INSIDE HOCKEY » Minnesota Wild http://insidehockey.com Get Inside! Tue, 02 Sep 2014 15:08:38 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Photo Gallery: Wild @ Islanders (3/18/14) http://insidehockey.com/photo-gallery-wild-islanders-31814 http://insidehockey.com/photo-gallery-wild-islanders-31814#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 15:43:06 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=57527

For the full photo gallery click here

Tuesday night, Matt Moulson shined in his return to the Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum, scoring two-goals as Ilya Bryzgalov and the visiting Minnesota Wild shutout the NY Islanders 6-0.

The game marked the return of former Islander Matt Moulson, who was traded away with a conditional 2014 first-round pick and a 2015 second-round pick to the Buffalo Sabres on October 27th for Thomas Vanek. The controversial trade that dealt Moulson to the Sabres early in the season, put the Islanders on their heals as they tried to develop chemistry with Vanek during much of November and December posting a 9-16-3 record.  Unfortunately for the Islanders an even bigger issue arose when Vanek declined the NY Islanders offer to sign a long term seven-year contract in favor of testing free agency.  Compounding things further, interest in Vanek on the trade market took a hit following the Sochi Olympics Team Austria scandal, and then furthermore when goal scorers such as Marty St. Louis, Ryan Kessler, Matt Moulson, Marian Gaborik and Mike Cammalleri emerged as competing trade prospects. Vanek was dealt to Montreal, Moulson was dealt to Minnesota and the Islanders received a conditional second-round pick and prospect Sebastian Collberg.  Ultimately, the Islanders traded Moulson (a perennial 30-goal scorer) and a first-round pick for Sebastian Collberg.

Thirteen days after deadline day, Minnesota and their new acquisitions Matt Moulson and Ilya Bryzgalov, were the difference makers Tuesday night in Uniondale.  Moulson led the offense, with two-goals and three-points, much to the delight of Islander and Wild fans in attendance.  Bryzgalov saw 36-shots on the night, and blanked the frustrated Islanders after 60 minutes of play.

The Wild managed to score six times on Islanders goaltender Anders Nilsson.  Nilsson saw 22 shots and stopped 16 on the night against the Wild, who came into the game 28th in scoring in the NHL.  After sustained offensive pressure by the Islanders for much of the first period, Moulson tallied the first goal of the night on a rebound from Justin Fontaine’s shot.  Three minutes later, Dany Heatley would find former NY Islander draft pick Jared Spurgeon at the top of the right faceoff circle for a slapshot that would go past Nilsson’s glove hand.  Though the Islanders out-shot the Wild 16-6, the Islanders would go into the locker room down 2-0.

Things would not get better from there, in the second period Mikael Granlund snuck into the slot uncovered and one-time a wrist shot past Nilsson’s glove for a 3-0 lead.  Then later in the third period, Mikko Koivu sprung Clayton Stoner for a breakaway goal, and after a video review Justin Fontaine would score on a wrist shot past Anders Nilsson.  As if a five-goal lead wasn’t enough Matt Moulson would score again , burying another rebound and leading the crowd to cheer “We want Moulson!”.

The good news for the Islanders on the night was that they debuted their newest signing 6’3″, 205 pound Defenseman Kevin Czuczman of Lake Superior State University, the Alma-mater of Assistant Coach Doug Weight.  The young defenseman didn’t look out of place on the Coliseum ice, but unfortunately for the 23-year old Czuczman, his first-career NHL game he would be out on the ice for two-Wild goals.  Even though he had poor showing on the stats sheet, Czuczman will see more ice time following the game against the Wild, as defenseman Brian Strait was diagnosed with a broken left hand, caused when he blocked a shot during the second-period.  Strait will now join both John Tavares (knee) and Michael Grabner (concussion) on IR.

At the end of the night Matt Moulson was named first star in his first game back at NVMC, his Wild teammates nudged him to acknowledge the fans, he raised his stick and gave a nod as the crowd cheered “We want Moulson”.

The Minnesota Wild move to 36-23-10 for 82pts, and the NY Islanders move to 26-35-9 for 61 pts.

The Wild will continue their roadtrip to New Jersey where they will play the NJ Devils at the Prudential Center on Thursday at 7-pm.  The NY Islanders will have four days to recover before playing their Metro Division rival Columbus Blue Jackets at Nassau Veteran’s Memorial Coliseum on Sunday at 1-pm.

