Wild shut down Ducks in Boudreau’s return to Anaheim

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Even as the Minnesota Wild continued to pile up points in the standings in recent weeks, coach Bruce Boudreau was still concerned with some of the trends he had seen developing over the past few games.

He had to be pretty happy with the way his team played on Sunday night in his first game back in Anaheim since he he was fired by the Ducks after the 2015-16 season.

The Wild were 2-1 winners on Sunday night thanks to a clinical defensive performance that completely shut down the Ducks offense and helped Minnesota win for the 14th time in the past 16 games.

The win also allowed them to keep pace with the Chicago Blackhawks in the Central Division race. After Sunday the Wild remain two points behind Chicago for the top spot in the division but have still have four games in hand.

Keep in mind that Boudreau has won seven division titles in his seven full seasons as an NHL head coach, as well as his first partial season in Washington. The only year he did not win a division title in the NHL is the 2011-12 season when he was fired after 22 games in Washington and finished the season with Anaheim.

The loss for Anaheim snaps what had been a three-game winning streak and prevented them from moving into sole possession of first place in the Pacific Division.

After giving up at four goals in four consecutive games and five of their past six the Wild were not only able to limit the Ducks to just a single goal on Sunday, but also only 24 shots on goal. Ryan Suter, one of the featured players in Sunday’s game, had an especially strong performance in his 29 minutes of ice-time and was a key cog in the Wild’s defensive dominance.

Defensemen Matt Dumba and Jared Spurgeon provided the goals for the Wild in the win, while Ducks forward Ryan Kesler scored their lone goal.

Dumba’s goal tied the game during a 5-on-3 midway through the second period and it did not please Ducks goalie John Gibson. During the play Gibson’s mask had been knocked loose and he was clearly trying to get the attention of the referees to get a whistle. They did not oblige. Gibson did not get his whistle until Dumba’s one-timer ended up in the back of the net.

NHL on NBCSN: Boudreau ‘nervous’ about going back to Anaheim

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NBCSN will continue its coverage of the 2016-17 campaign tonight when the Anaheim Ducks host the Minnesota Wild at 8:00 p.m. ET. If you want to watch the game online, you can do so here.

Tonight will be the first edition of “Star Sunday” on NBCSN. The special feature will take place most Sunday’s throughout the rest of the regular season, and it will focus on one NHL superstar on each of the teams playing that night.

NBCSN will provide special access to pre-game player arrivals and interviews, exclusive pre-game features and “get to know” segments, which should be a whole lot of fun.

This evening’s  game will feature Anaheim’s Ryan Kesler and Minnesota’s Ryan Suter.

“Ryan Kesler is smart in identifying matchups, and getting opponents off their game by being physical and nasty,” said NBC hockey analyst Pierre McGuire.” Ryan Suter is sneaky strong – not terribly large, but very tough to move, and doesn’t get beat very often in the corners. I’ll be watching for that when they’re on the ice together, to see how Suter and Kesler respond to the physical challenge from one another.”

Now, let’s get to the game.

The Wild are coming off a 4-3 OT loss to the Los Angeles Kings on Saturday night, and if you think head coach Bruce Boudreau was satisfied with the loser point, guess again.

“I would rather have the other point,” Boudreau told the Minneapolis StarTribune. “Those are good accomplishments for one minute or one day, and everybody forgets about them. There’s only one accomplishment that you really want to get that people remember, and that’s the final one. That’s the one that counts.”

The Wild had their 12-game winning streak come to an end after they dropped a decision to the Blue Jackets on Dec.31, but Boudreau’s been frustrated with his team’s play since before the defeat on New Year’s Eve.

“I don’t like the trends that are happening in the last six games. If we want to be a legitimate good team, we’ve got to correct these things.”

There’s a good chance he’s referencing the team’s overall defensive game, which has slipped in the last little while. Minnesota has given up at four goals in each of their last four contests. They may be 2-1-1 during that span, but that can’t continue.

As for Boudreau, he’ll be making his return to Anaheim for the first time since being fired by the team last April.

“I’d lie to you if I wasn’t going to be nervous coming back,” Boudreau said, per the OC Register. “I was nervous coming back to Washington for the first time. I’m excited about it. You build up a lot of friendships in 4 1/2 years in one spot.”

The Ducks settled on Randy Carlyle as their new head coach and the results have started to come. They’ve won three straight games and are tied for the Pacific Division lead with 50 points (the Sharks have a game in hand).

One of the reasons the Ducks have been able to find some consistency in their game is because they’ve been getting some solid goaltending from both John Gibson and Jonathan Bernier.

With the off-season trade of Frederik Andersen to Toronto, Gibson was sort of handed the starting job. He got off to a slow start, but he’s starting to come around. He’s won three in a row and four of his last five. He hasn’t lost a game in regulation since Dec. 17.

