It’s a new week which means it’s time for a new Plus-Minus. After a week in which sports just didn’t seem all that important, I felt the need to get back to regularly scheduled programming. So, let’s take a look at one of Sunday’s matchups.
The Senators and Wild game was one between two defensive stalworths with decent records thus far. The Senators came into the game at 9-5-0, 6th in the league in goals against, and the Wild came in at 7-5-1, top in the league in goals against. This was poised to be a defensive battle from the get go.
+Minnesota Penalty Kill
Minnesota’s penalty kill unit had to go to work early and often in the 1st period. Thanks to a Christian Folin hooking and a Erik Haula tripping call, the Wild were shorthanded twice in the first 5 minutes of the game. Ottawa looked poised to convert on one such power play, with a wrist shot careening off the post. After that, however, the Wild PK unit was fantastic, carrying the puck almost as often as clearing it and getting multiple shorthanded opportunities. A late 1st period high-stick by Mikael Granlund put the Wild on the ropes for a third time, but the PK unit continued their high pressure. A faceoff win in the Wild zone led to Ryan Suter carrying the puck through the neutral zone, putting the puck on the stick of Eric Staal, who got a good shot on goal that deflected off goalie Craig Anderson, leaving an easy rebound for Suter. Minnesota’s confident PK unit turned what a situation in which many teams would just clear the puck down the ice into the team’s only goal in regulation.
Even in a losing effort, Senators’ Craig Anderson was brilliant. With 40 saves on 42 shots (.952 pct), he showed just why he should be this team’s number 1 netminder, even with the promising Andrew Hammond coming back from injury. An early second period breakaway by Nino Niederreiter, followed quickly by another breakaway by Eric Staal were both turned away easily by Anderson and were a major part of this game eventually going to 3-on-3. Unfortunately, his defense continued to let him down, offering the Wild chance after chance. A 5 shot OT period for the Wild led to the Matt Dumba winner and an undeserved loss for Anderson.
On the other end of the ice, the Wild’s Darcy Kemper was almost as fantastic. Coming off a 5 goal flubbing in his last start, Kemper looked much more comfortable in between the pipes, stopping 35 of 36 shots (.972 pct). Kemper’s only mark against him came at 5:06 in the 3rd period, when a neutral zone giveaway by the Wild resulted in a 3-on-3 for the Senators. A lovely pass in the Wild zone from Chris Neil to Kyle Turris, followed by a textbook goalie screen by Neil, led to a stick-side goal for Turris. One of the Senators’ few great opportunities of the game resulted in the tying goal against Kemper. A pad stop followed by a beauty of a glove save on Cody Ceci looked to stifle the Senator momentum and boosted the confidence of Kemper. Besides the lone goal against, the Wild goaltender was perfect, getting a much needed win in his first start of November.
+Dumba’s Overtime Winner
A crazy 40-second long offensive sequence for the Wild resulted in a Matt Dumba game winner. The play actually started in the defensive zone, when Dumba knocked down a Senator pass, pushing the puck up to Karlsson. A series of shots led to a Dumba to Granlund pass. Granlund skated in and threw one off Anderson, getting his own rebound almost behind the goal. He passed it to the slot where Dumba was waiting. Dumba sprawled out, dove forward and poked the puck into the net, resulting in his 2nd goal of the season and the Wild’s 8th win of the year.
Mediocre power play unit notwithstanding, the Senators just couldn’t find any rhythm on offense throughout the night. Sure, the Wild have a stellar defense that allows only 2.08 goals against per game, but Ottawa had plenty of opportunities that they couldn’t capitalize on. You could blame it on Guy Boucher’s decision to dress 7 defensivemen and only 11 on attack, but it didn’t look like one more attacker would have had any effect in this game. 13 giveaways for the Senators really hurt their offensive chances and made it easy on the Wild late in the game. Even after the tying goal, Ottawa really couldn’t find their mojo. Overtime was no different and a tough night for the offense contributed to their loss.
As stated above, the Senators coughed up the puck 13 times throughout that game. Two terrible neutral zone giveaways midway through the third period led to odd man rushes for the Wild. A lesser goaltender in net and the Wild would have surely capitalized on at least one of these and ended this game in regulation. Thankfully, Anderson was wonderful and kept the Senators in this game until 3:57 into the overtime period. The Senators have a solid defense and brilliant goaltending, but a hotter team than the Wild would surely have turned double digit giveaways into multiple goals. Don’t let a Connor McDavid or a Johnny Gaudreau get his hands on one of those neutral zone giveaways…