Three Stars of the Game

1) Matt Moulson
2) Ilya Bryzgalov
3) Mikko Koivu

Winning Goalie:
Ilya Bryzgalov

Losing Goalie:
Anders Nilsson

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Coyle Returns Home in Wild Loss to Bruins http://insidehockey.com/coyle-returns-home-in-wild-loss-to-bruins http://insidehockey.com/coyle-returns-home-in-wild-loss-to-bruins#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 15:36:28 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=57515

The first time Weymouth, Mass. native Charlie Coyle played hockey on Garden ice was in March of 2007, when he was a 5-foot-6, 140-pound local high school kid who helped Weymouth High to its first-ever finals appearance in the MIAA Super 8 Tournament.

Seven years, nine inches and 80 pounds later, Coyle returned to the Garden as a fully grown pro with 93 NHL games under his belt. Despite his familiarity with Garden ice, Coyle said his return to Boston as a pro will be an occasion to remember.

“I’ve played in this building before, Beanpots in college and my high school tournament here,” Coyle told reporters before Monday night’s game. “I used to always come here to watch the Bruins play so I guess that’s pretty special, but it’s nice to finally be here and be playing against them.”

Coyle has never won a game at the Garden – his Weymouth team lost to BC High that March, and he never won a Beanpot game during his year-plus at Boston University. On St. Patrick’s Day this March, his Garden losing streak continued when the Wild could not find a way to stop the red-hot Bruins, who earned a 4-1 win to stretch their win streak to nine games.

But Coyle, who recorded no points and minus-2 rating in the loss, played much better in his homecoming than the box score would indicate.

The 22-year-old attempted five shots in the game and put three of them on net. His best scoring chance came nine seconds into the game, as Coyle sped past Bruins defenseman Matt Bartkowski on the Wild entry into the offensive zone and got his stick on a loose puck. Coyle flipped it up toward the net from in close, but Bruins netminder Tuukka Rask deflected it back to the end boards to deny Coyle.

Coyle also set up linemate Mikko Koivu for a nice chance with the Wild trailing, 1-0, six minutes into the second period. Coyle controlled the puck behind the net before feeding it through traffic to Koivu, who was crashing the net. Despite a bid from in close, Koivu failed to find a way to beat Rask.

“We created a few chances, we just didn’t bury them,” Coyle said. “That could’ve changed the momentum of the game, from any point. We had a few chances early on too, so that would have been a good start.”

The missed opportunities have plagued Coyle throughout his sophomore NHL campaign. After posting 14 points (eight goals, six assists) in 37 games last season, Coyle has slowed down with 20 points (seven goals, 13 assists) in 56 games this year. He has just two points in his last 17 games.

Minnesota coach Mike Yeo said Coyle’s scoring issues are typical of a young player who focuses too heavily on results.

“I think that there’s been quite a bit of talk about point production. I think he’s focused on that right now and I think that’s affecting him a little bit,” Yeo said. “At the same time, we talked about this the other day, that it’s good for a young player to have to deal with that. To have to learn how to focus on the things that get you the results as opposed to those results and this is something we’re working with him on.”

And while Coyle still has a lot to learn as an NHL player, scores of friends and family from Weymouth were in attendance at the Garden Monday night to celebrate his first visit home of his NHL career. Most fans in Wild jerseys at the Garden had Coyle’s No. 3 on their backs, and signs for the hometown hero littered the stands. Coyle received a hefty cheer from the Boston crowd when he was announced as a starter, and he was named third star of the game. While Coyle was probably hoping for a different result on the scoreboard, he said he still enjoyed his brief return home.

“Obviously it’s nice to have the support of my family and friends, and just being back in Boston, so it was good,” Coyle said. “Obviously wanted a different result, but it’s always nice to come back.”

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Moulson is Golden In Return to Long Island http://insidehockey.com/moulson-is-golden-in-return-to-long-island http://insidehockey.com/moulson-is-golden-in-return-to-long-island#comments Wed, 19 Mar 2014 03:40:39 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=57519

Moulson celebrates

It was an emotional return to the Nassau Coliseum Tuesday night for former Isles’ forward Matt Moulson. But for 60 minutes, he let his stick do most of the talking. In the end, Moulson scored twice and added one assist. He left the ice with the crowd chanting his name and his new team left with an easy 6-0 win over the Islanders.

“I was pretty nervous before the game,” Moulson admitted. “I don’t think I slept a minute during pre-game nap today. It was emotional experience coming back here, obviously. It was tough at the start for me to get my mind into the game but I think getting the first goal kind of calmed me down.”

That first goal came at the 12:23 mark of the opening period and ended up being all the help that goalie Ilya Bryzgalov would need tonight. He made 36 saves to earn the shutout although the Islanders rarely had second and third scoring chances from in close during the game. Mikko Koivu also added three assists for Minnesota.

Jared Spurgeon scored his fourth goal of the year with 4:03 left in the first period. Former Islander Nino Niederreiter assisted on Spurgeon’s goal just to add insult to injury for Isles’ fans. The Wild escaped with a 2-0 lead at the end of the first period despite being outshot 16-6.

