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.
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.