Minnesota Wild (17-12-3) 37pts 5th in the Central
2.84 Goals For Per Game (19th in the NHL)
2.81 Goals Against Per Game (11th in the NHL)
20.6% Power Play (8th in the NHL)
83.7% Penalty Kill (3rd in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #12 Eric Staal ~ 12G 16A = 28pts
2. #16 Jason Zucker ~ 14G 11A = 25pts
3. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 7G 14A = 21pts
4. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 4G 14A = 18pts
5. #24 Mathew Dumba ~ 5G 11A = 16pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 22 PIM’s
2. #12 Eric Staal ~ 22 PIM’s
3. #10 Chris Stewart ~ 20 PIM’s
1. #32 Alex Stalock (5-4-0-1) 2.66GAA .914%SP 1SO
2. #31 Steve Michalek N/A
Chicago Blackhawks (16-11-5) 37pts 4th in the Central
3.06 Goals For Per Game (11th in the NHL)
2.63 Goals Against Per Game (6th in the NHL)
14.8% Power Play (29th in the NHL)
83.1% Penalty Kill (6th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #88 Patrick Kane ~ 12G 20A = 32pts
2. #12 Alex DeBrincat ~ 12G 11A = 23pts
3. #19 Jonathan Toews ~ 9G 13A = 22pts
4. #8 Nick Schmaltz ~ 6G 13A = 19pts
5. #15 Artem Anisimov ~ 13G 4A = 17pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #14 Richard Panik ~ 24 PIM’s
2. #19 Jonathan Toews ~ 24 PIM’s
3. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 24 PIM’s
1. #50 Corey Crawford (15-7-0-2) 2.15GAA .934%SP 2SO
2. #31 Anton Forsberg (1-4-0-3) 3.32GAA .905%SP
The Athletic‘s Craig Custance interviewed former Minnesota Wild Assistant manager Tom Lynn. Lynn, currently a player agent talks rather candidly about things he learned by being a part of the early expansion days of the Minnesota Wild. The interview lasts about an hour and while a lot of it is various musings and lesson’s learned it has some funny and arguably disturbing stories. (spoiler alert) His point about the NHL teams working with an apartment company in the city of their American Hockey League affiliate to offer very affordable housing for the players and then talking with that company’s staff to learn more about their young players (going as far to say to find out which players are doing drugs, who are responsible, who likes to party, etc). As a high school coach I try to tell my players that coaches, school officials and the community is watching them more closely than they think.
You can bet if the Wild did that back then, they are are probably doing some of those the same things now. Heck, according to Lynn, current Las Vegas Assistant General Manager Kelly McCrimmon admitted he used his book Starting From Scratch: How to Bake an NHL Franchise as a guide for what they’ve done with the Golden Knights. But it certainly gives you some food for thought as teams have different methods to do their due diligence with their young prospects.
The Minnesota Wild are coming off a disappointing 3-2 loss to the Edmonton Oilers yesterday at the friendly confines of the Xcel Energy Center. The Wild got caught pinching a few times and it resulted in easy goals the other way. No doubt they will have to be careful making that same mistake against another fast and skilled team like the Chicago Blackhawks this evening. Chicago has had a few days off after demolishing the Winnipeg Jets on their home ice 5-1.
Corey Crawford has returned from injury and the team is in good shape to go on bit of a run. Crawford has been nothing short of stellar for the Blackhawks this season with a goals against average of just 2.15 he doesn’t give opponents much to work with and after Friday’s result seems to have returned in top notch shape. The Wild must get traffic to take away Crawford’s vision and bodies to the crease to pounce on any rebounds he may give up.
Offensively the Blackhawks are starting to see signs that Patrick Kane, Nick Schmaltz and Artem Anisimov line might take off. That’s good news for Chicago who has had middling results from some of its other big guns like Jonathan Toews and Brandon Saad who are both off to relatively slow starts. Alex DeBrincat has provided the Blackhawks with a much-needed boost scoring-wise and while Chicago’s power play hasn’t had a lot of success the Wild would be wise to stay out of the box against this club.
Defensively the Blackhawks have steadily shed some of its talent and even though Brent Seabrook and Norris Trophy winner Duncan Keith are still patrolling the blueline for Chicago they have a lot of young and relatively inexperienced players on the back end. Jan Rutta and Gustav Forsling are the young guns playing prime roles for Chicago and the Wild would be wise to force the issue against these players as much as possible.
Alex Stalock is expected to start, even though he got ran over by Connor McDavid last night and at one point appeared to have perhaps tweaked his groin stretching to make a save. If he’s unable to go, then expect Steve Michalek to make his NHL debut. The Harvard grad has been fairly solid for Iowa, and the Wild have hesitated to state whether he’d get a start on this 4-game road trip while Devan Dubnyk is still week-to-week with a lower body injury.
Luckily for the Wild, Jared Spurgeon will likely be back for tonight’s game. Spurgeon’s return prompted the club to send Ryan Murphy back down to Iowa. Mathew Dumba had two goals in the Wild’s loss yesterday, but he was also largely responsible for two of the goals against as his penchant for pinching resulted in two odd-man chances the other way. While I think the Wild enjoy getting offense from the blueliners, they don’t want to see too many careless risks and both of Dumba’s goals didn’t result from him pinching but rather being an open outlet on the point where he let loose his one-timer. Hopefully they can clean that up for tonight’s game.
Offensively the Wild did not have their best effort up front. Beyond Mikael Granlund and Tyler Ennis the rest of the Wild’s forwards were mostly invisible and uninvolved. Jason Zucker was struck in the knee cap by a rare slap shot by Ryan Suter from the point and he seemed to be unable to really turn on the speed as he normally likes to do. Mikko Koivu isn’t just snakebit offensively, but I think if you took him to a bowling ally with the bumpers down he’d still find a way to roll a gutter ball. Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter need to simplify their game and use their size, speed and strength to draw penalties and take advantage of Chicago’s less experienced defensemen.
(rant warning) Maybe its just me, but I am really wondering what Marcus Foligno brings to the Wild. He throws his body around somewhat, but beyond that we are not seeing the points or the rugged style of play that drives opposing clubs crazy in a long while. Foligno was really kind of supposed to be our version of Cody McLeod, that annoying big bodied player who throws his body around and then can provide toughness when needed who has good enough hands to chip in on occasion. We aren’t seeing much of anything from him these days, other than noticing he’s a step too slow to do his job. He needs to find a way to be a factor or he’s a waste of a roster spot. (rant over)
So what are the keys to a Wild victory this evening?
- Shut Down Kane ~ Its of course easier said than done, but shutting down Patrick Kane should be the Wild’s top defensive priority. Taking away Kane really limits the Blackhawks offensively and even though they have some reasonable scoring depth, he is still their most gifted scorer and playmaker.
- Keep it simple and play fast ~ The Blackhawks are a fairly fast team, but they thrive with time and space and play a strong possession game. The Wild need to avoid trying to be too fancy with the puck and take what Chicago gives them and play fast, forcing Chicago to take penalties.
- Make the power play count ~ Chicago does have a pretty good penalty kill, but the Wild must simplify their power play and not spend so much time trying to set up the perfect shot. A shot taken quickly will help create secondary chances off rebounds and who knows you might get lucky with some kind of ugly multiple deflection goals that we so often seem to be victimized by. Yet you have to pull the trigger to make that happen.
So what do you think is the most important thing for the Wild to do in order to secure a victory tonight? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below or on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist! We hope to hear from you!