“You don’t win without quality goaltending in the NHL,” Carlyle said after Friday’s win over Arizona. “(Gibson) and (Bernier) have both given us NHL quality goaltending. As I stated earlier, they would be 1A and 1B. You have to be happy with what they’ve been able to provide for us. Gibby’s been real strong for us as of late.”

Boudreau doesn’t like what he’s seeing from Wild lately

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It would be an overreaction for Bruce Boudreau to get too worked up after the Minnesota Wild gave up a 2-0 lead and eventually lost 4-3 in overtime to the Los Angeles Kings.

After all, this marks just their third loss since Dec. 1, and they’ve failed to generate a standings point in just one game during that run.

Boudreau’s accustomed to regular season success,* however, so his eyes are on the big picture. And in that regard, he doesn’t like what he’s been seeing lately.

Now, some will shrug off those concerns. After all, the Wild are still 4-1-1 in the past six games, a run that would leave most of their peers envious.

When you look a little closer, it’s easier to understand Boudreau’s concern. The Wild have allowed 22 goals over the past six games, with four goals allowed on five of those occasions.

You can find a silver lining with even that – the Wild are scoring goals in these games to grab points and often wins, which was a concern when they seemed to rely on Devan Dubnyk too heavily – but again, Boudreau has higher aims than merely generating regular season success. Coaches focused on the playoffs often try to identify and address problems before they fester into something more permanent.

With a +37 goal differential on the season and a strong chance to catch Chicago for the Central Division crown, the Wild have a lot of reasons for optimism. Credit Boudreau for at least trying to keep them from getting too cocky.

* – It’s fitting that he laughed off clinching his role as the West All-Star coach.

‘If he was in Toronto, there’d be no Carey Price, media-wise’ – Boudreau on Dubnyk

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The Minnesota Wild aren’t exactly dominating the NHL, so it might be easy to ignore just how outstanding Devan Dubnyk has been to start the 2016-17 season.

We’re talking “Carey Price and Tuukka Rask territory.”

While his 11-6-3 record won’t blow anyone’s mind, his 1.65 GAA and .946 save percentage are jaw-dropping. With Dubnyk doing special things, Bruce Boudreau felt the need to say weird things* after Dubnyk helped the Wild beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 3-2 on Wednesday.

“If he was in Toronto, there would be no Carey Price … I’m just saying media-wise,” Boudreau said after the game, as you can see in this video:

That’s some Haagen-Daz level praise from Boudreau.

Even if Dubnyk was in a bigger market, there’d probably be room in our hockey thoughts for Dubnyk and the consensus best goalie in the world, but Boudreau’s larger point is taken: Dubnyk has been right there with the best early on this season.

And, let’s be honest, we shouldn’t be too hard on Boudreau or he might stop saying … well, things like this:

Never change, Bruce.

* – Unlike his comments about “Die Hard,” which were amusingly on-point.

Pre-game reading: Bruce Boudreau has some thoughts on the ‘Die Hard’ franchise

— Up top, relive last night’s overtime between the Capitals and Sabres. That was a pretty long shift by Marcus Johansson, but good thing for Washington he didn’t change.

— Bruce Boudreau knows his movies, and he’s got some opinions. “The first ‘Die Hard’ was great. After that, they became phonier and phonier. By the fifth one, when they’re going up a ramp in a car and it’s hitting a helicopter, Yeah, right. I can understand kids loving that, but I look more for the story now that I’m older.” The Wild’s new head coach recently saw “Hell or High Water,” which is really good, by the way. (StarTribune)

— Dispatch columnist Michael Arace on the hottest team in hockey: “This is a new storyline for the Blue Jackets. They have had small sips of success in the past — the distant past, it seems now. Forever, the problem has been summarized as having to do with the culture. There is a sizeable enough sample through 24 games to say they may be in the throes of change.” (Columbus Dispatch)

Henrik Zetterberg is leading the Detroit Red Wings with 19 points in 26 games, and he’s doing it at 36 years old. “Z has been real good all year,” coach Jeff Blashill said. “He is one of those funny players that, the more ice time he gets, the more juice he has in his legs.” (Detroit Free Press)

— The Maple Leafs have been piling up the shots this season. “After their young offense pumped 40 shots at the Vancouver Canucks on Saturday, Toronto moved up to third in the NHL in shots per game at 32.6.” Too bad for the Leafs that they’re also allowing 32.6 shots per game. Only the Arizona Coyotes (35.4) have allowed more on average. Toronto is sure fun to watch, though. (Postmedia)

— A Q&A with Jack Eichel, who will play against Connor McDavid and the Oilers tonight in Buffalo. Here’s a good bit of advice that Eichel has for young players: “Just make sure you enjoy the game. Don’t get caught up in being stressed over what you’re going to do. I’ve seen so many kids who kind of overthought it. Hockey’s a game. Go to practice every day and try to get better. I’m a big believer that if you want success, it’s up to you. Your own success is all in your own hands.” (ESPN)

Enjoy the games!