Despite holding three separate leads, the Minnesota Wild fall to the Vancouver Canucks in Overtime 5-4. Offensive woes may lead to changes in offseason.
With Ryan Suter out of the lineup and Coach Dean Evason looking to try something different, he iced these lineups:
Bartkowski entered the lineup for the injured Ryan Suter and Carson Soucy was elevated to the top pair. My guess is Evason wanted to shelter Soucy by putting him with Jared Spurgeon.
Foligno joined Staal and Fiala on the top line. I bet that Evason wanted a bit of muscle with Fiala because of how he had been getting taken advantage of from time to time, best shown by how Fiala drew a crowd to himself after giving Stetcher and Markstrom some jabs, and then Brandon Sutter dangerously checked him from behind.
We’ve previously seen Kunin-JEE-Parise play together, so not too much surprise there. Knew what to expect. Previously, I’ve liked that line. Fine to see them reunite.
Zuccarello-Galchenyuk-Greenway feels like an “Island of Misfit Toys ” line. They all have had unspectacular series so far. The Greenway that was using his frame and body to battle, create goals, and fight Ryan Getzlaf disappeared. Centermen Alex Galchenyuk who looked like he had earned himself a contract in the regular season vanished. Zuccarello was the only one who stayed pretty consistent with what he did in the regular season, which isn’t a compliment. Throughout the year, he was pretty disappointing. Continued it in the playoffs.
Sturm earned himself another game in the lineup, rightfully so. I think Donato deserved to be in the lineup in Game 4. Could have found a spot for him from one of the players on the third line.
Anyways, here’s the Game Recap.
Just under three minutes into the game, Luke Kunin would score a powerplay goal to make it 1-0. The Wild got the powerplay thanks to a Tyler Myers Roughing Penalty.
Zuccarello would get the primary assist on this goal, his first and only point of the Postseason.
Minnesota would kill a Galchenyuk Hooking penalty, just six minutes into the game. With just over seven minutes to play in the first, Tanner Pearson would tie the game at one apiece. Eric Staal would answer forty seconds later with the first even-strength 5v5 goal of the series for the Minnesota Wild.
Going into intermission, the Wild had a 2-1 lead.
Just under six minutes into the second period, Joel Eriksson Ek would put home a Brodin Shot that was screened by Parise to make it a 3-1 game.
About two minutes later, Brandon Sutter would cut the Wild lead to one, making it 3-2. Dumba would take a high sticking penalty and on the ensuing powerplay, Quinn Hughes would tie it at three apiece with the man advantage.
With less than a minute to play in the second, Nico Sturm would score his first career postseason goal fitting a puck on the short side of Markstrom (a weakness all game for him) and restore the Wild lead, this time to 4-3.
Twenties minutes to force a Game Five.
From the getgo, it was clear that the Wild weren’t overly interested in trying to extend the lead. They clogged the slot and crease trying to prevent goals rather than keep the puck as far away from their net as possible.
Less than a minute into the period, Spurgeon took a hooking penalty on Brandon Sutter, but managed to kill it off. Halfway through the period, Boeser took a holding penalty on Kevin Fiala. The Wild would lose the man advantage because of a tripping penalty against Kevin Fiala, a pretty weak call.
With over five minutes to play, Vancouver would tie it, this time Bo Horvat scoring the goal.
The Wild managed to get out of the period and force OT. Wild and Vancouver fans would need to fill ~17minutes before the OT period would begin. Plenty of time to brew coffee, stretch the legs, make sure you would be able to be awake for the extended period.
All it took for Vancouver to win the game.
Minnesota would even win the faceoff. Evason would start the period with the Hartman-Koivu-Sturm line because they played a rather good game throughout and Staal’s line had struggled against Petterson’s line all night.
Despite winning the faceoff, the Wild would bring the puck into their zone, where they wouldn’t be able to get it out, and Chris Tanev would score his first postseason goal and win the game and series.
Frankly, I thought they played a solid game. Earned several leads, but a young talented team with prolific scoring managed to keep stride with the Wild. That game-winning goal is one that I think is saved nine times out of ten. Just had eyes that one time.
Quick Series Review and Future Plans
The Wild had glaring issues in this series. First and foremost, they scored their first 5v5 goal in the fourth game of the series. That’s unacceptable.
The Wild struggled on the faceoff dot early in the series, but rebounded late. Koivu and Galchenyuk were just below 52% win percentage. JEE and Staal were significantly below 50%. JEE was 41.67% and Eric Staal was 39.74%. Not great.
Before Game Four, the Wild only had three goal scorers. Include Game Four and they had six. One of the Wild’s strengths going into this series was the strength of their depth scoring. The Wild had one goal from a player not in their top six and it was Nico Sturm.
