The Minnesota Wild were shut out for the first time this season Monday night. The St. Louis Blues did it 3-0 at the Scottrade Center in front of 15,832 in attendance. The closest the Wild came to scoring was a disallowed goal just 30 seconds into the game. Zach Parise deflected a Ryan Suter shot from the point past Blues goalie Jaroslav Halak but it was immediately waved off by the referee as being played by a high stick. A lengthy review followed by there was not enough video evidence to overturn the initial call on the ice according to the warroom in Toronto. After the game Zach Parise said, “It was a goal, It was the wrong call.” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said of the disallowed goal, “That was really frustrating, to me it’s clear, it was a good goal.” St. Louis scored just 50 second later as Vladimir Sobotka took a juicy rebound, allowed by Niklas Backstrom, on a Carlo Colaiacovo shot and slid it home to take the lead. That goal would end up being the game winner. Alexander Steen would score at the 13:38 mark of the first period and add an empty netter with 1:22 to play in the game to make it 3-0. The Blues out played the Wild for the vast majority of the game and especially in the first period when they our shot Minnesota 12-4 and held the visitors without a shot for more than 10-minutes. The aggressive St. Louis forecheck kept the Wild at bay time and time again while the Blues also dominated the faceoff circle by a 2 to 1 margin winning 38 of 57 draws on the night.
The Wild’s offense was not much better in the 2nd period, only producing 6 shots on goal for a two period total of 10. The Wild also suffered another injury Monday when Zach Parise couldn’t answer the bell to start the 2nd period. He suffered an apparent foot injury as he blocked a slap shot by Steen late in the first period. Parise would return to the bench about 5 minutes into the period but would leave the bench again after a power play shift midway through the period and would not return to the game. For the game Parise skated only 11:02 and registered only a single shot on goal. After the game the only update on the injury was that it will be looked at when the team gets back to St. Paul Tuesday morning. The Wild defense held the Blues scoreless in the second frame allowing only 8 shots. Minnesota also picked up their first power play opportunity of the night at the 11:51 mark of the period after allowing the Blues three power play chances in the first 26 minutes of play. Minnesota would finish the night 0 for 3 on the man advantage as did the Blues. Two of the best power play units in the NHL went a combined 0 for 6 on the night. The Blues would manage only 4 power play shots, while Minnesota would only produce 5, overall a rather anemic power play performance by both teams. The Wild would produce some good scoring opportunities but they were interspersed with stretches of disjointed play and they struggled all game to put together any long term puck possession in the offensive zone. Wild Head Coach Yeo said of his teams play against the Blues, “They were very strong on their game plan. They were just getting everything in deep and forecheck and forecheck. That’s how they got the lead and they committed to that.”
In the third period the Wild out shot the Blues 12-1. The only St. Louis shot of the final period was resulted in an empty net goal by Steen to put the game completely out of Minnesota’s reach. While the Wild were getting shots the Blues locked down play defensively, refusing to allow any lengthy, sustained offensive pressure. Many of the dozen third period Wild shots were from the perimeter and easily handled by Blues net minder Halak. The Minnesota Wild were looking to see how they measured up against one of their top divisional opponents and one of the elite teams in the NHL for that matter. We now have that answer. The Wild have a ways to go before they are able to compete with the St. Louis and Chicago’s of the Western Conference. Make no mistake, the Wild are a much better team this year than they have been over the past many seasons, but they are not yet at that elite level. That could change over the next few months as we are only a quarter of the way through the season. Minnesota’s depth is showing as Coach Mike Yeo is able to mix and match personnel to meet almost any challenge so far. The injury bug is starting to bite the Wild and hopefully Parise’s injury is not serious along with Mikael Granlund who missed his 2nd game in a row tonight. Also out injured are Torrey Mitchell and Josh Harding. The return of Mike Rupp will help add some grit and physicality to the lineup, but there is no one who can replace the likes of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville or Ryan Suter on the rosters in St. Paul or Des Moines.
The Wild finish their four game road trip 2-2 and are entering a tough stretch of games against some of the best teams in the Western Conference including the Phoenix Coyotes on Wednesday in St. Paul followed by a home and home series with the Colorado Avalanche on Friday and Staurday. They then face the Philladelphia Flyers and the Chicago Blackhawks at home to start the month of December. The Wild’s next five games are against teams with a combined record of 58-26-10. By the middle of December we should have a pretty good idea how the Minnesota Wild stack up against the Central Division and the Western Conference in general. Monday night was a disappointing loss to say the least but not a demoralizing one. The Wild have the skaters and goal tenders to play with any team in the league when they are healthy and firing on all cylinders. Subtract a couple of skaters and a league leading goalie and the weaknesses become apparent and exploitable. As Coach Yeo says, “We need to learn from this loss, forget about it and move on.” That’s just what the Wild need to do as they prepare to face a 14-6-4 Coyotes team Wednesday evening at the Xcel Energy Center. I’ll be back Wednesday morning with a preview of the Wild vs Coyotes action. Until then, Keep the faith Wild fans. This is Scott Drain as always, yelling, “Let’s Go Wild!”