Minnesota Wild (10-8-3) 23pts 6th in the Central
3.05 Goals For Per Game (12th in the NHL)
2.76 Goals Against Per Game (9th in the NHL)
22.1% Power Play (9th in the NHL)
84.9% Penalty Kill (3rd in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #12 Eric Staal ~ 7G 12A = 19pts
2. #16 Jason Zucker ~ 11G 6A = 17pts
3. #46 Jared Spurgeon ~ 3G 12A = 15pts
4. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 5G 9A = 14pts
5. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 4G 10A = 14pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 16 PIM’s
2. #22 Nino Niederreiter ~ 14 PIM’s
3. #12 Eric Staal ~ 12 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (9-6-0-2) 2.66GAA .915%SP 3SO
2. #32 Alex Stalock (1-2-0-1) 2.56GAA .927%SP
Colorado Avalanche (11-8-1) 23pts 5th in the Central
3.40 Goals For Per Game (6th in the NHL)
3.25 Goals Against Per Game (25th in the NHL)
18.8% Power Play (19th in the NHL)
76.9% Penalty Kill (25th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #29 Nathan MacKinnon ~ 7G 18A = 25pts
2. #98 Mikko Rantanen ~ 6G 13A = 19pts
3. #92 Gabriel Landeskog ~ 9G 7A = 16pts
4. #4 Tyson Barrie ~ 2G 14A = 16pts
5. #13 Alexander Kerfoot ~ 7G 8A = 15pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #16 Nikita Zadorov ~ 28 PIM’s
2. #13 Alexander Kerfoot~ 14 PIM’s
3. #6 Erik Johnson ~ 14 PIM’s
1. #1 Semyon Varlamov (7-4-0-1) 3.23GAA .903%SP 1SO
2. #45 Jonathan Bernier (4-4-0-0) 3.14GAA .899%SP 1SO
Happy Thanksgiving everyone! We hope your holiday has been a good one thus far and if you were brave enough to go out and battle it out with the Black Friday crowd at local stores, then we hope you didn’t catch too many elbows as you scrambled for deals.
The Colorado Avalanche were a real sad bunch last season; finishing rock-bottom of the league standings which didn’t even score them the 1st Overall pick in last year’s draft. The Avalanche made few moves of major significance in the summer and returned the same head coach whose club appeared to be somewhere between disconnected and who cares. So why would anyone expect different results?
Well, the Avalanche had stockpiled a lot of still fairly young talent up front so even if 2-3 started to play to their potential you had opportunity for a bit of a turnaround. Toss in a healthy Semyon Varlamov and the Avalanche are at least competitive most nights. With the 6th lowest payroll in the NHL, the Avalanche avoided the temptation to sign some high cost free agents for a quick fix and instead looking within their prospect pool for improvement. Players like Alex Kerfoot (23 years old) the recently acquired Samuel Girard (19 years old) are playing big roles for the Avalanche and so far its working pretty well.
Blake Comeau, who has usually been a thorn in the side of the Wild over the years is the oldest player on the team at the age of 31. The rest of the core is mostly under the age of 26; Nathan MacKinnon (22), team captain and cheap shot artist Gabriel Landeskog (25), Mikko Rantanen (21). Former 1st Overall pick Erik Johnson (also a dirty player) is the old man on the Avalanche blueline at 29. So we get it, they’re a young team but what does that mean for today’s game?
The Avalanche are a team that seems to play with a chip on its shoulder whenever it plays against the Wild. While Cody McLeod is no longer with the club, the team has taken its share of liberties with the Wild in the past. Landeskog and Johnson alone always seem to constantly attempt various cheap shots after the whistle; from as simple as crosschecking to sucker punches. At times the Wild have gotten too caught up in all of the after-whistle shenanigans to the detriment of just playing hockey and beating a team they should beat.
The Avalanche’s defense is still its biggest weakness. Slow starts have been part of the Wild’s issues lately, and with a day off the team should be refreshed enough to go on the attack right away. This should help put Colorado on its heels as well as drawing penalties where the Avalanche penalty kill is one of the worst in the league. The Wild has to hustle and get moving in order to draw those calls.
Offensively the Wild is enjoying a shoot-first version of Mikael Granlund and some timely net crashing by Nino Niederrreiter who is currently on a 5-game goal scoring streak. Yet the team needs more players to get involved offensively. Tyler Ennis scored his first goal on Wednesday night and if he could heat up that will help balance the scoring to make Minnesota tough to match up against. Eric Staal has been decent as a set up man this season, but along with Mikko Koivu it’d be nice to see them both light the lamp.
Defensively the Wild is not happy with its 3rd pairing and rightfully so as Mike Reilly, Gustav Olofsson and Kyle Quincey have had their share of struggles. Quincey’s lack of footspeed has been noticeable, while Reilly and Olofsson’s lack of strength and gaffes with the puck have resulted in some costly goals. I have little doubt the Avalanche will want to really test that 3rd pairing whenever they can. It will also mean the Wild will likely be giving big minutes to its top 4 of Ryan Suter, Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin and Mathew Dumba which isn’t the worst thing in the world. There were rumors that the Wild might try to snag Nate Prosser off waivers from the Blues; but St. Louis decided to hold onto the Elk River-native a little longer despite only having played him one game this season so far. So ‘Prosser-watch’ can wait a little while, for now.
Devan Dubnyk was a little suspect in Wednesday’s game against Buffalo where he let in a few soft goals, but hopefully the day off will refocus him. It would not surprise me if the Wild decided to give Alex Stalock the start and let Dubnyk handle tomorrow’s game against St. Louis. Stalock may drive some Wild fans crazy with his more unorthodox style, but he’s been a very capable backup option so far. So what must the Wild do to be successful on this Black Friday afternoon game?
- Shut Out the Shenanigans – The Wild would be well-served to stick to hockey and avoid the foolish after whistle garbage the Avalanche will try to instigate. Between Chris Stewart and Marcus Foligno, there should be a decent presence of deterrence but Minnesota would be wise to go out and beat the Avalanche where it counts on the scoreboard than worrying about beating them up on the ice.
- Take the puck to the net and take care of business – It doesn’t matter who the Avalanche start between the pipes this evening, neither goaltender is a wall. The Wild need to crash the crease and get out to an early lead. Don’t settle for perimeter shots and let Colorado hang around and believe they have a chance to win this game. It would be refreshing to have the team play like a confident, talented group instead of having to rally in the last 6-7 minutes of the game with another self-imposed nailbiter.
- Hustle and Put Colorado on the Penalty Kill – This sort of goes along with the previous point, but Colorado’s penalty kill is lousy and the Wild’s power play has been pretty effective as of late. The Wild might as well get all the can out of the power play if its working as well as it has been, but they will have to compete and win races to the loose pucks to draw those penalties.
What do you think will be important in order for the Wild to earn a victory today? Share us your thoughts on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist or in the comment section below!