Alex Stalock is not the reason the Wild lost this series, but I don’t think he’s a long term solution for the future. We got a career season from him this year, but can you expect that improvement to continue from a 32yr old plus goalie? Doesn’t seem like a great bet.
Man, what a bummer way for the series to end for CapFinn Koivu. I think Brett Marshall put it best with a heartfelt note he put on twitter:
The Minnesota Wild has to figure out what they want to do with Ryan Donato. Playing 4th line minutes this year, he had 14 goals, which is one less than Luke Kunin and Mats Zuccarello, and five less than Eric Staal. Staal averaged nearly 7 more minutes of ice time, and Kunin and Zuccarello averaged nearly 5 more minutes of ice time.
Granted, they’re likely playing against tougher defensive lines than the 4th line, but you either have to give Donato a serious chance or try to get value out of him because it isn’t worthwhile to have him in limbo.
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The issue with trading him is that his value is likely pretty low right now, so after Paul Fenton sells low on Charlie Coyle for Donato and a 5th Round Pick (that turned into a 4th due to conditions being met), but what could the Wild realistically get for Donato right now? Frankly, I’m unsure if it’s much more than a 3rd round pick.
The Minnesota Wild now has a 12.5% chance to win the First Overall Pick. Should they not hit the lottery, they’ll pick 9th overall. The Pittsburgh Penguins will decide if they will defer their first-round pick to next season after the lottery.
For a quick reminder, in the Jason Zucker trade, the Wild got a First Round Pick in the package but had a condition that they can defer the pick to 2021 if they don’t make the playoffs. The NHL has been calling the Qualifying round “the Playoffs”, but because the Pens are in the lottery, they will have the option to defer.
The consensus is that the Penguins will likely defer it. They haven’t had a pick this early in the First Round since 2012 when they drafted Derrick Pouliot 8th overall BUT, wasn’t even their draft pick. It was the Carolina Hurricanes in a package for Jordan Staal. So the last time they had a pick higher than 15th that was Pittsburgh’s pick was in 2006 when the Penguins originally drafted Jordan Staal 2nd overall.
They may make the bet that they will be a better team next season and the first-round pick will be later in the round next season than it is this season, so expect the Penguins to defer the pick, which is a shame for the Wild.
Also what might help the Penguins make that decision is if the Wild do win the draft lottery. Letting the Wild pick at 1 and 15 would be a curious decision, to say the least. The Penguins need to start preparing for a roster with old Crosby and old Malkin, and the earlier they start the better for them.
The Wild will have some hard decisions to make. The centermen group is less than spectacular and needs drastic improvement. Where will they find that? Free Agency? Trade? Who do they move to solve that? Management needs to determine what Goaltending will look like for the future. Do they begin to hand the reigns over to Kaapo Kahkonen or do they try to give Dubnyk and Stalock one more opportunity?
There needs to be a serious improvement from Mats Zuccarello. That contract is currently cement shoes.
Might explore trading Parise again and I hate saying that. I love Parise and I don’t think he dislikes playing in Minnesota, but he wants to win a Cup and doesn’t think he will do it here soon. Listen. it’s not a good sign that he was willing to waive his NMC to go to a team that was publicly viewed as a contending team with the Islanders. The package has to be dynamite though.
Might dangle Greenway in the trade market as well. He’s been wildly inconsistent and you might be able to get better value for him than what he provides to the Wild.
Could trade Brodin or Dumba. The Expansion Draft is after next season and without trading either of them, one will almost certainly be claimed by the Seattle Kraken. Would help address the Center issue as well.
Take these words from Ryan Suter as reassurance:
I think he’s right. Kaprizov is on the way, the defensive youth looks very good, Kahkonen just won AHL goaltender of the year. They need to find out if he’s the solution for the future or if they need to find the solution elsewhere. Their biggest issue is the strength of the center core. Nico Sturm looked good and I think he’ll make the NHL roster out of training camp. Beckman and Khovanov are close to being ready. The Wild have a top 10 pick for sure, and it could be #1.
Last season it looked like the Wild were diving downwards. This year, it looks like they turned a corner. We should be excited about the future of the organization.
Thanks for reading this monster of a piece! It’s less than cheerful talking about the end of the season but I do believe the Future looks good. Also, this was the end of my first year as the Site Expert for Gone Puck Wild. It’s been fun to learn as I go and hope to make next season that much better. If you’re interested in joining the site, DM me on Twitter @SmallBodyOWater. I’ll get you the info. Thanks for watching me grow into the role. Keep an eye out for our offseason content, like Draft Lottery, Free Agency, etc etc.