By Craig D. Schroepfer (@CDSWCCO), WCCO Radio
The defending Stanley Cup Champion Los Angeles Kings were in St. Paul on Wednesday to play the Minnesota Wild. It was the second meeting of the year between the two clubs. Los Angeles won the previous meeting on Oct. 19 by a score of 2-1.READ MORE: After Fatal Shooting Outside School, District 287 Superintendent Supports Safety Recommendations, Including Metal Detectors
For Minnesota, this game should have been a good indicator of where the Wild were in regards to being a Stanley Cup contender as the Kings, winners of two of the last three cups, are the current measuring stick in the NHL.
Instead, the Wild looked like turkeys on the ice as four first period goals led to an easy 4-0 victory for Los Angeles.
The Kings scored the first goal of the game when Mike Richards deflected a Dwight King shot past goaltender Darcy Kuemper. The next two goals came on odd man rushes where there was little Kuemper could do to stop the puck. The final goal of the game was scored by Justin Williams with just 10 seconds to play in the first period.
That led to the end of Kuemper’s night, giving up four goals on 10 shots.
“It was an off night for myself tonight.” Kuemper said after the game. “I felt good in warm-ups, but it’s one of those nights where things don’t go your way. I was off a little bit tonight, and it cost me.”
There were a couple things about the loss to Los Angeles that were disappointing.
The first of which is that the Kings were just coming off a game against Nashville the previous night and didn’t arrive in St. Paul until 1 a.m. Wednesday. With the Wild having last played on Monday night, they should have been the fresher team on the ice. Instead, it looked like Minnesota was the team who was playing jet lagged.READ MORE: Charges: Jhmahl Shannon Said He Strangled Man After Unwanted Sexual Encounter
The other thing about the loss that stood out to me was how the Kings use their size to control the tempo of the game. Los Angeles is a big physical team that will hit you along the boards and clog up the neutral zone. If you possess the puck against the Kings, you are going to get hit.
What this usually leads to is teams trying to force passes in the neutral zone so they don’t get hit. As a result, Los Angeles forces a lot of turnovers and creates many scoring situations in the offensive zone, which leads to goals.
“We gave up 15 odd man rushes in the first period,” Zach Parise said afterwards. “The Kings capitalized on them, and the game got away from us after that.”
Minnesota does not have the size to compete with a physical team like Los Angeles. When you are at a size disadvantage the best way to compete against a physical team like that is to out skate them and force them to take penalties.
Now every NHL team is going to have a bad game. It’s an 82-game season, and there are some nights where it just isn’t going to be your night. This loss to the Kings shouldn’t be an indicator for how the rest of the season will play out for Minnesota.
However, when you are trying to build yourself up as a Stanley Cup contender you want to show that you belong on the same ice as the elite teams in the NHL. The Wild failed to do that Wednesday night.
Minnesota’s next game is in Dallas on Friday, and then the Wild plays another big, physical team in St. Louis on Saturday night.MORE NEWS: Most Adults Go Back To Read Books They Loved As Children
We’ll see if the Wild learned any lessons from playing the defending Stanley Cup champions. In the meantime, Minnesota should be thankful they don’t have to see the Los Angeles Kings again until March.