugged winger was also a +4 had 1 hit to go along with the 5 hits he had on Friday night in a 4-2 loss to Blainville-Boisbriand last night. Bussieres has 27 goals and 66 points in 58 games this season.