Minnesota Wild: Clear the Puck!

Kyle Brodziak and Jared Spurgeon Failed to do that in Game 1

Kyle Brodziak

(Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE)

When you outplay your opponent, you should win the game. For the Minnesota Wild in Game 1 at the Pepsi Center in Denver last night, a couple of untimely errors by Kyle Brodziak and Jared Spurgeon proved to the Minnesota Wild that you can outplay your opponent for 57 minutes and five minutes of overtime but still lose a game in brutal and heartbreaking fashion.

For Wild fans they went to sleep with heavy hearts and shaking their heads in disbelief at what they had witnessed. Minnesota sports fans have witnessed many debacles and collapses with their sports teams over the years and last night’s train wreck in the waning seconds of game one ranks as one of the worst chokes in Minnesota Wild history.

The Wild scored four goals which is much higher than the season average, so losing a game where they scored more than two goals is particularly troubling. Last night’s loss (Handed a win to Colorado on a silver platter) came down to not executing basic plays.

The loss came down to the inability of Minnesota players to clear the puck. In two instances last night (the third and equalizing goals by Colorado) in the third period, the Wild had easy clearing chances but the players elected to emulate Wayne Gretzky. Fancy doesn’t cut it in the playoffs and the Wild were burned by boneheaded clearing attempts (or lack thereof).

Kyle Brodziak’s Failure to Clear the Puck Leads to third Avalanche Goal

Coaches drill the importance of clearing the little black disc out of your end of the ice at every chance their players get. It’s especially important in the playoffs and failing to clear the puck can lead to disaster.

With less than 13 minutes to play in the third period, the Wild were killing a penalty and everything looked good. They were up 4-2 on the Colorado Avalanche and were dominating the game. Then came an unthinkable error by Kyle Brodziak who failed to clear the puck thatchanged the complexion of the game.

Brodziak was in his end of the ice, along the boards and all he had to do was dump the puck down the ice. Instead he decided to attempt a low percentage pass across the ice and passed it on to the stick of Ryan O’reilley who then feathered a pass to Jamie McGinn in front of the Wild net who scored an easy goal.

Brodziak must have had an out of body experience because that was a brutal an inexplicable error on his part. The ill-advised passing attempt was amateurish. It was ridiculous and not what you would expect from a player in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Brodziak would never recover after that and played terrible hockey for the remainder of the game.

If that error wasn’t enough for Wild fans, Jared Spurgeon would give Wild fans a fit.

Jared Spurgeon and His Epic Failure to Clear the Puck

You’ve just witnessed one of your teammates make a brutal and costly mistake by not clearing the puck. What would you do when you had the chance to clear the puck? Yes, you would clear the puck and not take any chances.

What did Jared Spurgeon do? With the Blues pulling their goalie for an extra skater (with three minutes to play) Jared Spurgeon had the puck just inside his blue line. The Blues had been pressuring Minnesota and you could tell they were eager to pounce on any error that a Wild player would make.

Instead of doing the logical and expected thing (clearing the puck), Spurgeon tried to go fishing. He passed it to a teammate who was attempting to go up ice but was still inside Minnesota’s blue line. That errant pass found its way onto a St. Louis player’s stick (there was only about 20 seconds left). The Blues would score with 13 seconds left to send the game into overtime.

The Blues won in overtime, despite Minnesota dominating the play. The winning goal occurred after the Wild tried another fancy pass inside Colorado’s blue line that was intercepted by an Avalanche player. The Wild were so tired and couldn’t do anything to defend the Blues who played keep way in the Wild’s zone until they scored the winner.

Game one was a great opportunity for the Wild to make some noise in this series. They outplayed their opponent for the majority of the game but when you make mistakes, costly ones, a good offense will bury you. That’s just what the opportunistic Colorado Avalanche offense did.

It will be hard for the Wild to recover from this loss. I don’t think the Wild will. I now see the Avalanche winning in 5.

Anthony Bloch
Anthony Bloch (AKA Sportmentary) - is the Founder and Editor in Chief of Sportmentary Online Sports Talk. In addition to running his blog, Anthony writes a weekly column for Last Word on Sports and writes about the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.
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