Who says history doesn’t happen in the preseason? The Minnesota Wild managed to do something in their 5-1 loss to the St. Louis Blues that they’ve never done before. They managed to not play the game in front of a sellout crowd. With an announced crowd of 16,219 it marked the first time in franchise history that the Wild played in front of anything less than the “team of 18,000” in St. Paul.
While some Wild fans, blogs, and executives alike lament the disappointing turn out, getting hysterical about not selling out a preseason game and losing a mythical streak is a bit much. Having Wild owner Craig Leipold go so far as to write a letter to the fans about this brings “hysteria” to a entirely new level.
Thankfully Michael Russo of The Star Tribune is here to tell us that all is not exactly lost.
The NHL counts regular season and postseason in active sellout streak, so technically the Wild has a 382-game sellout streak still intact. But it’s brilliant. The Wild makes a huge deal of it now, and now if they don’t sell out Game 3 or 5 or 7 of the regular season, we make it just a footnote in print.
Incidentally, the Wild has still not sold out opening night, so tickets are still available if you’re interested.
The streak was going to end some time in this day and age of a rocky economy, tons of good entertainment and sports choices in this area and the fact that the Wild’s missed the playoffs for two years in a row and hasn’t been past the first round since 2003.
The reality is, put a winner on the ice, the fans will flock again. But the honeymoon’s over. It’s time to win.
These are the sorts of rough days the Wild had to expect going through and changing things up from a staid and uninspiring style to what coach Todd Richards is doing now with the Wild. Simply flipping a switch from one style to another doesn’t work overnight the way many fans wish it would. You need the right personnel to play the game and for the Wild right now, they’re caught in the middle with guys that brought up in Lemaire’s system and former GM Doug Risebrough’s uninspired scouting.
Wild fans are upset and they want a winner that plays a style they can get excited about. That’s a lot to ask for when going through such turnover within the organization and Wild fans are finally responding (perhaps a few seasons too late) with their wallets that mediocrity won’t cut it. Minnesota fans can’t ever be accused of being bad hockey fans, Minnesota is the most hockey-mad state in the union. They do know when they’re not being given something worth spending boatloads of money on though and the Wild the last few years certainly haven’t been that.
For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.
Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.
But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.
Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.
When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.
Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.
The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.
Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.
This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.
In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.
Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.
Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.
Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.
Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?
Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.
Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.
Official update on the really important story of the evening:
The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.
Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.
As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.
The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.
Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.
Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.
Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.