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The R.S.S. Feed: Oct. 30, 2008

by Ryan Stanzel / Minnesota Wild
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Oct. 30, 2008

Post-Game Wrap-up
Back from the post-game activities. Bill Robertson our trusty VP handled the Lemaire press conference while I took care of some stuff in the locker room. Antti Miettinen, Mikko Koivu and Eric Belanger spoke with the media. Post-game notes are below. I'm going home to finish packing for the next 10 days. Sounds fun, huh? I'll talk to you from Phoenix.

D Andrei Markov snapped a tie early in the second period with a 5-on-3 goal and G Carey Price made 28 saves and helped stop three different two-man advantages, as the Montreal Canadiens topped the Minnesota Wild 2-1 in front of 18,568 at Xcel Energy Center. D Francis Bouillon also scored for Montreal.

D Brent Burns scored a goal and G Josh Harding made 19 saves in his first start of the season for the Wild. Minnesota has now lost two straight and now begins a four-game road trip Saturday in Phoenix at 9 p.m. (ct).

Minnesota was 0-for-10 on the power play tying a franchise record for most power-play opportunities in a game without scoring a goal. The only other time Minnesota had 10 power-play opportunities without scoring was on Dec 8, 2000, against Anaheim at Xcel Energy Center. The franchise record for power-play opportunities in a game is 11, set twice, and most recently in a 4-3 overtime win over Columbus on Dec. 29, 2006. The Wild scored three power-play goals that night.

The Wild, which lost 4-2 in Dallas on Wednesday, was 9-4-2 in the second half of back-to-back games last season. Minnesota didn’t lose both games of a back-to-back set in regulation during the entire 2007-08 season. Last year, the Wild was winless in two straight twice – Oct. 24-25, and March 6-7 – but one of those losses each time was in a shootout.

D Brent Burns scored his third goal of the season. The Wild is now 12-2-4 over the past season-plus when Burns scores a goal, 18-3-4 since the beginning of the 2006-07 season and 21-4-4 since 2005-06.

The Wild lost at home in regulation to Montreal for the first time in franchise history (2-1-1). Tonight marked the Habs’ first visit to Xcel Energy Center since Dec. 17, 2005, a 4-3 Wild overtime win.



3rd period
17:57

The Wild was to be a power play after Robert Lang went for tripping, but Mikko Koivu goes for hooking 17 seconds later. It was actually much sooner than that, but the Wild didn't touch up for about 12 seconds.

16:45

Eric Belanger breaks in alone on Carey Price with the teams 4-on-4, but shoots wide after Price got low.

11:30

Lots of up and down but not many scoring chances, until Tomas Plekanec rips a shot from the right circle off the crossbar and up into the protective netting. Montreal still clinging to the 2-1 lead.

7:55

It appears as though we're in for a flying finish here tonight. I've got to head downstairs, I'll be back post-game.



2nd period
18:32

The Wild doesn't score on its power play, and now goes on the penalty kill. Benoit Pouliot to the box for hooking, but in fairness to him, he was hooked while going after a loose puck in front of the net on what would have been an excellent scoring chances. Early on the power play, Tomas Plekanec hits the near post.

18:07

And we're back at even strength on 4-on-4. Hold that thought. Mikko Koivu goes for holding, despite the fact he was dragged to the ground. This place is booing louder than I've ever heard it. It's a 5-on-3 for 1:35.

17:37
And that's not going to help the men in white-and-black stripes earn any points with the Team of 18,000. Andrei Markov fires from the right circle and beats Harding cleantly for his first goal of the season. He had 10 helpers coming in. It's 2-1 Montreal on the first power play goal given up at home by the Wild this season.

14:27

Montreal appeared to go back on the power play as Brent Burns possibly backhanded the puck up and over the glass. He tries to say it was deflected, and alternate captain Kim Johnsson pleads the case. The Wild win this case, and it remains 5-on-5.

13:53

The Wild on its second power play of the night after the upcoming media timeout, as Robert Lang goes for tripping.

13:36

It's the Wild's chance for a lengthy two-man advantage, 1:44 of it, as Chris Higgins goes for cross checking to prevent a goal as Andrew Brunette was alone in front.

