The exhibition portion of training camp is finally complete after Saturday’s 5-1 victory over the Winnipeg Jets.
With both teams playing pretty much their full lineups, the Wild outshot Winnipeg 34-18, scored four third-period goals and went toe to toe with the big, physical division rival.
The Jets return to Minnesota this upcoming Saturday for the Wild’s home opener. The season begins Thursday in St. Louis.
Bruce Boudreau talked this morning about wanting to be a team that wears down opponents so it can pull away in the third, and as Devan Dubnyk said afterward, “that was a perfect example of it.”
“We played solid,” Dubnyk said. “Our power play was fantastic. We talked between periods about just trying to generate more 5-on-5 and I’ve seen us do it time and time again where we just overwhelm teams, and to do that in the third period, teams don’t want to play if you start pounding on them like we did in the end.”
Some interesting occurrences during the game that’ll make Boudreau and management think.
First of all, Matt Dumba didn’t play so the coaches and brass could get a final look at young Mike Reilly and Christian Folin.
Reilly was responsible for the Jets’ first-period tying goal by making a mistake on a faceoff play that was very similar to the mistake by the Wild in Colorado off a faceoff, but Reilly played a strong final two periods and scored a power-play goal.
I liked Folin’s game a lot with Marco Scandella, and so did Boudreau after Folin started to play more physically.
So, do the Wild keep eight defensemen? Remember, Folin requires waivers to get to Iowa, Reilly does not. Folin’s on a one-way contract, Reilly’s on a two-way. If one of these two are going to be scratched, would it smarter to start one in Iowa?
Boudreau basically said, “Would have to see. You don’t like young players sitting because they need to develop. But at the same time, if they’re good enough to play, they’re good enough to play.”
Reilly said he has had good conversations all camp with assistant coach Scott Stevens and feels like he’s learning.
“I think it’s good that I’m not comfortable and always pushing to get better, and I hope I can make this team,” Reilly said.
If you’ve read my stuff all week, you’ve read some brutally honest quotes from Boudreau about his concerns with the fourth line and lack of depth if there are injuries.
I do hear that GM Chuck Fletcher has been trying to make a trade before Tuesday’s 4 p.m. opening night lineup deadline or may consider signing a free agent to strengthen depth. I have got to think something happens at some point here these next few weeks if he can’t get it done by Tuesday.
Tyler Graovac and Kurtis Gabriel didn’t have good camps and they want Alex Tuch playing, but a couple injuries in Minnesota, and the depth will be severely strained.
But Christoph Bertschy may have relieved a little concern tonight by playing a quality game and scoring a nice goal after a beautiful goal set up by Jason Zucker. The fourth line was scored on in the first period, but as Boudreau said, the mistake there was by Reilly, not Zucker, Bertschy or Joel Eriksson Ek.
“I thought they were good,” Boudreau said of the line. “They had good energy and I think the fourth line needs to give you good energy. Anytime they can score or come out even is what you want them to do.”
Bertschy said of the goal and the crowd reaction, “I could get used to it, to be honest.”
The 2012 sixth-round pick from Switzerland is 22 and played three games last year to get his feet wet. On his camp, Bertschy said, “I think I gave everything I had. It’s up to them to decide. I didn’t expect to be here this late. Pretty happy to still be here and try to stay up.”
Zach Parise also scored a power-play goal, Charlie Coyle capped his great camp with a goal off a tremendous tic tac toe set up by Eric Staal and Marco Scandella scored as well with a cannon. Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin also had two assists each.
Boudreau was impressed with the way the Wild competed and how guys like Jason Pominville were blocking shots in a 5-1 game late. The Wild held Winnipeg to no shots in the first 11:41 of the game and none in the last 10 or 15 minutes (It’s the preseason; I’d look it up if it were the regular season, ha).
On the physicality, Boudreau said, “We’re never going to be the 40-hit-a-game team, but you have to get involved and you can’t swing away. And when you do that, you usually stop the other team from getting opportunities. I thought we did it better than we have before, but again, it was the first time our team was in the lineup and we’ll get better as we go along.”
On Dubnyk, Boudreau said, “I thought he made big saves when he needed to. Look at the first shift of the game, that’s a great save on the breakaway. Enstrom had two good shots at the point that he didn’t see until the last second and he made good saves. That’s the goaltending you need starting next week.”
That’s it for me.
Practice is at 11 Sunday. Talk to you after. Pay attention to Twitter in case there are roster moves.