From a pure on-ice perspective, the Minnesota Wild hope to turn the page in 2011-12.
They traded away two 2011 All-Stars (Martin Havlat and Brent Burns) to make over their offense with volume shooter Devin Setoguchi and sniper Dany Heatley. The hope is that last season’s unusually porous defense will get at least a slight boost from under-the-radar additions such as Mike Lundin, although that seems like a long shot with Burns out of the picture. GM Chuck Fletcher’s biggest move might be in his coaching staff, however, as he fired head coach Todd Richards in favor of Mike Yeo.
As much as the franchise wants to put several unsuccessful seasons in its rear-view mirror, Monday involved some bittersweet nods to their past.
On the sad side, people will only need to look at a the team’s helmets to see that the Wild rank among the NHL’s hardest-hit teams when it comes to this summer of tragedy. The Wild will wear a commemorative “24/38” sticker on their helmets this season to honor Derek Boogaard and Pavol Demitra, two former Minnesota Wild players who died in heartbreaking ways this summer. Boogaard accidentally overdosed from a lethal mixture of painkillers and alcohol while Demtira died in the horrific Lokomotiv Yaroslavl plane crash. Boogaard wore number 24 while Demitra donned the 38 during their days with the Wild.
Speaking of the Boogaard family, they received some promising news today: Derek’s brother Aaron signed a two-way contract with the Wild today. Minnesota picked him in the sixth round (175th overall) in the 2004 NHL Entry Draft, but Boogaard bounced around a bit while never playing a regular season game in the NHL. He racked up 172 penalty minutes in just 53 games with the CHL’s Laredo Bucks in 2010-11.
Aaron received two charges related to his alleged role in his brother’s death: third-degree sale of a controlled substance (a possible felony) and interfering with a death (gross misdemeanor if convicted). It’s unclear if that situation has been completely settled yet, but Michael Russo reports that he shouldn’t have visa issues.
The Wild plans to sign Aaron Boogaard to an AHL two-way contract, meaning with Houston or a lower-level team, like the East Coast or Central Hockey League. Boogaard landed in Houston this afternoon and arrived in time for the start of training camp. This has been in the works for some time but was held up due to a visa issue because of the legal trouble he’s in for allegedly giving an illegal, controlled substance to his brother, Derek, prior to his death and interfering with a scene of death.
The visa issue has since been cleared up.
“We want to give Aaron an opportunity to continue his hockey career,” Houston GM Jim Mill said. “We’re trying to help him out.”
Who knows if Aaron could ever crack an NHL lineup as an enforcer like his brother Derek, but it’s nice to hear that the Wild organization is willing to give him a chance to keep his hockey career alive after that devastating event.
Pavel Datsyuk‘s future with the Detroit Red Wings and in the National Hockey League has been up in the air for a while now, as he’s linked to rumors of a return to Russia and the KHL.
His agent, Dan Milstein, recently explained to the Detroit Free Press that Datsyuk’s future should become clear in mid-June after meeting with Red Wings general manager Ken Holland.
As per General Fanager, Datsyuk has one more year left on his current deal, which comes with a cap hit of $7.5 million.
From the Detroit Free Press:
“He would like to leave, but at the same time, he wants to make sure the Wings have options,” Milstein said. “He wants to help the team any way he can with the salary cap issue.”
Wings general manager Ken Holland has said there are no loopholes. Because Datsyuk signed his last contract after he turned 35, his $7.5 million salary cap hit remains in tact even if Datsyuk departs. The Wings’ only option is to trade his contract to a team such as Arizona or Carolina that could use the hefty cap hit in order to be above the salary cap minimum.
At the age of 37, his career in the league started in 2001-02, and has spanned 953 regular season games in which he’s accrued 918 points.
He’s had a highly decorated career, with two Stanley Cup championships with the Red Wings, three Selke and four Lady Byng trophies.
The St. Louis Blues need to win Game 6 on Wednesday, or their season is over. Who they decide to turn to in net is likely to be a talking point — heated debate, maybe? — leading up to that contest.
Do they go back to Jake Allen for a third consecutive start, despite the fact he allowed four goals on 25 shots in Monday’s Game 5 loss to the San Jose Sharks? Or, will head coach Ken Hitchcock turn once again to Brian Elliott, who started every single game from the series opener of the first round versus Chicago to Game 3 of the Western Conference Final.
Hitchcock at least felt that going with Allen over Elliott in Game 4 provided the necessary spark for his team, as the Blues evened the series.
But on Monday, the Sharks, on the strength of two Joe Pavelski goals, eventually overpowered the Blues for the win, moving San Jose one victory away from the Stanley Cup Final.
“I thought he was fine. I don’t know, those are decisions we make in a day or so. But I thought he was fine today. He stopped some point-blank shots, especially early, three times early,” Hitchcock told reporters.
“I don’t know. That’s stuff we’ll talk about tomorrow.”
The San Jose Sharks won a back-and-forth Game 5 to take back the lead in a back-and-forth Western Conference Final, moving one victory away from appearing in the Stanley Cup Final.
After scoring the tying goal late in the second period, Joe Pavelski notched his 12th of the playoffs to give San Jose the lead for good just 16 seconds into the third period.
The Sharks earned a 6-3 victory on the road, in a bounce-back effort from Saturday.
Twice, the Blues grabbed the lead. Troy Brouwer gave them the advantage in the first period, showing off his baseball skills by batting the puck into the net on a rebound. Robby Fabbri gave them another lead in the second period, making Roman Polak pay for snapping on Dmitrij Jaskin along the boards.
But the Blues couldn’t hold on. The Sharks scored twice on three power play opportunities and can now clinch the Western Conference on home ice in Wednesday’s Game 6.
As for the Blues, will Ken Hitchcock change up his starting goaltender again? It’s certainly an aspect of this series that will once again be up for debate leading up to Wednesday’s game.
After Brian Elliott had backstopped the Blues through the first two rounds and started the first three games of this series, Hitchcock decided to start Jake Allen in Game 4.
Allen recorded the win Saturday, and was called upon again in Game 5 as expected, but gave up four goals on 25 shots Monday.
San Jose Sharks defenseman Roman Polak took serious issue with St. Louis Blues forward Dmitrij Jaskin during the second period, as the two eventually threw off the gloves off in a fight in the corner.
In the process, Polak let his emotions get the better of him — he snapped — by also taking a roughing minor to give the Blues a power play.
The Blues made him — and the Sharks — pay on a blast from Robby Fabbri, who was a game-time decision for Monday’s contest.
The Sharks tied the game at 3-3 before the end of the second period on Joe Pavelski‘s 11th of the playoffs. Pavelski struck again in the third period, giving San Jose the 4-3 lead.