It was a rough outing for Isles goalie Anders Nilsson who followed up a strong showing Sunday against Buffalo with a mediocre performance tonight. Nilsson allowed six goals on just 22 shots although he certainly didn’t get much help from his team.

After the first period, the Isles appeared listless, allowing a goal by Mikael Granlund in the second period and three more in the third which included a breakaway by Clayton Stoner, a goal that was awarded upon video review by Justin Fontaine and Moulson’s second of the night which put the icing on the cake with just 3:26 left on the clock.

“We just didn’t get enough after the first period,” Isles’ forward Kyle Okposo explained. “We looked like we stopped playing… It’s unacceptable.”

To make things worse for the Islanders, they lost defenseman Brian Strait who broke his hand blocking a shot in the second period and is now out indefinitely.

In the end, this was Moulson’s day. He made a triumphant return to the Nassau Coliseum where the fans reminded him how much they appreciated his efforts over his five seasons on Long Island. As the clock ticked down, the fans screamed, “We want Moulson!” and they weren’t asking for beer.

“It’s a great feeling when something like that happens,” Moulson said when asked about the reception he got from the Long Island fans. “They have a big place in my heart.”

When asked if tonight’s three-point performance was a little sweeter for him, Moulson responded, “Any time a trade happens or you switch teams, you have something to prove. I had a lot of family and friends here today so I had to make sure I didn’t embarrass them.”

Prior to the game, Moulson told reporters he did not expect a return to Long Island this summer even if he hits the open market as a free agent. “He [Garth Snow] said I wasn’t in his future plans,” Moulson said. “I don’t see how that will quickly change.”

For tonight, Moulson was happy to help his new team get two valuable points in the standings as they push on for the playoffs and to bask in the respect and affection of the fans he played his heart out before over the past five years.

For the Islanders, it was another frustrating loss in what has become a long and trying season.

NOTES:

Defenseman Kevin Czuczman made his NHL debut for the Isles after signing as an undrafted college free agent last week. He played 20:06 and registered one shot on goal and three blocked shots. He saw more ice time than expected after Strait was injured in the second period.

Attendance was 14,888.

 

 

 

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Blackhawks Acquire Connelly in Trade with Wild http://insidehockey.com/blackhawks-acquire-connelly-in-trade-with-wild http://insidehockey.com/blackhawks-acquire-connelly-in-trade-with-wild#comments Thu, 27 Feb 2014 14:19:53 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=56701

Wednesday afternoon, the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild completed a minor trade. The Blackhawks sent veteran left wing Brad Winchester to the Wild in exchange for defenseman Brian Connelly.

Connelly, who had been playing for the Iowa Wild (AHL), is currently in his fifth full season at the professional level. He was Iowa’s leading scorer with 32 points (5 G, 27 A) this season. The Bloomington, MN native has played three full years with his new team, the Rockford IceHogs (AHL), totaling 20 goals and 103 assists in that span. He was named Rockford’s rookie of the year in 2009-2010 and has participated in two AHL All-Star Games.

Winchester, who was signed by the Blackhawks as a free agent this past offseason, has spent the entire season in Rockford. The 32-year-old forward was second on the team in goals (16) and sixth in points (30). He was also second on the team in penalty minutes. A native of Madison, WI, Winchester has played in 390 career NHL games, scoring 37 goals and adding 31 assists, although he has not appeared in the NHL since the 2011-2012 season with San Jose. His best season came during the 2008-2009 campaign with the St. Louis, when he notched 13 goals and eight assists over 64 games.

Connelly will report to Rockford immediately, where he is the organization’s all-time points leader among defensemen.

 

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Kuemper Keeps Kool as Wild Beats LA Kings, 2-1 http://insidehockey.com/kuemper-keeps-kool-as-wild-beats-la-kings-2-1 http://insidehockey.com/kuemper-keeps-kool-as-wild-beats-la-kings-2-1#comments Wed, 08 Jan 2014 19:30:27 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=55164

With the injury-ridden Minnesota Wild in town Tuesday night, the game with the Los Angeles Kings looked to be kind of, well, non-entertaining, an easy win for the home squad. Maybe a blowout.

The Kings did blow the Wild out of the water in shots in the first period, 17-6, but they didn’t get a single goal. The efforts of goaltender Darcy Kuemper, in his fifth NHL start, were much to credit. He stood big, because he is big, at 6’5”. His positioning was solid. The puck hit him more than he made the saves, but these days, that’s the game of the netminder: Manage the equipment and let it do the work.

Kuemper was drafted by Minnesota in the sixth round, 161st overall, in 2009. He played six regular season games last year, going 1-2 in his three starts. This year, he played in two games before Tuesday, losing in his start against Toronto.

