The last meeting between the Minnesota Wild and Dallas Stars on January 18 was a dandy of a performance from the good guys as they came away with a 7-0 victory inside of Xcel Energy Center. And now, as fans start to get into the flow of February, these two teams will meet once again on Friday night in Dallas.
It wouldn’t be unfair to say that the Wild need points in as many games as possible down the stretch to try to elevate their already slim playoff chances (which currently sit at 33 percent according to MoneyPuck.com).
Wild fans would love to see a repeat performance from that night’s 7-0 win, and we here at Hockey Wilderness want to break down how the result came about and how the team can repeat the same on Friday evening.
Goal No. 1: 10:32 First Period — Jared Spurgeon, assisted by Mats Zuccarello and Ryan Suter
This play began on a beautiful off-the-wall long pass from Suter to find Zuccarello down the far side of the ice. Zuccarello threw on the brakes and created space between himself and the Dallas defender, which allowed for his eyes to come up and flick a pass over to Spurgeon trailing at the top of the key. Spurgeon then took a one-time shot to beat Stars’ netminder Anton Khudobin for the opening goal. When viewing this goal for the second time, you can see Zach Parise skate directly in front of the net before the shot. This caused Dallas defenseman Roman Polak to trail behind and hamper the vision of Khudobin until the last possible moment, but it was then too late. If the Wild can pass down-ice and open up into some space, coupled with the little things of hampering the goaltender’s vision, it could be a long night for Dallas.
Goal No. 2: 16:27 First Period — Carson Soucy, assisted by Jason Zucker
This goal was the perfect example of “taking what the other team gives you,” as the Wild were in the midst of a line change and John Klingberg looked to take advantage. However, Jason Zucker was having none of it, as he intercepted Klingberg’s pass and took it the other way. The forward then scooted a nifty pass across the ice to Carson Soucy, who then fired a rocket into the left side of the net with picture-perfect trajectory, as Jamie Benn dove to try to deflect the attempt. Teams will rarely play a squeaky-clean game of hockey, and if the Wild can capitalize off any and every mistake made by the Stars, then look for three points to go to Minnesota.
One point of interest is that the Wild outshot Dallas 12-7 in the first period, which the Stars, proving that they came out hot and ready to play. If Minnesota can come out and throw the first punch and quiet the crowd inside of American Airlines Center, it will only work to their benefit.
Goal No. 3: 3:38 Second Period — Jason Zucker, assisted by Kevin Fiala and Jonas Brodin (on the power play)
You get what you give, right? It was only fitting that the next goal came from Zucker. However, this goal came from great puck movement on the power play by Minnesota. While the puck was deflected in by Andrej Sekera, the Wild did not panic when the man-advantage clock neared 30 seconds, instead they kept plugging along until the job was finished. The Wild stayed on the attack and did not allow the puck to be cleared back into the defensive zone, further killing precious time. Like the rest of this season, the Wild will have to continue to grind and make due on as many power play opportunities as possible if they want to raise their overall level through the rest of the regular season.
Goal No. 4: 4:11 Second Period — Ryan Donato, assisted by Ryan Hartman
This next goal came before the Wild’s PA announcer could even finish reading out the previous goal. It was another example of pouncing on the opposing line when they make a mistake. Dallas was looking to clear the puck out of their defensive end, but the pressure from the Wild in their offensive end to keep the puck in favorable territory was the key here, as there was a turnover and Ryan Hartman was the recipient. He sent a delicate pass up to Ryan Donato who almost did a Euro step basketball play with his stick to fake out Khudobin and lift a scoop shot into the top right corner. It was textbook pressure defense — something the Wild fans always welcome.
Goal No. 5: 19:07 Second Period — Mats Zuccarello, assisted by Jason Zucker and Matt Dumba
Have you noticed the trend of players on the assist getting a goal? It seems as if that was the Wild’s mantra on January 18. And that trend isn’t broken here as Mats Zuccarello was able to find the back of the net. But he couldn’t have done it without a few key aspects before the shot. There was under a minute to go in the second period, so there had to be a sense of urgency to try to add another goal before intermission. Matt Dumba did just that as he sent a cross-ice pass over to the open Zucker. Now with the puck in possession and with open space, Zucker decided to fire a shot. The puck was saved by Bishop’s pad due to the sheer velocity of the shot, and deflected back out into play. Now enter the aforementioned Zuccarello, who was in pristine position to clean up the scraps in front of net, this time beating the newly subbed Ben Bishop. This could fall under the category of taking advantage of mistakes, but it should probably fall under the “doing the little things right” section. The game of hockey can turn on a dime, as Wild fans know all too well, so each time there is an open net, it has to be converted.
Goal No. 6: 13:19 Third Period — Zach Parise, assisted from Ryan Suter and Eric Staal (on the power play)
In the midst of this onslaught, it’s truly surprising that fans hadn’t heard Parise’s name called yet. But no need to fear as he would get his on a goal that deflected off his skate. It was the off-puck movement from him that really got this play rolling. There was space to operate, with the man-advantage considered, so Eric Staal decided to send the puck on the near side to Ryan Suter, who then fired a shot from the top of the key. Like we mentioned on an earlier goal, Parise did a great job obstructing the Dallas netminder’s view of the incoming shot. This allowed Parise to basically soccer volley the puck into the back of the net, a play Darwin Quintero would be proud of.
Goal No. 7: 16:50 Third Period — Ryan Hartman, assisted by Jordan Greenway and Ryan Donato (on the power play)
For the final goal on what could be considered a perfect night for Wild fans, Minnesota converted on their third power play of the evening, making them 3-for-3 that evening. In a scrum in front of the net, Hartman was able to maintain possession of the puck and sent it past Bishop for good measure, while sending the Wild fans back to their cars, seven times happier than when they had entered the building.
After all of this breakdown, the perfect recipe should be clear for how Minnesota’s upcoming game in Dallas could turn out (and hopefully not in the opposite direction). If the Wild can do the little things right (no turnovers, smooth line changes, solid clearances), convert on the chances they should score on (power play, breakaways), and provide the same passion and effort in a very important game on both sides of the puck, then it’s a good chance Wild fans will begin their weekend on a high note.