The playoff push is on. Before entering last night’s important matchup against the Colorado Avalanche, the Minnesota Wild were one-point behind the Arizona Coyotes for the final wild card spot and three points ahead of their Tuesday night opponent. Last night’s game in St. Paul was the most important game of the season to date. The Wild got a stellar performance out of their net minder, Devan Dubnyk. They scored a goal on the power-play and Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen were seemly quiet. Sounds like a recipe for success and the Wild should have been able to snatch two points from their Central Division rival. Yet, the Wild fell 3-1 to the Avalanche. Philipp Grubauer had an even more stellar night between the pipes than his counterpart Dubnyk and the Wild failed to capitalize on their scoring chances.
So, what are three things we can take away from Tuesday night’s loss to Colorado?
Thing 1: Jared Spurgeon is human.
Well, the jig is up. Jared Spurgeon is a human being. He can make a mistake. He is allowed to make a mistake. This has been up in the air in recent outings as the Wild’s top right-handed defenseman has elevated his play to near perfect. Let’s be honest, he was playing out of his freaking mind coming into last night’s contest against Colorado. He had a power-play goal in each of the past two games, while logging 26 plus minutes of ice-time. His goals came in crunch time as well. The goal he scored against the New York Rangers put the game out of reach for the boys in blue and his goal against the New York Islanders tied the game up late in the third, securing a point for the Wild in the standings. Jared Spurgeon is also doing this while racking up a career best 14 goals and 41 points this season.
Yet, last night was different. He still made his great plays and pushed play in a positive manner for much of the time he was on the ice, but he made one mistake. A costly mistake. A costly mistake that lead to Tyson Jost’s game winning goal scored in the second period. Spurgeon crossed the offensive zone blue line then sent a wild pass across the middle toward Luke Kunin that was intercepted by Avalanche forward Colin Wilson. The interception lead to a stretch pass to send in Jost in all alone on Devan Dubnyk.
You cannot expect a player to be perfect. Nonetheless, Spurgeon’s turnover altered the course of the game and this season’s trajectory, as the Wild still sit out of a playoff spot and Colorado is only one point behind them in the standing with a game in hand.
Thing 2: Jason Zucker could not buy a goal.
Well this was the understatement of the night. Superstars Connor McDavid and Tyler Seguin have recently been put in the spotlight for the wrong reason. Both players missed wide open empty nets and have become a laugh on repeat for the better part of the last week or so of Twitter following their “goof-ups”.
Well, now you can add the name Jason Zucker to the conversation. Down 2-1 late in the second period, Zucker was gifted a golden opportunity to tie the game up at two apiece and sent a backhanded shot wide left of the net. (insert the Marshall Eriksen “Damn” gif for all you HIMYM fans). Yes, I understand Philipp Grubauer was still on the ice and was not pulled as in the cases of McDavid and Seguin, but the net couldn’t have been wider open for Zucker to put the puck over the goal line.
Zucker had other chances as well. The Wild forward must have had three or four Grade-A chances over the course of last night’s contest. One in particular was a one-timer in the slot, but unfortunately Grubauer got a piece of it and denied Zucker another chance at evening the score. Zucker ended the night tied for the most shots on net by any player on either team, credited with five shots. Zero goals on five shots and a couple of Grade-A chances including an empty-netter. It wasn’t his night to score apparently. The hockey gods were not in Jason Zucker’s corner on the night of March 19th, 2019.
Thing 3: First scrap in a Wild uniform for J.T. Brown.
Last offseason, the Wild added a right-handed depth forward, J.T. Brown via free agency who would provide some speed and some grit to the bottom six. In his 49th game as a member of the Minnesota Wild, Brown dropped the gloves for the first time, looking to provide a spark. In just his first fight in a year, Brown scrapped with Avalanche forward Matt Calvert in an under six-foot showdown. It’s not too often you see a fight with two smaller NHLers, so when you do get one, you appreciate it.
Brown’s fight last night marked the 19th time in his NHL career that he has dropped the gloves and fought. His last fight was last season on February 17th, 2018 against none other than the Minnesota Wild’s own, Nate Prosser.
Last night, Brown held his own against Calvert. The 5’11” Calvert was throwing jabs as quickly as your mom can say the laundry is done, but the 5’10” Brown was patient and picked his spots and ultimately won the fight. A good first fight in a Minnesota Wild sweater for number 23. It should have fired his teammates up...
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