Bruce Boudreau rolled out two lines that Wild fans readily expected:
wait *checks Russo’s Twitter* Still working on joining the team. Stafford filled in on the top line.
The rest of the lines were:
Overall, I liked the composition of the lines. Staal and Zucker looked like they still have good chemistry on the ice, couple of good chances for that line, but nothing that ended in the back of the net. I’m not sold if there’s a roster spot for Drew Stafford. He’s a solid player, still has some skill, and I believe deserves a spot in the NHL, but I’m not sure if it’s on the Wild. We’re already one of the older teams in the NHL and a team that is already crowded in terms of forwards. If he gets offered a contract, either Rask or JT Brown will be designated to the AHL and their’s some odd Veteran Rule that Michael Russo does a pretty good job explaining.
Parise’s line looked decent. On the Fox Sports North Broadcast, Ryan Carter and Anthony LaPanta compared his vision to Mikael Granlund; Zuccarello generated lots of good opportunities for his teammates, but none connected. The other notable comment Carter and LaPanta made about this line was the progress Donato was making at the Center position. They mentioned that he would have to play a more 200-ft defensive game and that he’s progressed a bit on the faceoff dot, but still has some improvements to make. The line was about what you would expect from a *mostly* veteran group in the preseason. Not completely in stride.
Perhaps the best line Tuesday night, was the Foligno-Dumont-Hartman put on a show. From the jump, Ryan Hartman was in early on every forecheck. Always finished checks, played the game with a hard edge, dropped the mitts, and showed he was a Grinder who could score. Foligno played a typical Foligno game, used his body to outwork opponents, make his presence known, and didn’t make costly mistakes. Dumont spent some time in the box but showed some tenacity. Fit right in on the line.
The Beck-Johnson-Bitten line was mostly quiet for the night. Not unusual for the first preseason game for the prospects.
Defensively, Jonas Brodin and Jared Spurgeon looked great. Spurgeon looked like a guy who had just been paid $53M over 7 years, ready to prove the contracts worth. He had several dangerous attempts, but nothing that ended in the net. It’ll come with time.
The pair everyone was excited for, Brad Hunt and Matt Dumba, had a decent game. Brad Hunt looked as consistent and even keel as ever, he seems to be a Jared Spurgeon type player, but with a lower ceiling. Matt Dumba looked excited to be back on the ice, but it might have cost him in spots. The first goal of the game came with just 40 seconds left to go in the first, just after the expiration of a 5-on-3 powerplay, where Roope Hintz practically walked around Matt Dumba. He was slightly out of position and without any help, it cost him. In OT, Dumba lost the puck behind the Stars net, and Staal and Zucker didn’t account for Justin Dowling who sprung free from the zone and beat Stalock for the game-winner. It’s good to see Dumba excited, just has to shake off some of the cobwebs.
Carson Soucy and Hunter Warner had a pretty good game. Soucy gave Ryan Hartman and a spectacular pass that the broadcast cameras couldn’t keep up with for the eventual goal, and Hunter Warner (who has spectacular hair, I might add) laid out some Stars. It seems he has a bit of a Nikita Zadorov skillset.
Alex Stalock had a good night. 90.5% save percentage doesn’t look that great, but solely because of a goal that was essentially still during a 5-on-3 PP and a breakaway where the skaters didn’t account for a player in OT, which is dangerous. Stalock played the puck a lot, which is pretty on-brand for him, one play almost resulted in an assist on one of the Wild powerplays.
You would love to see the Wild come out angry and motivated as coach Bruce Boudreau has said they were looking to prove talking heads and satellite radio show hosts wrong, but it didn’t seem like they had their head in the game. And as everyone knows, you have to have to getcha head in the game. The Vets whose spots are secured, like Parise, Zuccarello, and Staal just seemed to be knocking the rust off and going through the motions. Not entirely surprising, it is hard to get motivated for a preseason game. But wouldn’t have it been nice to see Zuccarello sauce a perfect pass to Parise that gets buried, or for Staal to go bar down?