Like the stick to Jared Spurgeon’s face during the Wild’s 6-3 win over Detroit on Sunday, Red Wings forward Gustav Nyquist is about to get slapped across his by the National Hockey League.
The NHL’s Department of Player Safety acted quickly Sunday night by offering Nyquist an in-person hearing for one of the dirtiest plays in the NHL this season. Nyquist retaliated to a cross-check by high-sticking the Wild defenseman square in the face. The in-person hearing allows the league to suspend Nyquist more than five games if it so chooses.
Here’s the difference between Duncan Keith’s swinging slash to Charlie Coyle’s face last April that opened Coyle up pretty like a can of tomato paste. Keith, although a very bad, intentional decision, was swinging wildly from the flat of his back.
Sunday, when Nyquist high-sticked Spurgeon in the first period, it was a controlled hockey play, it was with Nyquist looking Spurgeon directly in the face, it was with him turning the tip of his blade upward and it was a spear to Spurgeon’s face.
As Bruce Boudreau said after the game, a couple inches higher, and Nyquist could have speared Spurgeon’s eye out.
Keith got five regular-season games and a playoff game. Now, he was a repeat offender, but to me, this was worse because of all the things I mentioned two graphs above. So we’ll see how heftily he gets dinged by the NHL.
Nyquist said afterward the incident was completely accidental and his stick got caught. Replays show otherwise, and I think this was just the case of a guy who was hit hard into the boards, got up and lost his cool.
Regardless, luckily for Spurgeon, the stick hit him a little lower than the left cheek. He took three or four very quick stitches from the Wild docs and eventually made it back to the ice by the end of the first period.
Nyquist got assessed a double minor, which became a two-minute power play because Chris Stewart was taken to the box for roughing in retaliation. It’s amazing this wasn’t a major and game misconduct. Boudreau said referee Brad Watson told him he didn’t think it was that bad. In response, Boudreau told him to go watch a replay.
The Wild, which owns the league's best home power play, scored three times in the game.
The Wild, which already scored a power-play goal by Mikael Granlund, made it 2-0 on this latest power play with Nino Niederreiter’s team-leading 19th. Mikko Koivu, four points shy of 600, assisted on both goals.
On the Granlund goal, rookie Gustav Olofsson got the first of two assists – his first two NHL points.
On the Niederreiter goal, ……….. Nate Prosser got an assist, his first power-play assist since the 2013-14 season and the first of his career. Players joked in the locker room that the power-play solution – the Wild scored three tonight – has been right in front of them this whole time. On the bench, guys kept telling Boudreau to put “Pross” on the power play afterward. Prosser, during the line celebration at the bench, jokingly told teammates it’s an easy game when you get power-play time.
Why was Prosser out there?
Matt Dumba missed the game with a lower-body injury. He’s day-to-day, probably stemming from the Ondrej Palat check the other night against Tampa Bay. Well, Spurgeon took Dumba’s spot on the first power play and Olofsson Spurgeon’s spot on the second.
But when Spurgeon left the game, Olofsson took Spurgeon’s spot on the first power play and Prosser Olofsson’s spot on the second power play.
Speaking of line juggling, Boudreau didn’t like Eric Staal and Coyle together in the first period and specifically didn’t like Coyle not playing with speed. So to start the second period, Coyle moved from right wing to center on the top line with Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, who was bumped up from the third line.
Staal moved to the third line and center Erik Haula moved to left wing and Niederreiter from left wing to right. We’ll see if Boudreau goes with that Tuesday against Anaheim, but he certainly sounded like a man who much prefers Coyle moving his legs and playing with the puck at center.
Coyle responded with a goal and assist – a beautiful goal at that.
I wrote about it today in my Sunday column, but it’s starting to look like maybe the Wild looks like to acquire a right wing before March 1 if Boudreau likes Coyle at center. Staal has to get his game going. He struggled again today. He now has a goal and four assists (did have an assist today) in his past 14 games and is minus-7 in that stretch.
Sloppy game. The Wild saw three two-goal leads become one, two of them instantly.
But Parise, one game after exuding incredible effort against the Lightning only not to be rewarded, scored twice. Coyle had a goal and assist. Pominville (17 points in his past 12 games) and Gustav Olofsson each had two assists (Olofsson’s the first two points of his career).
The Wild has points in 29 of the past 33 games (26-4-3). The Wild has scored five-plus goals in 12 of the past 28 games and at least four 24 times this season.
The Wild’s 37 wins? One less than it had in 82 games last season. The Wild’s 80 points? Seven less than last year.
The Wild’s 15-5-1 against the East after being 13-16-3 against the conference last year. The Wild’s 11-1 against the Atlantic.
The Wild’s tied for third in the NHL with 187 goals and tied for third (first in the West) with 3.4 goals per game.
The Wild had three power-play goals for the second time this season. The first was that post-Thanksgiving game against Pittsburgh when Boudreau first put together the Jason Zucker-Koivu-Granlund line. Granlund has points in 14 of the past 16 games, by the way. Zucker drew three power plays tonight, although one was a horrible call.