So the Kings were probably thinking it would be easy facing an inexperienced backup, until he stoned them early. The game, by the way, showed a slightly different dimension from prior years’ encounters with the Wild. As everyone knows, they’ve always focused on defense. Well, that’s off, and they’re a more open squad now. Their neutral zone play is not so much in need of Liquid-Plumr (yes, that’s how it’s spelled) as it was. They allow the other team some speed through there.

Where they do clog things up is in the slot, with hardly any chance for the opposition to penetrate. Even when the Kings had both Jarret Stoll and Justin Williams screening Kuemper in the second period, for instance, it was not possible to get the puck there. And never did anyone get a clear shot or break on Kuemper in the early going.

The game proceeded rather in slow motion through two periods, aside from a flurry of action in the middle of period two. During that time, the Kings’ Jordan Nolan ripped a shot just off of Kuemper’s arm, and then Dwight King hit the post on a shot that clearly beat the goalie. The crowd got into it for a while, which relieved their anger at a very poor LA power play that had happened just prior. The Kings had their best chance just after, when Williams had a shot go off a leg and Brown got the puck and swept it at the net, forcing a good save.

About all the Wild could muster in return was a three-on-two where Erik Haula sent the puck across to Justin Fontaine (no, I haven’t heard of these guys, either) and had it go under his stick. The Wild did also pressure during the last minute of the second period but still couldn’t manage a shot on goal. They ended the frame with nine shots on goal to LA’s 30.

It was starting to look like one of those games Kuemper would tell his grandkids about, when someone in Minnesota apparently uttered the word “shutout” because the Kings scored in the first minute of period three. It was Jeff Carter’s pass, Stoll’s shot and King’s big body in front that got it done. The Wild, however, responded shortly after, with a deflection taking care of Jonathan Quick’s shutout bid, and the game going to its waning minutes knotted at one a piece. The shots, meanwhile, had been even in the period, with the Kings outshooting 7-6. The Wild pulled a good last minute after a sloppy play by Williams in the Wild end, which allowed the visitors to take the puck down and pin the Kings deep, but the game went to overtime.

No scoring in OT led to a shootout decision. It took until four rounds into the shootout for Nino Niederreiter to win the game for the Wild, who now have taken three straight. The story, though, was the goalie.

“I tried to redeem myself. My game is where I want it to be right now; I’ve been working on it down in Iowa, and the same when I came up here,” Kuemper said.

He has been on a conditioning stint in the minors as the Wild’s third netminder. He came up thinking he’d back up Niklas Backstrom but didn’t know until Tuesday morning that he would be starting. Josh Harding was placed on injury reserve on Monday, and Backstrom apparently has tweaked something.

“I’m real happy for Darcy, first of all,” head coach Mike Yeo said. “He kind of got pulled into a game where he wasn’t expecting to play until this morning, and he responded extremely well.” He added that the team as a whole had competed and battled, but Kuemper shined.

“You have to look at him first. Right from the start, he just looked very confident. When he had a couple of these games earlier in the year when we kind of threw him in, it was kind of tough on him. He hadn’t had a lot of playing time, and it was a tough situation for him,” Yeo said. “That was a lot of the reason for him to get him back down [to Iowa of the AHL] and get him some playing time. He certainly looked like a different goalie out there tonight.”

Indeed he did, and even after, he was smiling, delighted, but not surprised with what he’d done so much as looking like he could do it again.

“Everyone battled hard tonight. We got hemmed in our own end a couple of times, but we bent but didn’t break. We did a pretty good job of picking up sticks and blocking lanes and that made it a lot easier on me,” Kuemper said.

He thought it was funny that “the first two guys went five-hole, the next two glove.”

“Maybe it’s just their moves, but I don’t think they have a book on me,” Kuemper said. “Obviously, I was comfortable with both situations.”

Kuemper did say that he didn’t think ahead during the contest to whether this would in fact be a memorable game for him. “You just want to make saves, and when you make a lot of them, you just try to make the next one,” he said. “It’s still a 0-0 game, and you’re playing for the win. I’m not thinking about after the game, just about getting that win.”

***

For those of you who read this column for Kings news, here’s some stuff to chew on:

Matt Greene was benched for the second straight game. Scratched, actually. After the contest against Vancouver on Saturday, head coach Darryl Sutter was asked about the decision, and he kind of played it off as “it’s a long season” and all that. But really, when the stalwart of the D is watching from above, that’s kind of significant.

