Originally posted on State of Hockey News  |  Last updated 12/18/11

After the Wild's 2-1 shootout loss to the New York Islanders, Head Coach Mike Yeo said it all when he stated, "Our last shootout loss felt like a win, but this shootout loss feels like a loss."  It was a miserable effort.  The Wild were banged up no question; no Mikko Koivu, no Devin Setoguchi, no Guillaume Latendresse and no Pierre-Marc Bouchard but that didn't excuse the lack of urgency Minnesota exhibited Saturday night.  Too many players were coasting through their shifts and the result was the team lost for a second time to one of the worst clubs in the league in the New York Islanders.  The only line that seemed to have any sense of urgency at all was the 4th line of Colton Gillies, Warren Peters and Jarod Palmer.  Palmer especially was making the most of his call up, leading the Wild with 6 shots but far too few of his teammates were taking their opportunities to shoot the puck.  In the post-game interview Yeo noted how disappointed he was in the lack of urgency the Wild showed and did not use the depleted lineup as an excuse for the loss.  It was more refreshing honesty from a coach who has steadily earned the respect of his team and the fans in the State of Hockey.  That honesty was lacking with the previous regime who would too often try to evade questions with "well, we'll have to watch the tape" when the painful obvious truth was the fact Minnesota all too often lacked the urgency and want to win. 

  Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo

Towards the end of the press conference Yeo noted that he was glad the Wild were playing against the Vancouver Canucks next figuring they will be more focused than they were Saturday night.  The Canucks usually seem to bring about the best in the Wild, and Minnesota will have to be at its best if it expects to come away with 2 points this evening.  Will the Wild rise up to the challenge and show the urgency that has served it so well throughout most of this season or will they let Vancouver take 1st place from them without so much as a fight? 

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1st Period Thoughts:  Minnesota found itself pinned in its own zone early, as the top lines for both clubs battled one another from the opening drop of the puck.  The Wild answered back with its 3rd line of Warren Peters, Jarod Palmer and Jed Ortmeyer who worked well along the wall but were unable to get any pucks put on goal.  Minnesota would follow that up with its 4th line of Brad Staubitz, Colton Gillies and Darroll Powe that was being physical and hustling well to win races to the loose pucks.  The pressure they created ultimately created a scoring chance for the top line as Matt Cullen stole a puck and slid a short pass into the slot for Dany Heatley who fired a heavy wrist shot that was absorbed by Roberto Luongo.  Minnesota was taking shots whenever the opportunity materialized as Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Marek Zidlicky wasted little time taking a chance to blast a shot from the perimeter that forced Luongo to make a few saves.  The Canucks would try to settle things down with a shift from its top line and Minnesota had a hard time dealing with their deft control on the cycle.  Henrik Sedin would set up Alexandre Burrows on the doorstep but he'd fan on the shot as the puck skittered along the ice to the wall.  A few moments later the Canucks' 2nd line of Ryan Kesler, Mason Raymond and Chris Higgins were also strong on the forecheck, keeping Minnesota bottled up in its own zone but the Wild was moving its feet and keeping Vancouver near the wall where they were unable to create much offensive pressure.  Minnesota would answer back with its top line and a point shot by Mike Lundin was kicked aside by Luongo but the puck was picked up by Cullen who unleashed a wrist shot that was blocked away by the Vancouver goalie.  The Wild's hustle was paying dividends as Nick Johnson put his shoulder down to step around Dan Hamhuis as he carried the puck to the crease that Luongo stopped before the Vancouver goal was jarred from its moorings.  Minnesota would have another great chance a few moments later as a point shot from Jared Spurgeon was redirected by Heatley on goal that seemed to catch Luongo off guard and he was just able to get just enough to direct it wide.  The Wild continued to apply pressure as Minnesota's forecheck was able to draw a bad pass that was intercepted by Bouchard who stepped into a slapper that was knocked down and batted aside by Luongo.  A few moments later the 2nd line of Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck, and Nick Johnson simply out worked the Canucks in their own end and they were able to swing a few shots towards the Vancouver goal.  Vancouver tried to get its forecheck going, but Minnesota stayed calm and chipped the puck off the boards to alleviate pressure and not draw an icing call.  Minnesota would have a 2-on-1 between Cullen and Heatley and the defense decided to give Cullen the shot and he fired it up and over Luongo.  The Canucks answered back with a chance of their own as Higgins set up a redirect chance off the rush by Dale Weise that was stopped by an alert save by Niklas Backstrom.  Colton Gillies hooked Alexander Sulzer to put the top rated power play on the ice.  The Canucks' power play moved the puck with the efficiency of a German watch (or in this case a Swedish watch) and after being stymied for the first minute of the man advantage they'd strike.  A longer diagonal pass by Daniel Sedin (and thanks to a lazy play by Lundin) woudl reach Henrik Sedin for an easy tap in goal that snuck by Backstrom to give Vancouver a 1-0 lead with less than a minute left in the period.  Minnesota was scrambling the last 30 seconds of the period as the Canucks were showing a bit more swagger after the goal, but no further damage would be done as the Wild trailed 1-0.  It was a shame to give up the power play goal late in the period since Minnesota had a fairly decent opening stanza with good effort and smart play.  The Wild were out shooting the Canucks 13-9.   