12:12

And the hits keep coming for Montreal, with Roman Hamrlik being called for hooking. So it's another 36 seconds of 5-on-3 time here. You don't often see three minors up on the board at once, but here we do.

9:45

Some decent chances for the Wild, but they can't get the equalizer. And then a too many men on the ice penalty. Another 5-on-3, this one nine seconds, and then the rest of the power play, but right now the Wild is struggling with the man advantage.

7:38

The lengthy power plays are over, and the Wild still trail 2-1. By my count, only two shots in the last four minutes. Montreal's penalty kill was ranked 14th at 81.1 percent entering the game, but it's looked better than that tonight. I've got to head downstairs soon.

End 2nd

What a frustrating period for the Wild, who according to the stat sheet had three 5-on-3's for 2:29 in the second period. Minnesota has played 13:12 on the power play - more than half its even-strength time. But still trails 2-1.




18:29
It's Carey Price vs. Josh Harding. And a surprise on the lineup front as Brent Burns lines up as a forward and scores! He takes a pass from James Sheppard (first point of the season) and fires home for his third goal of the season. FYI Wild fans, the Wild is 12-1-4 over the past season-plus when Burns scores a goal, 18-2-4 since the beginning of the 2006-07 season and 21-3-4 since 2005-06. It's 1-0 Wild. What hands by Burns to direct the puck off Sheppard's pass from deep in the left corner. Colton Gillies also with an assist, his second of the season.

15:32
And the Canadiens answer back. Francis Bouillion fires through traffic from the left point, as the Wild had a pair of players without sticks. It's 1-1.

13:48

Tom Kostopoulous goes off for interference, and the Wild's power play unit - clicking near 30 percent - gets an early chance. Minnesota scored both its goals on the man advantage last night.

11:36

That was not a thing of beauty. A broken stick as Pierre-Marc Bouchard fired from the left circle, and Antti Miettinen was run over at center ice as the power play began. He looks ok though.

10:35

A brief shoving match in front after Harding makes a great skate save. Among the participants - Mikko and Saku Koivu.

End 1st

An uneventful remainder of the first period. Brent Burns blocked a shot with the inside of his foot but came back quickly to play on the power play. Wild radio spoke with Stephane Veilleux.


Pre-game
Scratches: Erik Reitz, Owen Nolan (lower body), Derek Boogaard

6:45 p.m.
First to some breaking news, and that is that Josh Harding will get the start in goal tonight. He made 19 saves on 20 shots in relief of Niklas Backstrom last night.

It’s been a busy two hours downstairs, as Mikko Koivu completed two interviews and Pierre-Marc Bouchard one before 5:00. I grabbed dinner (oriental theme) with Wild.com’s Jamie MacDonald and heard some good honeymoon stories. Then I headed over to the locker room where RDS had a camera inside the locker room just before warm-ups, shooting Mikko Koivu doing his preparations for the game. NHL players don’t particularly like cameras in the room

I need to send some congratulations out to Kelly Murray, a loyal R.S.S. Feed reader and a former intern of mine with the Houston Aeros. Yesterday, Murray was named the Washington Capitals’ communications coordinator. I hope she does a blog! Murray also worked under one of the best in the business, the ECHL’s Jack Carnefix.

Thanks also to Harvey from Brookside, Nova Scotia, who wanted to say hi to both the State of Hockey and Nova Scotia’s own James Sheppard.

Also an e-mail from James in Virginia, who yes was one of my college roommates but an avid R.S.S. Feed reader:

Q: Did the team make a new rule that you have to go to every game since they lost without you last night?

A: James, that’s almost as funny as the time I scored 100 points on you in NCAA Football ’99 on Playstation. The original. Actually it may be the contrary. Because there were back-to-back games, the team screened for the airport at the arena post-game. They like that and think it was all Sickman’s doing. In fact it was, but we will only do that when playing back-to-back since its so much faster.

3:45 p.m.

Time to get to some mail before heading over to the arena. I’d like to be near the locker room by 4:45 to get Kouvi and Bouchard for the Montreal media.

Q: Hey Stanz,

How much gum does Lemaire go through per game? What's his preferred brand, and who's in charge of his supply?