Speaking of the Canucks, GM Mike Gillis was royally ticked off Sunday after the Kings’ captain Dustin Brown collided with Roberto Luongo, injuring the goaltender’s knee. Luongo ended up not playing against the Ducks on Sunday. Over against that, Sutter was vociferous in his response, uttering the word that begins with “bull” and doesn’t end with “crap.” Still, Vancouver is a group of ruffians, and has been for a number of years. The chances that Brown is not demanded to fight on Monday? Zero. The chances that he will? Slight.

And think about it. He’s got a lot to lose. He’s arguably a dirty player (ask the Sharks) yet rarely held accountable for his hits. Clean hits are fine, and yet even a rugged player is occasionally asked to give some payback in the form of the fists. Brown, at least if hockeyfights.com is correct, has had just three fights in the past four years, and none this year. It’s time. But the problem is, he’s got a lot to lose. He’s the captain, and if he gets his ass handed to him, that’s a problem, not just for losing face in front of the team, but because he won’t have the liberty to hit guys throughout the league.

Call this a defining moment in his career.

The Kings also shared the news that six of their players are going to the Olympics. These include Brown and Quick for the US, Anze Kopitar for Slovenia (the only NHL player on their roster, with his father as the coach), Carter and Drew Doughty for Canada and Slava Voynov for Russia. Will any bring home medals? Your guess and all that, but you might find that gold, silver and bronze are in the house come late February. That is, if you care and are not boycotting due to the Russians’ social policies.

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Penalties Prove Costly in Caps Loss to Minnesota http://insidehockey.com/penalties-prove-costly-in-caps-loss-to-minnesota http://insidehockey.com/penalties-prove-costly-in-caps-loss-to-minnesota#comments Sun, 05 Jan 2014 15:10:13 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=55057

Both Backstroms suited up Saturday night in the Xcel Energy Center as the Caps looked to get their first win ever on the Wild’s home ice. Braden Holtby got his first start in two weeks, hoping to be a difference maker and bring Washington’s three game losing streak to an end. Unfortunately, the home team had other plans, handing the Caps their sixth loss in the last seven games.

The game started off promising for the Caps as the defense stepped up into the play, bringing quality chances from Mike Green and Dmitry Orlov early on. They capitalized on sloppy play from the Wild, playing mostly in the offensive zone and gaining a large edge in shots.

Eventually, the Caps converted the solid play into a lead when a long wrister from Alexander Ovechkin hit Minnesota netminder Niklas Backstrom down low, leaving a juicy rebound for Marcus Johansson. The Capitals centerman put the puck past Backstrom blocker side to put the away team on the board in the first.

Not more than thirteen seconds later did Green extend the lead to two with a nifty curl-and-drag move, slicing through Minnesota forward Matt Cooke and shooting through the legs of defenseman Nate Prosser to extend the lead to two.

With star left winger Zach Parise missing his fifth game in a row, the young Minnesota squad was out of sorts, taking a timeout after the two goals to regroup. They mustered only one shot on goal for the first period to the Caps eleven shots and failed to create quality chances. Fortunately for the home crowd, the second period would bring a welcome change of pace in the form of power plays.

The Caps were again plagued by their inability to stay out of the penalty box, a problem coach Adam Oates has been concerned with for weeks. Minnesota conveniently found their scoring rhythm just in time to capitalize on Washington’s mistakes. Nino Niederreiter opened the scoring for the home team when he slipped unnoticed behind Capitals defensemen and put one away glove-side over the Washington net minder on a centering pass from Charlie Coyle. The deficet was now cut to one goal and unfortunately for the Caps, it would continue to unravel.

When Steve Oleksy went to the box for roughing, he was shortly followed by Karl Alzner for a delay of game call, giving the Wild a five-on-three power play for nearly two minutes, ample time to convert. And convert they did, when Ryan Suter scored his first of three goals on the night with a slapshot on the heavily screened Holtby, who had no chance at stopping the puck.

Suter would score again on the same power play less than a minute later, this time on a redirect from a Dany Heatley shot. What was once a sewn up game for the Capitals unraveled, leaving the away team shocked and bewildered.

Looking to spark their lost offensive prowess, Green got a bit of luck on his second of the night with an odd goal to put his team back up on the board. Unfortunately, the penalty problems were unrelenting as Mikhail Grabovski headed to the sin bin on a delay of game infraction.
Minnesota would convert again on a power play tally from Jason Zucker that was equally as lucky as Green’s earlier goal but gave the home team the lead nonetheless.

After a first period that saw only one shot from the Wild, they scored four goals in the second period, shocking an unprepared Capitals team.
Backstrom made a huge save on a Grabovski-to-Ovechkin try early in the third, preserving the lead for Minnesota on a lucky grab. Suter got whistled for tripping shortly after, sending the Caps to the power play. While the Capitals had good puck movement and generated solid opportunities, they failed to convert. Suter was sprung from the box after his penalty expired, heading straight towards the action in front of Holtby.