2nd Period Thoughts:  The period started with a cautious pace, but Minnesota would go on the offensive after the first 30 seconds as the top line went to work.  The first chance came off a nice little pirouette and pass to Dany Heatley who charged into the zone and he'd wind up and blaze a slapper that just missed wide, but they'd persist and Pierre-Marc Bouchard would step into a snap shot that was steered wide by Luongo.  Minnesota would kill their own momentum when Darroll Powe would slew foot Maxim Lapierre to give the top power play their second opportunity of the game.  Minnesota's penalty killers were challenging well, keeping their sticks on the ice to Vancouver from having the ability to work the puck from side to side.  Vancouver's best chance came on a redirect of a Kevin Bieksa slap shot that was covered up by Backstrom and the Wild would kill off the remainder of the Canucks' power play.  The Wild top line would be guilty of being a bit careless with the puck and two bad passes by Matt Cullen nearly ended up in the back of the Minnesota goal as Jannik Hansen ripped a wrist shot that was steered aside by Backstrom.  Minnesota would have its first power play of the game as Marek Zidlicky was tripped up by Ryan Kesler.  The Wild would win the opening faceoff the power play but they'd help Vancouver's cause with an errant pass by Bouchard that cleared the zone.  Minnesota would show a little skill of their own as Matt Cullen dropped a pass off to Brodziak as he entered the zone and Brodziak moved down the slot and he dished it back to Bouchard for a quick shot that was snagged out of the air by the glove of Luongo.  After Luongo's save a small shoving match ensued near the Canucks crease and it was Heatley giving a shot to Burrows who embellished as he always does and the officials bought it and Minnesota's power play came to an abrupt end.  The Canucks were happy to just kill off the minute of 4-on-4 time so they could have about a minute worth on the man advantage.  The Wild penalty kill was challenging the Canucks' puck carrier aggressively, and good active sticks was giving Vancouver little time to work.  Yet the Canucks would still find a way to score as Daniel Sedin worked down low behind the goal to pass it out front to Kesler who banged home a chance from the top of the crease and Minnesota found itself down 2-0.  Again, a lack of discipline was hurting Minnesota on the scoreboard and with the top power play in the league it doesn't take many chances for the Wild to feel pain as the Canucks cashed in for the 2nd time on the man advantage.  Minnesota looked a little out of sorts after this 2nd goal and the Canucks had a great chance off a wicked slapper by Dan Hamhuis that was blocked away by Backstrom, and a few moments after that Dany Heatley was tripped up in the Wild zone and the puck was swept up by Raymond who stepped into a slapper that Wild goaltender denied.  The Wild would be guilty of over-handling the puck in the closing minutes of the 2nd period, as they passed up shooting opportunities in search of a better one instead of just taking their chance to fire it when the chance presented itself.  Jarod Palmer would put his first shot on goal this evening as Warren Peters passed a puck from down low to Palmer who swung a shot on goal that was deflected up into the air and the puck would flutter back down into the Canucks crease which was held onto by Luongo.  Minnesota was trying get something going through hard work, but the Canucks were patient and they'd counter attack perfectly as a pretty play by Daniel Sedin to dangle around Spurgeon to set up Burrows for a beauty of a tap in to really put the Wild in a bind, now trailing 3-0.  The Canucks now were really feeling confident and Mason Raymond raced into the Minnesota end and he'd slide it cross-ice to Higgins for a one-timer that was gloved by Backstrom who was quick across his crease.  The period would thankfully end as the Canucks seemed to be on the verge of blowing the Wild out of the building.  Bad penalties, better effort by the Canucks along with more skill was all she wrote as the Wild were dominated in that period.  Being out shot 13-9 doesn't seem quite so bad, but Vancouver had far better scoring opportunities overall.  An ugly period that may draw a lecture from the Wild coach.   

