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Wild falls 4-1 to Avalanche in pre-season home opener

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NHL: Preseason-Minnesota Wild at Buffalo Sabres Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild got a single goal from Victor Bartley, but couldn’t keep what the Avalanche sent to St. Paul from scoring four. The Wild and Avs played a sloppy game in which Colorado was able to spoil the pre-season home opener and the pre-season debut of Eric Staal in a Minnesota Wild sweater.

The game was back and forth in the first period. Not so much in the way of firewagon hockey with a multitude of chance either way, but the the puck was moving up and down the rink a lot. The best chance of the period, maybe the game for Minnesota, came on a 2-on-1 when Tyler Gravoac got stopped by starting goalie Jeremy Smith. Chris Bigras rang the pipe behind Wild starter Devan Dubnyk.

Colorado hit three posts in the game, and out-shot the Wild 30-28 for the game.

That’s not to say the Wild didn’t shoot the puck. The Avalanche Twitter account tweeted out that the Wild had out-attempted the Avs 59-53.

The Avalanche, under new head coach Jared Bednar, played a lot more of a zone style defense and could be seen setting up into the defensive Box +1 at times. It’s a big departure from the constant puck chasing, man-to-man style defense that former coach Patrick Roy had installed. Colorado players were always in the shooting lanes and the puck rarely got through to the netminder cleanly. The once time it did get through was Vic Bartley’s blast from the left point after Graovac won a clean offensive zone face off in the left circle.

The Wild defense was good but not great, by any real standard. In the offensive zone and through the neutral zone heading up ice, they were fine. Christian Folin took a number of slap shots from the left circle on the power play and was a clean pass away from finding Schroeder just to the right of the slot with an open look. Mike Reilly made a couple good plays along the boards in the offensive zone and got the puck to the net.

Defensively though, the defense was inconsistent. Jonas Brodin made a great play on the backcheck after pinching in offensively and made a nice stick lift to break up the 2-on-1 opportunity. But he then failed to muscle Rene Bourque from the front of the net, a focus of the coaching staff early this week, and Bourque was able to score afte Dubnyk failed to handle the puck cleanly in his crease.

Jason Zucker was good offensively. He used his speed and had a breakaway in which be burned by Nikita Zadorov in the process. He shot the puck a lot too. Eric Staal looked just okay. He has a nice reach, and provided a good net-front presence with his large frame. But out side of a couple physical plays, he was mostly unheard of as an individual. However, his line was easily the best for the Wild.

Joel Eriksson Ek and Alex Tuch were tough to get a read on most of the night. Can’t say they were good, and can’t say they were bad, and it was often shift to shift with both of them. Gustav Bouramman is a good skater and made a number of good breakout passes, or skated his way out of the defensive zone.

Passes. Passing was a trouble spot for Minnesota. The team seemed to lack energy in some areas like passing. This meant that passes were often in the skates of teammates of missed the mark. With out zipping the passes tape-to-tape, breakouts, at times, became difficult, and the ability to use the team’s speed on zone entries was mitigated by its own issues connecting a simple pass.

Head coach Bruce Boudreau doesn’t seem too terribly worried at this point though.

And that’s the biggest thing to remember - this is only preseason and the Wild didn’t play with no where near a full squad in this game. It’s a new coach with new systems and there is plenty of time to get things figured out before the regular season starts. So take this loss as a good thing as the staff knows what needs more concentration in practice, and who will be the first round of cuts for this team.