Will French-speaking media be in town for the Montreal game as well?

Jen in Grand Forks

A: Thanks for the note Jen. I believe Lemaire goes with regular old bubble gum, if he takes it from the locker room. I’m not sure if he has a special stash from the trainers, I will have to check.

There are probably three or four times the amount of normal visiting media in town tonight. Two separate radio crews (French and English) for the Habs. RDS (French speaking ESPN basically). Four newspapers.

Q: Hi Ryan! Again,great blog. I love the behind the scenes access you give.
 
You talk about game notes a lot. What are in these game notes? Or even better, could you post a sample or a past set of notes online for all to see? Or are they super secret hockey media info.
 
Craig from Blaine, MN

A: Hi, Craig! Great question. We do game notes for every game so the media knows the latest on the team. They are generally 50 or so pages long, with a lot of computer generated stats, etc. We do two pages of “storylines” at the beginning. I’ve pasted tonight’s “storylines” below for you.

Tonight’s Storylines

The Minnesota Wild (6-1-1), tries to rebound from its first regulation loss of the season last night in Dallas when playing host to the Montreal Canadiens tonight. The Stars beat the Wild 4-2 last night in Dallas. Tonight marks the Wild's last home game until Nov. 13, as Minnesota begins a four-game road trip in Phoenix on Saturday.

Tonight's game features two of the top five defensive teams in the NHL. Montreal is fourth in the league with a 2.18 GAA, while Minnesota is fifth at 2.22.

Tonight's game is the third ever NHL contest featuring brothers Mikko (Minnesota) and Saku (Montreal) Koivu, but it is their first match-up as captains of their respective teams. Mikko was named team captain for October before the season began, and Saku has served as the Canadiens' captain since 1999. According to TSN research, the Koivu's are the first set of brothers to serve as captains at the same time since Brian and Darryl Sutter. Brian was St. Louis' captain from 1979-1988, while Darryl captained Chicago from 1982-1987. Their last match-up as captain came in the 1986-87 season. Mikko and Saku's parents, Jukka and Tuire, are expected to be in attendance at tonight's game. In their prior two meetings, Mikko has been held without a point, while Saku has two helpers.

         The Koivu File
Mikko                       Saku
25            Age            33
6-2           HT            5-10
200           WT           187
No. 6 (2001) Drafted     No. 21 (1993)
211            GP          735
38           Goals          179
92           Assists        422
130           Points        601


The Koivu's are not the only connections between the Wild and Canadiens. Wild President/GM Doug Risebrough, Head Coach Jacques Lemaire, Assistant Coach Mario Tremblay and Coordinator of Amateur Scouting Guy Lapointe all won Stanley Cup championships with the Habs. Lemaire captured eight, Lapointe won six, Tremblay garnered five and Risebrough earned four...They were all part of four consecutive Cup winners from 1976-79.

The Wild is playing its first set of 16 sets of back-to-back games this season. In 2007-08, Minnesota went 9-5-1 in the first game and 9-4-2 in the second game of back-to-back contests. 

Last night, the Wild allowed a goal just 13 seconds into the game, its fastest goal against in team history. The old record was 16 seconds, set by Andrew Cassels for Columbus on March 15, 2003.

G Niklas Backstrom suffered his first loss of the season last night, making 10 saves on 13 shots in one period of play in Dallas. Backstrom is 6-1-1 with a 2.29 GAA and a .923 Sv. Pct. in 2008-09. His GAA ranks eighth in the NHL. Backstrom is 13-1-5 with a 1.88 GAA and a .934 Sv Pct. in his last 19 decisions, and he is 11-1-1 with a 1.94 and a .933 Sv Pct. in his last 13 decisions. Backstrom has started 101 NHL games – allowing two goals or less 61 times, and three goals or less 88 times. Backstrom is 49-3-5 with four no decisions when yielding two goals or less. Backstrom's loss Wednesday in Dallas was his first regular season regulation loss since March 4, 2008, a 4-2 home loss to Chicago. Ending one season strong and then starting another the same way is nothing new to Backstrom, who went 15-0-2 with a 1.33 GAA and a .947 SV pct. from March 8, 2007-Oct. 21, 2007. Backstrom is 41-0-3 when heading into the third period with the lead. He is 58-16-11 in his last 85 decisions and 49-13-9 in his last 71.