The rest of the game is a strong indication for what would happen next, as Suter put away his third goal of the game on a snap shot shortside past Holtby from Clayton Stoner. It was Suter’s first NHL hat trick, as he enjoys a hot streak following his appointment to Team USA for the Sochi Olympics.

The Capitals have now given up two hat tricks in the past two games, the first to Carolina Hurricane Jeff Skinner. Holtby gave up five goals on ten shots, presumably not the kind of outing he was hoping for after not starting in two weeks.

Despite only winning three of their last ten, Minnesota rebounded nicely from an challenging first period and put together fourty minutes of quality play to put the Caps away. The penalties proved to be costly for the Capitals, an all too familiar storyline plaguing them recently.

Philadelphia’s win over the Phoenix Coyotes dropped the Capitals to third place in the Metropolitan division, with the fourth place New York Rangers just two points behind them. In order to stop the bleeding, Washington needs to clean up the sloppy penalties and put a full sixty minutes together, something they’ve been unable to do as of late.

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Photo Gallery: Wild vs Flyers (12/23/2013) http://insidehockey.com/photo-gallery-wild-vs-flyers-12232013 http://insidehockey.com/photo-gallery-wild-vs-flyers-12232013#comments Tue, 24 Dec 2013 14:17:57 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=54760

The Philadelphia Flyers defeated the visiting Minnesota Wild by a score of 4-1.

THREE STAR SELECTIONS
1st Wayne Simmonds (#17 PHI)
2nd Scott Hartnell (#19 PHI)
3rd Luke Schenn (#22 PHI)

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Rangers Get Angry, Get Mean, Get A Win http://insidehockey.com/rangers-get-angry-get-mean-get-a-win http://insidehockey.com/rangers-get-angry-get-mean-get-a-win#comments Mon, 23 Dec 2013 04:59:05 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=54732

NEW YORK – The Rangers got angry. The Rangers got mean. The Rangers threw their body around. The Rangers won a hockey game.

In perhaps their most complete effort in nearly a month, the Rangers (17-18-2) dominated the slumping Wild (20-13-5, 2-4-0 in their last six games) 4-1 at Madison Square Garden on Sunday night.

The game changed late in the first period. Matt Cooke flew towards an unsuspecting Mats Zuccarello behind the Rangers’ net, shouldering him in the chest. It was a clean hit, even though Zuccarello didn’t see the notorious Cooke coming until it was too late.

John Moore immediately confronted Cooke, who’s been suspended for illegal checks at least four times since 2008, and members of the Rangers bench verbally accosted the Wild forward, who had promised to reform his game after a ten-game suspension for elbowing Rangers defenseman Ryan McDonagh in 2011.

“That might have actually helped us get going,” said Carl Hagelin, who wore the celebratory Broadway Hat. “Before then, we were a little but soft, but after that we started skating and started hitting, and that’s how we created turnovers.”

“We have to play a physical game, it’s a physical sport,” Zuccarello said, who scored a goal to give him a team-high 25 points (eight goals, 17 assists) in the team’s last 29 games. “We have to win those one-on-one battles and that will get us the puck more. We’re a better team when we’re playing with the puck.”

The Rangers allowed the first goal of the game for the seventh consecutive contest, but once they did so they improved their compete level, tied the game late in the first, and dominated the second period – outshooting the Wild 17-5 in the one-sided period, one of their best 20-minute stretches of the season.

“I do know our compete level in the second period was probably our best four-line, six-D period in a long time,” said Rangers coach Alain Vigneault. “I rolled four lines, each line was playing very smart and simple. They were doing the right things with the puck.”

When the Wild scored at 4:08 of the first period on a Jason Pominville redirection of a Ryan Suter pass, they were outshooting the Rangers 5-2. After that tally, the Rangers had ten of the final 16 shots in the period before turning the game in the middle stanza.

“We owed the fans this one,” said goaltender Cam Talbot (24 saves). “They’ve been supporting us quite a bit lately, and we haven’t really produced for them. We owed it to the guys in this room, to each other, and to the fans in the stands. They’re our backbone out there, and when they’re in the game we seem to play a little bit better. To get their support throughout the night was huge for us, and we’re happy to get the win for them.”

A Rangers team that has shown very little pushback through their first 36 games finally showed some in their 37th. After Cooke smoked Zuccarello, the Rangers increased their physicality, increased their tempo, and improved their performance.

“We all compete hard for each other. It’s been a foundation for our success is standing up for our teammates,” said Ryan McDonagh, who had an assist to give him 20 points on the season. “More importantly is getting after them on the scoreboard, and that was a good thing. We scored some goals right away after that, and kept the momentum on our side. [Cooke] was probably trying to get the momentum on their side. We fought through it and [didn’t] let it distract us.”

