Saturday, June 3, 2023
HomeSPORTSWild clinches playoff spot, but loses some grip on standings: 'It hurts...

Wild clinches playoff spot, but loses some grip on standings: ‘It hurts a little bit’ sports

STREET. PAUL, Minn. — When Matt Boldy went to block a last-minute shot from Alex Pietrangelo Monday night, the crowd rose to its feet and roared.

It could have been a proper footnote in Boldy’s bonus setup performance (and 80-second turn), sealing an important win against the best team in the Western Conference.

But moments later, after a scramble around the net, Pavel Dorofeyev went wide open in the slot and leveled with 35 seconds to go. The Golden Knights scored the kind of six-on-five goal the Wild were known for last year, and went on to win 4-3 in a five-round shootout.

“It hurts a little bit,” Boldy said.

That’s especially true in qualifying, as the loss makes it extremely difficult to win the conference, with Las Vegas now up five points with five games to go. It also allowed Dallas to tie Minnesota for first place (keeping the regulation wins tiebreaker) and the Avalanche Cup champion two points behind with two games in hand.

But for the Wild, who clinched their 10th playoff berth in the past 11 years, as they played was more important. Two nights after lacking the necessary “energy” and “pop” in a loss in Las Vegas, Minnesota had the kind of effort that could serve them well in the playoffs.

“We played a great hockey game,” coach Dean Evason said. “The way we played tonight compared to the other night, we were very happy. With the way we played five on five, we were as good as we’ve ever been.

“A pretty good game, except for the stupid gunfights.”

The Wild fared better five-on-five, leading 26-11 in chances on goal (11-3 in high-danger chances), according to Natural Stat Trick (1.87-.81 in expected goals). His struggling power play, in a 1-for-14 funk, came on a John Klingberg goal. The penalty kick was 3 for 3, including a key shot from a one-goal lead with six minutes to go. Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba put in a dominant performance against mostly the Golden Knights’ top line with Jack Eichel and Jonathan Marchessault. Boldy scored his 13th goal in his last 12 games, securing his maximum bonus ($850K) based on points, ice time and points per game. Filip Gustavsson made some well-timed saves, including a pair in penalty shootouts.

“They’re a very good team, honestly,” Marchessault said of the Wild. “They’re just annoying to play against. They’re not the kind of team you want to face in the playoffs.”

Who the Wild will face in the playoffs will be determined over the next five games (in Pittsburgh, against St. Louis, in Chicago, against Winnipeg and in Nashville). The Avalanche and Stars have easier schedules down the stretch, so Minnesota will need to finish strong to have any hope of winning the division (or at least have home ice in the first round).

That’s where getting just one point in their last two games against Vegas hurt, especially after a statement win against the Avalanche. It’s hard to beat a team with just two regulation losses in its last 23 games (16-2-5), but it will be judged on its playoff performance.

The good news is that Kirill Kaprizov moved one step closer to returning with Monday’s first skate since his injury (below). The staff is talking about when deadline addition Gustav Nyquist can make his wild debut, hoping for at least a game or two in the regular season. And while Mason Shaw (torn ACL) finished the year, Minnesota tested what was expected to be their fourth Brandon Duhaime-Connor Dewar-Ryan Reaves playoff line. They had a Corsi-For percentage of 55.56 in just under seven minutes of five-on-five time, while also scoring a game-tying goal from Duhaime in the second.

“That has to be your fourth line in the playoffs,” Duhaime said. “You have to be a pain, you have to be tough. Sometimes those are the lines that can make or break you: the effort they put into it. So we’re excited for the challenge.”

Kaprizov Update

The Wild had to be encouraged by Kaprizov’s appearance after going through a 30-minute skating session before Monday morning’s morning skate, his first ice workout with the staff since suffering a lower-body injury earlier in the day. of March.

Kaprizov, working with skating coach Andy Ness, did a little of everything. He had several skating drills, working on rhythm, while also working on his stick handling and shooting. There were a few drills with him taking and passing, and another one speed skating, throwing himself around a bucket and shooting.

It looked, well, smooth.

Evason joked that Kaprizov had been pestering the training staff for weeks to get him back on the ice. But after a solo session over the weekend, “just one twist,” Evason said, how Kaprizov feels after Monday’s skate will determine whether he joins practice on Wednesday.

There is still a chance that Kaprizov will play in a game at the end of the regular season, but the team is fine if his return is Game 1 of the playoffs.

“Hopefully he’s ready to play sooner rather than later,” Evason said. “I know that he hopes to be ready to play sooner rather than later. Obviously, we want him back in our lineup. But we’re going to do the right thing and our doctors and trainers and he’s going to do the right thing too.”

Heartbreak for Shaw

The news that Mason Shaw ended the year after tearing his ACL for the four weather hit everyone in Wild’s dressing room pretty hard.

“You feel terrible,” said Marcus Foligno.

“He doesn’t deserve any of this,” said good friend and fellow lineman Connor Dewar.

“It’s horrible,” general manager Bill Guerin said. “To do what he has been doing with three of these operations is a small miracle. Now you will have to do it for the fourth time. But we believe in him. He will and he will.”

Shaw was hurt in an awkward collision with the boards in Saturday’s loss in Las Vegas. Dewar, who is also Shaw’s roommate, said that while the mood in his Minneapolis apartment has been “gloomy” in recent days, the entire team hopes he will play again. “He’s a fighter,” Dewar said.

“Billy (Guerin) asks young players all the time, ‘Would you do anything to play in the National Hockey League? Anything?’” Evason said. “And Mason Shaw embodies that. He did everything and anything to play in the (NHL) and he will do it again.”

Shaw, 24, is a pending restricted free agent. But even with the winger expected to be out for eight to nine months, Guerin indicated that Wild plans to sign him anyway.

“That’s not going to be something you have to worry about,” Guerin said. The Athletic. We’ll find something. You don’t want to let guys like that go.

(Photo of Golden Knights left wing Pavel Dorofeyev scoring against Wild goalie Filip Gustavsson during the shootout: Matt Krohn / USA Today)



Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Most Popular

Recent Comments