More Backstrom Tidbits: Since the beginning of the 2006-07 season, 21 goaltenders have played at least 100 games. Of those 21, Backstrom is first in win % at .702 (Jean-Sebastien Giguere second at .686), first in SV pct. at .923 (Martin Brodeur .920), tied for first in GAA at 2.18 (Brodeur) and tied for sixth in shutouts with 10.

C Mikko Koivu had three assists Monday versus Chicago, giving him a league-high 12 on the season. He has assisted on 12 of the Wild’s 24 non-shootout goals this season, and also has a goal scored. Monday marked his seventh career game with at least three points, and the Wild has won each game. Minnesota improved to 19-4-3 all-time when Koivu has two or more points.  The Wild's team record for assists is 50, set last season by RW Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Minnesota’s Mikko Koivu leads the league with 12 assists in seven games this season. Koivu had 12 assists through seven games. No NHL player had more assists in his team’s first seven games of a season since Wayne Gretzky had 13 for the Kings’ in 1993-94. Since then, four players besides Koivu had a dozen assists through their team’s first seven games: Adam Oates (1995-96 Bruins), Jaromir Jagr (1998-99 Penguins), Mario Lemieux (2002-03) and Peter Forsberg (2005-06 Flyers).

Minnesota is 3-0-1 in four home games. The team's best home start came in 2006-07, when the Wild won its first seven games at Xcel Energy Center. Montreal (2-0-1) is one of five remaining NHL teams (Washington, San Jose, Chicago, Edmonton) without a regulation loss at home.

Special Teams: Minnesota allowed its first power play goal last night, but is still ranked first in the NHL with a 96.3 percent penalty kill rate. Minnesota is still perfect at home on the PK at 11-for-11. The Wild was the first NHL team to go the first seven games of the season without allowing a power play goal since the 1962-63 Toronto Maple Leafs. Since the beginning of the 2006-07 season, the Wild is 62-17-11 when not allowing a power-play goal. Last season the Wild finished fourth in the NHL in penalty-kill at 85.2%. Minnesota is third in the league on the power-play at 27.8%. Last year Minnesota finished seventh in the NHL on the power-play at 18.9%.

Monday, LW Andrew Brunette has a goal in each of his last two games. Brunette is in sixth place all-time with 30 regular-season goals at Xcel Energy Center. Brunette is the Wild’s third leading scorer with eight points (4-4=8). Brunette also leads the league in shooting percentage at 44.4 percent, scoring his four goals on just 9 shots.

RW Antti Miettinen scored his team-leading sixth goal of the season on Monday. Miettinen had a career-high 15 goals in 69 games for Dallas last season. Miettinen ranks second on the team with 10 points (6-4=10). He tallied a goal in the first three games for the Wild to become the first player in team history to score goals in each of his first three games with the club (Elias Stats Bureau).

D Brent Burns scored his second goal of the season Monday. The Wild is now 12-1-4 over the past season-plus when Burns scores a goal, 18-2-4 since the beginning of the 2006-07 season and 21-3-4 since 2005-06.

Staying Out of the Box: Minnesota is the most disciplined team in the league, averaging just 8.9 PIM per game. No other NHL team is averaging less than 11.2 penalty minutes per game.

Minnesota is 4-0-1 in one-goal games, having played five of its eight games in such a way. Minnesota went 25-11-8 in one-goal games in 2007-08, tying for fourth in the NHL in one goal games.

Draft Picks: Minnesota's roster currently consists of 13 players selected by the team in the NHL Entry Draft: Marian Gaborik (2000, 1st round), Nick Schultz (2000, 2nd round), Erik Reitz (2000, 6th round), Mikko Koivu (2001, 1st round), Stephane Veilleux (2001, 3rd round), Derek Boogaard (2001, 7th round), Pierre-Marc Bouchard (2002, 1st round), Josh Harding (2002, 2nd round), Brent Burns (2003, 1st round), Benoit Pouliot (2005, 1st round), James Sheppard (2006, 1st round), Cal Clutterbuck (2006, 3rd round) and Colton Gillies (2007, 1st round).