3rd Period Thoughts:  The Canucks were fine with just dumping the puck deep and forcing the Wild to carry it up the full length of the ice; something Vancouver knew would not be easy.  The Wild were playing into their hands, attempting long passes that rarely convert giving the Canucks more opportunities to simply drive the puck deep forcing Minnesota to start all over again.  Minnesota started to create some turnovers in the neutral zone but they were not able to do too much with those turnovers as the Wild look to be executing a lot of one-man rushes which almost never amount to anything, let alone a shot on goal.  Brad Staubitz would try to spark the Wild by dropping the gloves with Benilde-St.Margeret's star Andrew Alberts, but it was more of a wrestling match than a fight as Staubitz answered back after a big hit by the Canucks defenseman.  No real win, maybe 2 points for a takedown by Alberts perhaps.  The Wild really were incapable of creating any sort of attack, even when the Canucks were just sitting back and playing defense.  Vancouver wasn't even trying that hard, and they were able to establish more offensive pressure than the Wild were able to.  It almost looked like a cat playing with its food mid-way through the period as Cody Hodgson was trying to pad his stats with a goal as Backstrom was forced to come up with more saves while an indifferent team skated in front of him.  Former UMD star Mason Raymond would take puck to the face that left him a little bloodied and he'd head for the locker room.  Jed Ortmeyer would exhibit some good jump late in the period as he stole a puck in the Vancouver zone and he'd wrist a shot on goal that was stopped by Luongo that he'd be forced to cover up as Minnesota would swarm his crease.  The Canucks continued to apply some offensive pressure and Backstrom piled up a few more saves in dramatic fashion to keep Minnesota's deficit to three.  The crowd was rather quiet, doing the wave and other occasional obligatory participation just to stay awake in the closing minutes of the game.  Vancouver decided to help awaken their crowd with a late goal as Jannik Hansen scored as Nick Schultz just break danced near the crease and the Canucks' defender lifted it by Backstrom, 4-0 bad guys.  The last few minutes would expire uneventfully and the Wild had to feel a little relieved this one was over. 

You can't blame Niklas Backstrom for the outcome of this game, making 29 saves in the loss.  He did more than enough to keep Minnesota in the game far longer than it probably deserved to be.  The blame has to be given to a lack of discipline that put Vancouver on the power play and the Canucks were lethal, going 2-for-3.  I thought the Wild had a miserable game defensively from Nick Schultz, who was far too passive in his own end.  Clayton Stoner wasn't too bad, but all too often I felt Minnesota's blueliners kept waiting for the Canucks to come to them instead of initiating the contact to seal off opposing forwards they way they did earlier in the season. 