It’s not going to be enough to rescue this disastrous franchise-record nine-game homestand during which the Blueshirts are 2-4-2, but it’s all about momentum and confidence. If the Rangers were able to improve their fragile confidence through arguably their most complete performance in December, perhaps they can get their season back on track.

“Probably our best game all year when it comes to playing a full 60 minutes and everyone contributing,” said Carl Hagelin, who scored what turned out to be the game-winner. “We definitely needed one of these, just to feel good about ourselves. Everyone in here contributed, and everyone should feel good about themselves.”

“We worked our asses off – if I can say that – and competed well,” Zuccarello said. “It’s a big game for us, we needed it. Hopefully we can get some confidence off this and build off it.”

It was a start. It doesn’t mean a thing unless they follow one strong effort up with another.

NOTES:

The Rangers’ 31 hits were their most in a single game since Dec. 7, their first game of the homestand

The Rangers scored a power-play goal, improving their power play to 10-for-43 (23.3%) in their last 13 games. The penalty kill was a perfect 2-for-2, and is killing at a 88.5% rate in their last 20 games.

INSIDE THE LOCKER ROOM:

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Capitals Tie Late; Win in SO 3 to 2 over Wild http://insidehockey.com/capitals-tie-late-win-in-so-3-to-2-over-wild http://insidehockey.com/capitals-tie-late-win-in-so-3-to-2-over-wild#comments Fri, 08 Nov 2013 14:32:13 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=53378

Outshot 12 to 5 after one period. Outshot 22 to 14 after two. Trailing 2 to 1 with three minutes to go. Killing a power play incurred with less than a minute left in regulation. As Coach Adam Oates explained, “[the Capitals] wore them down,” and defeated the Minnesota Wild 3-2 in a shootout. The Capitals have won four in a row.

Here are the “snapshots” I would have taken if I were rink side with the photographers (instead of in the press box):

Snapshot 1: Braden Holtby stopped 33 shots, including 4 shots on the final power play that straddled the end of regulation and the beginning of overtime. He also stopped all three shots in the shootout to earn the victory. Holtby is now 7 and 2 in his last 9 starts.

Snapshot 2: Marcus Johansson tied the game with three minutes left in regulation in an awkward goal. Tom Wilson passed to Johansson who shot in the general direction of both the net and teammate Brooks Laich. The puck deflected off of defender Nate Prosser into the goal. When asked after the game if it was a shot or a pass, Johansson explained that it was “kind of a shot pass.” “[With Laich in front,] there was a chance it was going to go in.”

Johansson played on the Laich-Troy Brouwer line instead of with Alex Ovechkin and Nicklas Backstrom. The line had 7 shots (Johansson 3, Brouwer 3 and Laich 1).

Snapshot 3: Martin Erat took Johansson’s place on the top line of Ovechkin and Backstrom. The line was inconsistent. Ovechkin (5) and Backstrom (4) took plenty of shots (Erat had none). But they had trouble getting and keeping the puck in the offensive zone at times. They did register 8 hits Ovechkin (3), Erat (3) and Backstrom (2). No other line had more than 3 hits.

Snapshot 4: Wilson had another strong game in six and one-half minutes of playing time. He was part of two of the best scoring chances in the second period. With four minutes left, he was stopped by a glove save on a breakaway. Three minutes later, he passed to Michael Latta, who was stopped at close range.

Snapshot 5: Ovechkin scored a power play goal in the first period. Certainly a familiar snapshot. The goal was his league-leading 7th power play goal in the first 16 Capitals games (Ovechkin missed two due to injury). If you extrapolate to a full 82 game season, Ovechkin would have 38 power play goals. The NHL record is 34 by Tim Kerr in the 1985-86 season. It is a little early to speculate.

NOTES:

The Capitals went 2 for 3 on the penalty kill and continue to lead the NHL at 90.3% (95.3% in their last 11 games). According to Holtby, “[this season,] we have relied in the power play to win games. Tonight we had to rely on the PK.”

The Capitals went 1 for 4 on the power play and continue to lead the NHL at 28.1% (7 power-play goals in their last four games).

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Filling the Matt Greene-Sized Hole http://insidehockey.com/filling-the-matt-greene-sized-hole http://insidehockey.com/filling-the-matt-greene-sized-hole#comments Fri, 05 Apr 2013 12:00:43 +0000 http://insidehockey.com/?p=49018

The other night, I asked whether the Ducks were better with their new acquisition, Radek Dvorak. Tonight, same question, only directed to the Kings and Robyn Regehr. He was brought over on April 1st from Buffalo for two second-round picks. His career has seen him play for just two organizations until this week: Calgary and Buffalo.

