Wild hit reset button after franchise record winning streak comes to an end


ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) The longest winning streak in franchise history halted a few hours before the end of 2016, the Minnesota Wild were handed a natural opportunity to start fresh.

If they return to the defense-first formula that coach Bruce Boudreau has pushed them to follow, they’ll be in position to get going on another run. The beginning of the new year brought four days of rest from game action, before resuming play at San Jose on Thursday.

“That’s what we want it to be, a reset,” Boudreau said before the team departed for a three-city California road trip. “We worked on a couple things the last few days that’ll get us back to playing the way we were.”

After following a shootout loss with 12 victories in a row to start December, the Wild were defeated 4-2 on Saturday by Columbus, the only team in the NHL that’s been more unbeatable lately. The Blue Jackets now have a 16-game winning streak, one short of the all-time league record.

The warning sign of a slip in performance for Boudreau and the coaching staff arose the week before, though. Two of the last three wins on the streak were out-of-character: 7-4 at the New York Rangers and 6-4 against the New York Islanders.

Over the last four games, the Wild have allowed 14 goals. They’re still second in the league behind Columbus, with an average of 2.06 goals allowed per game.

“We have gotten away from the way that we play, most likely because we’ve been scoring goals,” Boudreau said.

Wait, what?

“You end up changing your mindset as an individual when you score goals,” the coach said, adding: “We have to get back to winning 2-1, 3-2. That is what’s going to make us win. If we’re thinking we’re going to be a team that’s going to win 5-4 every night, we’re in trouble.”

That’s the potential pitfall for a team that has balanced lines but lacks a prolific scorer. Offensive success, per human nature and the competitive makeup of the sport, can prompt players to pursue goals at the cost of defensive commitment and discipline. So the key on this West Coast swing, with games at Los Angeles and Anaheim over the weekend, will be to keep those red goal lights from glowing too much.

“Well, it’s not like we’re trying to score less,” right wing Charlie Coyle said. “That’s the mindset, to play well defensively. When we do that, a lot of times it’s not going to be a high-scoring game because we’re not going back and forth with teams.”

The loss to the Blue Jackets was only the second all season for the Wild by more than one score, and the first recipient of credit for that is goalie Devan Dubnyk. He went 10-1-1 in December with a 1.88 goals-against average and a .934 save percentage. He leads the NHL in both of those categories for the season.

“We were playing the right way and playing how we can, winning games how we can, getting contributions from top to bottom in the lineup, and that’s really why we’re a great hockey team,” Dubnyk said. “We’ve got a lot of depth, and we showed that over 12 games how we’re going to be capable of putting strings together.”

With 50 points in 36 games, the Wild are one point behind Chicago for the Western Conference lead. The Blackhawks have played 40 games.

“It’s just the same mindset that we’ve been taking this last month,” defenseman Matt Dumba said, “just believing in our structure and not worrying about anything else except for how we’re going to play and what we have to do that night.”

Boudreau, who became the first coach in NHL history to oversee winning streaks of 10 games or more with three different teams, has made an immediate impact on a team that had its share of midseason slides over the last several years. Led by defenseman Ryan Suter (plus-26), the Wild have five of the top nine players in the league in plus-minus rating.

“It was a fun stretch. Everybody was smiling when they came to the rink, so hopefully we can keep winning a little bit. That makes this game so fun,” said Mikael Granlund, who’s a plus-18. “We know how we need to play to be successful, and we have all the tools for that.”

The Buzzer: Eichel beats McDavid; More Vegas gold

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Player of the Night: Jack Eichel, Buffalo Sabres

So far in their careers, Connor McDavid comparisons haven’t been kind to Jack Eichel. To be fair, just about every other NHL player pales in comparison to McDavid, but Eichel gets it the worst because he was selected right behind McDavid in the 2015 NHL Draft.

McDavid’s enjoyed a deep playoff run and piled up some impressive hardware, yet Eichel got the best of number 97 for at least one night. As part of a 5-0 win for the Sabres against the Oilers, Eichel generated a goal and three assists.

If you haven’t noticed, Eichel’s been playing some of the best hockey even before Tuesday. With 10 points in his last five games, he’s enjoying the most productive stretch of his young career.

