Wild In Sochi Update: Post Preliminary Play
I will be frank: I am not a morning person.
When I wake up in the morning, I prefer to see the sun already fully shining through my window, greeting me to another new day.
But for the last four days I’ve been up before dawn even blinked an eye open, all in the name of Olympic hockey. It’s certainly been something worth getting up for — especially when it’s all in an effort to keep tabs on our beloved Wild players skating in the tournament. And if you happened to be one of the millions who enjoyed Saturday’s USA-Russia matchup, you know what I’m talking about.
That being said here’s a look at how the Wild players and their respective teams have fared through the preliminary round.
It may be a slight surprise to most fans, but neither Parise nor Suter registered a single point through prelims — in which Team USA netted 15 goals.
But as was discussed during the American’s game against the Slovenians Sunday, Parise himself noted he’s not expected to put up points as he’s playing in more of a checking role — one we’re not used to seeing him in. Parise has been a workhorse, though, and has 51:35 TOI through the three games which is third amongst the forwards.
Meanwhile Suter has been up to his usual antics and leads everyone with 70:22 TOI through group play. Against the Russians, the blueliner led all skaters with almost a half hour on the ice, 29:56. While it’s a mark we’re quite used to seeing him hit, there’s a big difference between registering a half hour of ice time on an NHL-sized rink compared to the bigger international rink. More ice means more skating and more effort. Thirty minutes in the NHL is quite the feat, but on the international ice it borders on herculean.
Team USA grabbed first place in Group A on the heels of two wins and an overtime win through group play. The overtime decision came in an exciting matchup with Russia Saturday that ended in an unforgettable shootout in which T.J. Oshie netted four of six attempts for the 3-2 decision. With eight points and a plus-11 goal differential after preliminary play, the Americans earned a bye to quarterfinals Wednesday and the No. 2 seed.
Mikael Granlund — Finland
Granlund certainly opened the tournament with a bang. In his first Olympic game, the forward netted a pair of goals and tallied an assist. Over his next two games, he didn’t pad those particular stats any further, but he does lead Finland with 14 shots on goal so far and is second on the team in ice time at 55:40 — second only to defenseman Sami Vatanen with 56:29. It should also be noted that Granlund is centering famed Finn Teemu Selanne.
Team Finland dropped only one decision in group play, a 2-1 overtime tilt to Canada. With the loss the Finns took second place in Group B, but they did earn the No. 4 seed and a bye into the quarterfinals Wednesday.
Nino Niederreiter — Switzerland
The Swiss lost just once in group play, scoring two goals while relinquishing just one goal. Their defensive-minded game has spelled their success and even allowed them to hang in with a Sweden team that was expected to dominate Group C play, for just a 1-0 loss.
Niederreiter has made his presence known throughout the three preliminary games. Though he hasn’t registered any points — he did briefly have a goal against Latvia before it was revealed via replay he never got a stick on it — he leads the Swiss with 10 shots on goal. Among the forwards he’s registered the most is time with 51:55.
Nino and the Swiss will be back in action Tuesday in the elimination round against Latvia, who they beat 1-0 in the tournament opener, scoring with just seconds left on the clock. Look for Nino to keep up his game, playing hard as Wild fans have become used to seeing. As per usual with the Wild, Niederreiter has been crashing the net hard through the tournament so far and we can only hope he’ll be rewarded for his efforts.
Honorary State Of Hockey Residents
The Wild players aren’t the only representatives with tied to the State of Hockey, in fact Team USA is full of them.
F David Backes, Minneapolis, Minnesota State Mankato — Backes has two goals, six shots on goal and a plus-2 rating in three games played.
F Phil Kessel, University of Minnesota — Kessel tallied a natural hat trick Sunday against Slovenia. He has four goals and three assists with 15 shots on goal and a plus-5 rating through three games.
F T.J. Oshie, Warroad, Minn. — Oshie has one goal and three assists with four shots on goal and a plus-2 rating through three games. And, of course, he was the shootout hero against Russia.
F Derek Stepan, Hastings, Minn. — Stepan has only appeared in one game for Team USA so far.
F Blake Wheeler , Robbinsdale, Minn. — With time in all three games, Wheeler has one assist and three shots on goal.
D Justin Faulk, South Saint Paul, Minn. — Faulk has yet to play in the tournament.
D Paul Martin, Elk River, Minn., Univeristy of Minnesota — Martin has just one shot on goal and a plus-1 rating through the three games played. He has registered 52:24 TOI, the third most among the defensemen.
D Ryan McDonagh, Saint Paul, Minn. — McDonagh has spent some major minutes alongside Ryan Suter (both of whom played at the University of Wisconsin, though at separate times) in the final two games of group play. Through three games played he has a goal with six shots on goal and a plus-2 rating. He is second to Suter with 61:55 TOI.