The Wild’s .301 home power-play percentage leads the NHL.
Devan Dubnyk wasn’t at his sharpest today, but a couple fluky goals and he won his league-best 31st game with 30 saves.
Dubnyk: “It’s a situation that we’re happy to be in going into the third period is up by one. I get one off the back boards that I could probably do a better job myself on keeping that out, but sometimes I’ve got to let them know they’re going to need six tonight (laughs).”
Dubnyk on it being nice to know Wild can score so much: “We’re still one ahead. That’s the good thing playing behind these guys is regardless of what happens – weird bounces or you think you should have had one – you withstand it and make sure you’re making the next saves that you’re supposed to be and we’re going to keep at it and we’ve shown that time and again. It makes it a lot of fun for me to play.”
On Spurgeon incident: “I just don’t understand how that’s not a five-minute penalty. Obviously he’s not a player that is going to, I want to say do it on purpose except anybody watching the game, … it’s a five-minute penalty regardless. There’s four guys out there that didn’t see it. But it’s good on us to go get one and make sure that we didn’t let it bother us. but it’s a dangerous play. Again, it’s not a guy that’s trying to do it, but it’s a retaliatory thing and it should be a five-minute penalty.”
Coyle: “I don’t think we played to our capability. A few goals that we’ve got to look at and correct and fix at practice tomorrow. But it didn’t feel like a 6-3 game. We pulled it out. That’s all that matters.
Olofsson on being on the power play: “It was a good start to kind of ease the nerves. It’s an honor to be out there, so just try to make simple plays and get it to the hands of the other people.”
Olofsson on how tough the Red Wings played: “They were just roaming around the zone. The dmen were active. It was hard to contain at times. …They were circling around a lot, which made it tough. … there was some confusion there.”
On two assists: “I think those were some of the easiest points I’ve ever gotten playing hockey.”
He’s selling himself short. Before the Granlund goal, he made two great plays on that shift.
Parise on the game: “It wasn’t easy. I thought, especially in the first period, they had a lot of zone time. I know they didn’t have a lot of shots, but it felt like they controlled a lot of the 5-on-5 play. It wasn’t easy, it was a tough game, they do a good job in the d-zone, they’re in your face a lot and they make it pretty tough. But we got the power-play goals and that was the difference.”
Nice to get rewarded after not getting rewarded on Friday: “It’s always nice when you feel like you’re doing the right things to get rewarded. It’s funny, even in games where you feel like you don’t play as well, you get a couple and in games you play great, you don’t get anything. That’s the way it goes.”
Line shuffling: “It was [difficult], but at least we had a little bit of familiarity with each other, playing together the other night. But again, it was just one of those games where it was hard to generate stuff in the offensive zone. We turned the puck over a lot at the blue line and didn’t give ourselves a chance but just not a lot was flowing and they decided to make the change.”
Prosser: “Last two games were hard because Tampa and Detroit are fast, skilled teams that are hard to defend. It’s hard to keep your tight gaps because they’re coming with speed.”
Boudreau on Parise getting rewarded: “That’s how the game works. Sometimes you play so great and nothing happens, then the next day, you’re not doing a lot and you’re opportunistic and you get two easy plays and that sort of makes up for the previous game.”
Boudreau on the line changes: “It was designed to get Coyle going. I thought he was, in the first period ... well, both of them (Coyle and Staal), weren’t playing as good as they’ve been. Charlie wasn’t skating and sometimes on the boards, when he’s playing wing, you don’t skate as much as you do at center. I thought he needed to get his legs moving and putting him at center, I thought he did quite well.”
Boudreau on Zucker: “Zuck has been playing good all year. I don't think points are defining him. That line has been as good as any line. But he can skate so sometimes you have to drag him down even though one of the penalties he just went for the puck and didnt' get touched.
Boudreau on Dumba: “I haven't talked to the trainers yet. He said he's hoping to skate in the next day or two.”
Boudreau on the D after Spurgeon went down: “There wasn't much time left in the period so I wasn't worried about having enough guys to play. I would've thought hard what we were doing on power plays and situations during the intermission but Spurge came right back. As soon as I heard he was just getting stitched up it made me feel a lot better because two inches closer and the guy could've speared his eye out.”
Boudreau on the confidence: “Well winning breeds that. If you're losing you're in the same situation you're usually so worried like, 'Here we go again. They're going to tie it up.' When you're winning you're sitting there saying, 'OK we're going to find a way to keep this going. We weren't very good for the most part tonight. That was the mental toughness that we have to have if we want to be successful.”
Koivu: “There were moments that we have to play better and I think we recognize that. At the same time every win is tough to get in this league so we're happy with that. We will get a good practice tomorrow to get back at it and get some details in our game and prepare for a tough game on Tuesday.”
Spurgeon on Nyquist: “I haven't really seen a replay or anything. I'm sure something will happen and the league will do something. I'm just happy it didn't go in my eye or something like that.”
That’s it for now. I’ll talk to you after Monday’s practice. Next Russo-Souhan Show at Hell’s Kitchen is Wednesday at 6 p.m.