Rambling On is your home for Minnesota sports talk for the common fan. Check out our daily content, and join the conversation, on Twitter or Facebook.
Our weekly Minnesota Sports Ramble blogs are released on Wednesday (Minnesota Wild related) and Friday (Minnesota Timberwolves related). The first and third Fridays feature content from our non-active pro sports teams, the Vikings and Twins respectively at the moment.
Koivu out for the year, Spurgeon surges in Dumba's absence, some bad losses, and more in this edition. Wild analyst Peter Ripka, along with new contributor Jeff Hartfiel, answer questions from Rambling On god-king Erik Ritland.
Thanks for your support!
The Wild have returned from the All-Star break with a whimper, to say the least.
Of their three losses - 3-1 to the Stars, 4-3 (OT) to the Blackhawks, and 5-4 (SO) to the Sabres - which was the best effort? Which was the most disappointing?
Peter: Their best effort by far was against the Blackhawks. It was the only game that the team actually played a majority of and were competitive in.
The most disappointing was against the Sabres. They played maybe a total of 20 minutes and the whole team looked off and disinterested.
The Stars game wasn't the most disappointing because they were coming off the bye week and playing a team that had already played and had several practices. Their extra rest evidently didn't help.
Jeff: I was disappointed in all three losses, although the two losses inside the division were especially painful. At least they came back in the Chicago and Buffalo games, but it's so frustrating that they put themselves in that position just about every game. They come out flat or sluggish so often. There isn't any sense of urgency with this team and I don't understand why.
Were you upset that Boudreau chose Rask to go first in the shootout against the Sabres? What three players, and in what order, would have you chosen?
Peter: Upset isn't the right word. I was more confused. He was one for eight in his career and hadn't taken a shot since like 2016. Bruce said he had his reasons but didn't divulge them.
That Koivu was injured probably had something to do with it. I would have started with Zucker, as he has a good bag of tricks and has shown an ability to score in different ways in the shootout. I would have gone with Coyle next, as he has good hands and has had some memorable shootout moves in the past. My anchor would be Parise, as he has continually been among the league's best in the shootout since its inception to the league.
Jeff: Yeah not to sure what Bruce was thinking putting Rask out there in shoot out. Could be tjat he wanted to see what Rask had to offer, or maybe he was punishing other players for lack of effort. I would have gone with Coyle, Spurgeon and Granlund in that order.
How good is Jared Spurgeon right now?
Peter: Spurgeon has always been this good. He is probably the most underrated player on this team and has been for his whole career. He has only proven that more since Dumba's injury. If the nickname wasn't already given to an all-time great I'd call him Mighty Mouse. He plays such a strong physical game and is so solid with his positioning. Many young players could learn a lot by trying to emulate his game.
Jeff: Spurgeon has elevated his game to another level and it is amazing to see. He is pinching up, shooting the puck, and finding the hole onn the defense. It's exactly what the Wild have needed from the blue line since the Dumba injury. Just kind of wish the rest of the team would follow his lead.
How much will Koivu's season-ending injury affect the Wild? How concerning are his recent spate of injuries?
Peter: The "strip Koivu of the C and trade him" people better buckle up, as it is now going to be a rough ride to the end.
Koivu does so many subtle things that the average fan is unaware of. He wins key faceoffs and is typically in a shutdown role, being consistently matched up against the other teams top player/players and keeping them in check successfully. Losing him is a major blow.
I'm not too concerned about his injuries. They are out of shape or body breaking down injuries but the sort of thing that happens to any player at any point of their career. The knee-to-knee hit in Calgary was a dirty, out-of-character play by an opponent. This injury happened because two players were going aggressively towards a loose puck and collided awkwardly.
Jeff: Losing Koivu for the season is a big hit for this team. He is arguably one of the best two-way forwards in this league. He wins face-offs and is the Captain of this team for a reason. It'll hard to replace that.
The string of injuries is kind of concerning. He is getting up there in age so it might take longer for him to recover. It will be interesting to see how Fenton handles Koivu's contract and injury after the season is over, in addition to seeing how Koivu handles it all after the season.
Ek has been called up to fill the void with Koivu out. How much faith do you have in him to produce?
Peter: Hardly any. He is taking the roster spot but not the position. I would expect Coyle to take over Koivus role in the lineup, with him picking up his defensive game and point producing. It makes the trade I was kind of expecting to happen a bit more difficult. Turns out that getting more center depth was a good idea.
Jeff: Ek needs to step up his game and show the Wild that he is ready to stay up here. If he doesn't, he could easily be on the chopping block and on his way out the door.
Outside of goalie, center is obviously one of the most important positions on the ice. You want guys who can help on both ends and win face offs, and that is what Ek needs to be doing. He needs to set the tone for his line and be a leader, plain and simple.
Peter Ripka is the original Rambling On podcast co-host and has been a contributor since its inception. He’s currently the Wild analyst, a position he’s held for several years. A Wild and Twins season ticket holder, his writing combines the passion of a fan and the insight of a beat writer.
Jeff Hartfiel is a Minnesota sports analyst specializing in the Wild and Vikings. He's been a part of Rambling On since 2018.