Cam Tucker

ST PAUL, MN - OCTOBER 15: Head coach Bruce Boudreau of the Minnesota Wild looks on during the game against Winnipeg Jets on October 15, 2016 at Xcel Energy Center in St Paul, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)
Getty

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

3 Comments

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.”

Habs send Gallagher back to Montreal with apparent hand injury

Thomas Greiss, Brendan Gallagher,
AP
2 Comments

The Montreal Canadiens got the win in Dallas on Wednesday, but they did so short-handed.

Forwards Paul Byron and Brendan Gallagher both left the game because of injuries, and the news following Montreal’s 4-3 overtime victory didn’t sound promising for the latter.

Gallagher took a Shea Weber slap shot to the hand and was in immediate pain as he went to the bench. Habs coach Michel Therrien announced after the game that Gallagher will not accompany the team to Toronto to conclude this road trip.

Instead, he’ll head back to Montreal to meet with team doctors.

It appeared Gallagher re-injured his left hand, which he had surgery on last season, forcing him from the lineup for a lengthy amount of time.

The Habs play the Maple Leafs on Saturday.

Byron left the game following the first period. He was hit in the neutral zone by Patrick Sharp, and didn’t play another shift after that.

In just 39 games this season, Byron has already set single-season career highs in goals, with 12, and points, with 23.

Video: ‘It was a dirty hit,’ says Rowe after Griffith suffers concussion

10 Comments

The Florida Panthers were without Seth Griffith for the majority of Wednesday’s game against the Winnipeg Jets.

And interim coach Tom Rowe isn’t pleased about the incident that knocked his forward from the game.

Griffith was injured on a high hit from Nikolaj Ehlers in the neutral zone. The incident occurred just away from the puck (0:07 of the video clip above), as Griffith was skating toward the Jets blue line.

Griffith played one more shift, which lasted all of three seconds, before he left the game for good. There was no call on the play. Ehlers went on to score in the third period.

Afterward, Rowe sounded off on the hit.

“It was a dirty hit by Ehlers, he deliberately did it,” Rowe said, per the Miami Herald, which reported the injury was a concussion. “I don’t care what anyone says. I saw it on video, it’s a dirty hit.”

In 23 games this season, Griffith had no goals and five assists.

Rangers extend Flyers losing streak to five games

3 Comments

Just 24 hours after a disappointing loss to the Buffalo Sabres, the New York Rangers responded.

Unfortunately, though, for the Philadelphia Flyers, their losing streak continued as a result. The Flyers have now lost five in a row dating back to Dec. 22, before the holiday break, as they fell 5-2 to the Rangers on Wednesday.

Philly went into the third period down a goal, but it suddenly went wrong in the final 20 minutes as high-scoring New York erupted for four goals. Steve Mason, who has started in 22 of the past 24 games, stopped 23 of the 27 shots he faced.

At the other end, Henrik Lundqvist made 30 saves, none more impressive than the two quick stops he made on Brayden Schenn early in the second period after the Rangers took the lead.

Meanwhile, the Rangers played Wednesday’s game without defenseman Marc Staal because of an upper-body injury. He’s also expected to miss Saturday’s game (Can we call it ‘highly anticipated’ now?) against the Columbus Blue Jackets, as well.

From Newsday:

Staal, who had played all 40 games and ranked third on the Rangers in average ice time (19:33), was hurt in Tuesday’s 4-1 loss to the Sabres, said Vigneault, who offered no other details. Staal played 19:15 against the Sabres with two hits and one blocked shot. It appeared that Staal had some difficulty skating at times against the Coyotes and Avalanche last week.

The Rangers are now just three points back of Columbus for first place in the Metropolitan Division.

Buckle up: Canada will face USA for gold at World Juniors

4 Comments

Team Canada and Team USA will renew their rivalry, and this time it will be for a gold medal at the 2017 World Juniors.

Team USA punched its ticket to the championship game after a nerve-wracking semifinal shootout victory over Russia earlier on Wednesday. A few hours later, the opponent for Thursday’s finale was determined.

Despite trailing twice in the first period and a goaltending change, Canada advanced with a 5-2 victory in a thriller versus Sweden later in the evening. Julien Gauthier, taken 21st overall last year by the Carolina Hurricanes, scored the winner, jamming in a loose puck past Felix Sandstrom.

Gauthier scored the empty-netter late in the third period, eliminating any possibility of a miracle Sweden comeback.

Earlier anxiousness of Canadian hockey fans was replaced by jubilation in the end. But it didn’t start out so well for Canada.

Sweden jumped out to the lead on a short-handed goal, as Joel Eriksson-Ek beat Connor Ingram with a shot off the wing, an attempt that Ingram should’ve stopped.

The Swedes regained the lead two minutes later, as Carl Grundstrom slid the puck through the legs of Ingram. He was replaced in net by Carter Hart, a prospect of the Philadelphia Flyers, immediately after Sweden’s second goal.

But Canada took over in the second period, and continued that into the third, never really sitting back on the lead.

Now, it’s Canada vs. USA for the gold. These teams met in the round robin, with Team USA scoring the win on New Year’s Eve.