Offensively, well where the heck was it?  Apart from a reasonable 1st period where Minnesota had good hustle and energy until the final 4 minutes it was a complete no show.  They may have managed to put up 33 shots, but outside of the chances they had in the 1st period, most were taken from the perimeter that were not all that much of a threat to beat Roberto Luongo.  It doesn't matter who was between the pipes, any goaltender should not have a lot of trouble with a long range shot that does not have the benefit of a screen.  Maybe its because Kyle Brodziak spoiled us over a two-week span but he seems to be struggling since being moved up to the 2nd line.  I know injures have necessitated this but for a 2nd game in a row he was more or less a non-factor. 

In the post-game interviews, Jed Ortmeyer really hit the nail on the head when he stated the Wild started to get a little too cute in the 2nd period and the shot totals reflect that precisely.  Ortmeyer and the other farm hands are familiar with Mike Yeo, and they know his system is predicated on funneling shots on goal.  It means its about quantity, and the quality will eventually work its way out from that.  Yet when you continually pass up opportunities and get nothing you end up helping your opponent.  The Wild do not need to give a quality team like the Canucks any help whatsoever.  I hate to say it but the Wild needs to turn it around big time tomorrow night against the Flames otherwise I fear we could end up scoreless on the 3-game road trip. 

Wild Notes:

~ The Wild roster tonight was as follows:  Dany Heatley, Matt Cullen, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Warren Peters, Jed Ortmeyer, Jarod Palmer, Brad Staubitz, Colton Gillies, Nick Johnson, Kyle Brodziak, Cal Clutterbuck, Nick Schultz, Marek Zidlicky, Mike Lundin, Clayton Stoner, Jared Spurgeon and Marco Scandella.  Josh Harding backed up Niklas Backstrom.  Greg Zanon, Chad Rau and Mikko Koivu were the healthy scratches. 

~ The 3 Stars of the Game were: 1st Star Roberto Luongo, 2nd Star Henrik Sedin, 3rd Star Daniel Sedin

~ Attendance was 18,890 at Rogers Arena. 

~ Jed Ortmeyer wore #41 for the Wild. 

Wild Prospect Report:

C - Zack Phillips (Saint John, QMJHL) ~ Phillips continues to pile up the points for the Sea Dogs, scoring a goal and an assist in Saint John's 5-2 win over the Moncton Wildcats on Sunday.  With Phillips signed, I think he'll get a very long look at training camp next year although he got a mild scolding from the team for going to Twitter before the contract was registered with NHL's front office.   

D - Nick Seeler (Muskegon, USHL) ~ The former Eden Prairie star chipped in an assist in the Lumberjacks' 3-2 win over Indiana on Sunday, giving him 2 goals and 9 assists in 21 games.

High School Boys Hockey Report:

  Elk River Elks

Record:  5-2-1

The Elks performed well at the Edina Classic, going 1-1-1 in their 3 games which was finished by a nice 3-2 overtime victory over #6 ranked Grand Rapids.  Elk River tied #8 ranked Eden Prarie 3-3 on Thursday and lost 4-1 to #9 ranked Edina.  The Elks Head Coach, Tony Sarsland was ecstatic about the win over Grand Rapids as it gives the Elks a leg up in sectional seedings.  Elk River is led by sophomore forward Andrew Zerban who has 6 goals and 9 points in 8 games.  Between the pipes its all about senior goaltender Anders Franke and his impressive 1.94 goals against average and his stingy .937% save percentage.  Like the Wild, the Elks rely on a strong forecheck to keep games relatively low scoring and they win games with hard work. 

  East Grand Forks Green Wave

Record:  5-1

The East Grand Forks Green Wave are one of the better teams in Class A, but year after year they have to go through perennial power house Warroad and more often than not their State Tournament dreams die there.  Yet that might be different this season as East Grand Forks prevailed 3-2 in overtime against their arch rival Warroad as senior Zack Lawdermilt scored a hat trick as he continues to be one of the top scorers in the state.  Lawdermilt leads the Green Wave in scoring with 12 goals and 5 assists in just 5 games!  Senior goaltender Hunter Aubol has provided solid goaltending for East Grand Forks, sporting a 1.79 goals against average and a .917% save percentage.  Maybe this is the year the Green Wave make their statement in St. Paul this March! 

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