It was outrageous to place Buffalo’s blame on Eichel, so hopefully this torrid run at least turns down the volume on his critics.

Highlights of the Night:

We saw the nasty side of Brad Marchand with this questionable hit, but this goal was very, very nice:

This Shea Theodore outlet pass is so slick, it’s almost tough to keep your eye on it. William Karlsson scored yet again, and the Golden Knights won once again.

You may also enjoy Travis Konecny’s overtime game-winner, which you can check out here.


The Boston Bruins’ run continues, while the Avalanche’s winning streak ended.

Vegas Golden Knights zero in on more records for expansion teams. Remarkable stuff.

From remarkably great to almost unspeakably bad: how can the Oilers’ penalty kill be this ineffective?

Some key bits from tonight

Panthers, Stars brawl.

Canadiens end Avalanche’s winning streak at 10.

Flyers edge Red Wings in OT.

Possible injury for Joe Thornton?

Goalie injuries also cause for concern.


Bruins 3, Devils 2
Penguins 3, Hurricanes 1
Canadiens 4, Avalanche 2
Flyers 3, Red Wings 2 (OT)
Blues 3, Senators 0
Lightning 4, Predators 3 (OT)
Stars 6, Panthers 1
Sabres 5, Oilers 0
Canucks 6, Kings 2
Golden Knights 6, Blue Jackets 3
Ducks 6, Rangers 3
Jets 5, Sharks 4 (OT)

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Fights: Stars, Panthers pile up season-high 138 penalty minutes

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When you think of the Dallas Stars against the Florida Panthers, a few things might come to mind:

  • No state income taxes, if you’re an unrestricted free agent.
  • “Non-traditional franchises.”
  • Going further on that point, arguably examples of Gary Bettman’s vision in expanding the league’s scope.

You probably don’t think “blood rivals,” but maybe Tuesday will change that. Perhaps it was triggered in part by a misunderstanding about James Reimer‘s injury, or maybe because Antoine Roussel is Antoine Roussel, yet either way, things got pretty nasty between the Stars and Panthers on Tuesday.

The two teams piled up a whopping 138 penalty minutes in this one, which is great for lovers of chaos and/or fantasy hockey owners.

According to Sportsnet’s stats, that’s the highest combined PIM for a game so far in 2017-18. Somehow Matthew Tkachuk wasn’t even involved.

Again, it was a little senseless, which admittedly is sometimes the most entertaining form of violence.


The Stars pummeled the Panthers 6-1, by the way.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Sharks’ Hertl ejected; Joe Thornton injured?

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Brad Marchand isn’t the only player who delivered a questionable hit on Tuesday, as Tomas Hertl of the San Jose Sharks is also likely to draw the attention of the Department of Player Safety.

Hertl received a game misconduct and major penalty for boarding Winnipeg Jets defenseman Dmitry Kulikov, as you can see in the video above this post’s headline.

For whatever it’s worth, Hertl, 24, hasn’t been suspended in the NHL. It seems like Kulikov suffered at least some ill effects from the hit.

Some put at least a portion of blame on Kulikov for turning his back before the check.

Is the major penalty sufficient or should Hertl sit for that hit?

Update: The Jets ended up beating the Sharks 4-3 in overtime, but the bigger concern for San Jose is that Joe Thornton might be injured. More information may not come for a while.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Should Brad Marchand be suspended for elbow on Marcus Johansson?


Much has been made of Brad Marchand cleaning up his act, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that the Boston Bruins forward has totally stopped blurring the line between “physical” and “illegal” play.

Marchand was everywhere in the Bruins’ 3-2 win against the New Jersey Devils on Tuesday, and that was mostly in a good way, scoring a goal and an assist, easily leading all forwards with 20:06 time on ice.

Devils fans were unhappy when Marchand wasn’t penalized for a highly questionable elbow on forward Marcus Johansson. You can watch the infraction in the video above this post. You can also see it in GIF form below.

NBC Sports Boston’s Joe Haggerty reports that the Department of Player Safety is aware of the elbow, and supplemental discipline may come:

Again, many recall other incidents with Marchand, so plenty were unhappy with the situation:

What do you think? Is a suspension appropriate in this case?

More on the Bruins:How will they cope without Charlie McAvoy?

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.