The Puck Stops Here: Since Minnesota’s first NHL season in 2000-01, the Wild ranks fourth in the league in GAA (2.46). Only New Jersey (2.30), Detroit (2.37) and Dallas (2.39) have given up fewer goals per game than the Wild in the last seven NHL campaigns. In that same span, Wild goaltenders have the highest SV pct of any NHL team  at .915 (Anaheim second at .912). Also since 2000-01, the Wild is tied for second in home GAA 2.26 (New Jersey 2.23) and second in home SV pct at .916 (Nashville .919).

LIFETIME SERIES
MONTREAL CANADIENS
All-Time Wild Record: 3-2-2 (2-0-1 at Xcel Energy Center, 1-2-1 at Montreal)
Montreal won the last meeting between the two teams 4-2 at Bell Centre (11/22/06)…The Wild defeated the Canadiens 4-3 in OT in the last game played at Xcel Energy Center (12/17/05).
WILD CAREER LEADERS: Owen Nolan leads the Wild in career scoring against Montreal with 37 points (18-19=37) in 43 games…Eric Belanger has recorded seven points (5-2=7) in 10 contests.
WILD GOALIES: Niklas Backstrom made 31 saves in his only career appearance against Montreal (11/22/06)…Josh Harding has not faced the Canadiens.
CANADIENS CAREER LEADERS: Alex Tanguay leads the Canadiens in career scoring against Minnesota with 36 points (12-24=36) in 42 contests…Robert Lang owns 13 points (6-7=13) in 17 games.
CANADIENS GOALIES: Marc Denis is 6-3-1 with a 1.84 GAA, a .931 SV% and three shutouts in 10 career starts against Minnesota.
CONNECTIONS: Mikko Koivu is the younger brother of Montreal captain Saku Koivu…Wild President/GM Doug Risebrough, Head Coach Jacques Lemaire, Assistant Coach Mario Tremblay and Coordinator of Amateur Scouting Guy Lapointe all won Stanley Cup championships with the Habs...Lemaire captured eight, Lapointe won six, Tremblay garnered five and Risebrough earned four...They were all part of four consecutive Cup winners from 1976-79.

12:30 p.m.

I’m back from the Wild’s optional pre-game skate. A half dozen or so guys went on the ice, including Brent Burns, who was by far the most experienced of the players there. That was my second trip to the rink.

I got to our offices a bit before 9 a.m. and copied notes, clips and stats for the morning skate along with our intern Robert. We did more copies than usual because of the extra media that Montreal brings. When I got over there, I quickly discovered the extra wouldn’t even be enough, so Robert made more copies. And then even more once I got over to the media lounge and saw that the first set of notes was gone.

Montreal has about a dozen media, and of course all wanted to talk to Jacques Lemaire, who took his option this morning and did not come to the rink after the plane arrived last night just a bit after 1 a.m. Mikko Koivu did not go on the ice, but was around the rink and spent five minutes with both local and Montreal media. Towards the end of Mikko’s interview time, which we did in Jacques Lemaire’s post-game press conference room, older brother Saku walked by and decided to stand in the scrum. In a break of questions, Saku said something along the lines of “enough already.” Once the scrum broke up, Saku and Mikko spent a few minutes together.

Tonight will be a very busy night, with limited in game comments. Aaron Sickman is not working the game tonight, so I am essentially moving into his role for the evening. We’re lucky to have two of us, plus our VP Bill Robertson, so we usually both end up getting a game or two off a year. But that means it will be like a road game for me, as I’ll go downstairs between periods for interviews. Also, Mikko is doing an interview with RDS around 5 p.m., and Montreal radio wants to interview Pierre-Marc Bouchard for their pre-game show. Also, we’ll have a camera in the locker room at 6:25 p.m. prior to warm-ups. Then all the usual in-game stuff.

That’s about it for now. I’m going to grab some lunch and try to get a start on game notes for Saturday, so Aaron and Robert just have to update things on Friday before sending to Phoenix. We’ll leave at noon tomorrow for Phoenix and skate at Jobing.com Arena as soon as the players and equipment arrive at the arena. More on the trip later today.
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