Part of the attraction, according to the Kings’ GM, was the contract fit. He is in the final year of a contract that’s just over $4 million dollars, and thus will be unrestricted in the summer. That gives him every incentive to play for a new payday, but he says that for now, he’s simply concentrating on the opportunity in LA. The chance for the team to repeat their success of last year was a big part of what attracted him to the club.

Lombardi put the acquisition in context when he said this week that the team was not going after anything big. “Smaller additions” was how he described what he intended to do, with Regehr being the only pickup. Davis Drewiske, a defenseman in his late 20s, was sent to the Canadiens for a fifth-round pick.

There’s no doubt the native of Brazil (one of those born-there stories; he’s really from Saskatchewan) wanted to be in LA. He had a no-trade clause in his contract, and while he understands how demanding Coach Sutter can be, he still said to media members this week that he was “gladly accepting” of the chance that was offered to him when his agent called him about the potential deal.

What place does he have on the team? The Kings started the year saying that their team was fixed and that they would roll to another Cup, or at least they hoped to, with the roster they’d had last spring. Of course, that ignores the fact that nobody plays a season without losing someone to injury. In LA’s case, that someone has been two people, Matt Greene and Willie Mitchell. Mitchell’s case is uncertain, with the GM not being able to say that he had any specific information on him even this week. Greene is skating again. And just so you don’t say I forgot–Alec Martinez is another defenseman who has been hurt, but that was way back in mid to late February, a total of seven games lost.

For now, put Regehr in the Matt Greene slot. Physically, at least, he reminds one of Greene, though the tree trunks Regehr has for legs aren’t something you see outside of those Olympic clean-and-jerk weightlifting competitions every four years on TV. He may not be as bulky as Greene up top, but he’s pretty stout, and listed at 225 pounds. The result is a style that allows him to put a stop to the rush and turn it up the other way. He did that Thursday night against the Wild.

On the Kings’ third goal, he stood up and the blueline and poked the puck back up the other way after Minnesota had brought it in on the attack. It went to Kopitar, who passed it ahead to Justin Williams. He blasted a slapshot past the replacement goalie Darcy Kuemper, who had come on after Niklas Backstrom had left the game after 3:07 with his team down two goals. In period one.

The goal Regehr had his helper on came with about four minutes gone in period two. At first, Regerh didn’t get credit for the assist. That was changed five minutes after, and he had his first point as a King. His lifetime totals, by the way, are 30-141-171 points. He has played 933 games to date.

When asked about his fit after his first game, Regerh said, “It’s always nice to get into a game by either giving a good hit or receiving [one], and um, after that you get into it. There’s a little bit of nervous energy. It’s been a very busy last couple of days. There’s been a lot of stuff going on with getting to know new teammates and all that other kind of stuff. It was nice to go out and play. We had a great start and jumped on them early.” He was referring to those two early goals.

He said, further, that there was a lot to learn in the last day or so, because the way the Kings play is much different from in Buffalo. He said particularly that the PK is executed differently. He also cited the fact that the Kings, to do well, need to play as a five-man group. That’s how the execute their strategy.

Regehr played much of the night with Drew Doughty, and when asked to compare that player to another, he immediately jumped to Scott Niedermayer, with whom he played at the World Cup in 2004. Doughty, by the way, got in his usual 25 minutes against the Wild Thursday. Regehr says that Doughty’s greatest ability is in moving the puck up the ice.

IH asked Coach Sutter about his trust factor with the defenseman. He’d been saying earlier in the week that he liked Regehr’s size and experience. “I haven’t coached Robyn for eight years, and players, you would have to ask him if he’s a different player, but in terms of trust, obviously there’s trust. I mean, he’s an experienced guy, and he’s going to play the same way every night.”

As far as his fit, Regehr said, “I’ll do whatever they want me to do. It’s going to take a little bit of work to get up to speed, but if they want me to [play big minutes with Doughty], it’s up to me to prepare for that and be ready for that. I’m not sure what’s going to happen.”

Most likely, he’s going to take a top-four spot with Doughty, Scuderi, Muzzin, and Martinez. Make that top five, or six. It doesn’t matter. The Kings are strong on defense as they roll on, and if/when Greene comes back, it’s going to be the rare team that scores many goals against them.

Notes
Penner has a lower body injury, it seems. He looked pretty healthy after the game, though.

Scratched on the night were Martinez and Toffoli. The rookie has eight games in, with two goals and three assists.

Clayton Yellow Horn continues to tear it up in Manchester of the AHL.

You can follow me on twitter @growinguphockey. Though I’d rather you quietly read my book, My Country Is Hockey.

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