Minnesota Wild (28-18-5) 61pts 5th in the Central
2.92 Goals For Per Game (15th in the NHL)
2.80 Goals Against Per Game (15th in the NHL)
21% Power Play (9th in the NHL)
81.3% Penalty Kill (16th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #12 Eric Staal ~ 22G 24A = 46pts
2. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 15G 25A = 40pts
3. #16 Jason Zucker ~ 20G 17A = 38pts
4. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 6G 27A = 33pts
5. #24 Mathew Dumba ~ 9G 19A = 28pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 51 PIM’s
2. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 34 PIM’s
3. #24 Matthew Dumba ~ 33 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (20-10-3) 2.63GAA .917%SP 3SO
2. #32 Alex Stalock (8-8-2) 2.66GAA .917%SP 1SO
Dallas Stars (29-19-4) 62pts 4th in the Central
3.00 Goals For Per Game (10th in the NHL)
2.62 Goals Against Per Game (6th in the NHL)
19.6% Power Play (18th in the NHL)
81.7% Penalty Kill (14th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #3 John Klingberg ~ 6G 43A = 49pts
2. #47 Alexander Radulov ~ 20G 28A = 48pts
3. #14 Jamie Benn ~ 20G 27A = 47pts
4. #91 Tyler Seguin ~ 24G 20A = 44pts
5. #13 Mattias Janmark ~ 14G 14A = 28pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #21 Antoine Roussel ~ 89 PIM’s
2. #47 Alexander Radulov ~ 48 PIM’s
3. #14 Jamie Benn ~ 35 PIM’s
1. #30 Ben Bishop (21-14-3) 2.47GAA .917%SP 4SO
2. #32 Kari Lehtonen (8-5-1) 2.31GAA .915%SP
Well last night was certainly a great way to get back into the playoff picture. I mean, if you’re going to do it, you might as well do it against the NHL’s current “golden” child. And it’s even sweeter when you do it on a national stage. When I was writing yesterday’s preview, I hadn’t even thought that the game would be on NBCSN. We’ve had such a long stretch of games on FSN, that it hadn’t even crossed my mind. However, I shouldn’t have been surprised. It’s a home game, against the Knights, just days before the Super Bowl. It made sense, as every major news and sports outlet has descended on the Twin Cities metro area. And did NBC Universal come up big. Not only did we get the usual personalities of Jeremy Roenick and Ray Ferraro (thankfully we were spared the presence of Pierre McGuire), but we got a very special guest broadcaster early in the first period. Many of you don’t know the name of Telemundo’s Andres Cantor, but you know his voice from when he calls soccer games. And he broke out his classic goal call for the opening goal by Eric Staal.
I mean the NHL has some play by play broadcasters both on radio and television, but there’s something special about Cantor that puts the others to shame. And I have to say, I’m glad it was a Wild goal that got the classic call and not the visitor.
So while we’re all still feeling a bit giddy over last night’s win, there’s a new challenge. And it’s truly a challenge. There’s nothing worse to have to contend with when you’re trying to climb in the standings, than to face the Dallas Stars in Dallas. If there’s one thing working in the Wild’s favor, it’s that they’re fully healthy again. We are all well aware that this has been an issue. Zach Parise is definitely looking like the Parise we need to see. I loved watching him lurking right in front of Malcolm Subban last night, staking his claim on the ice right outside the crease where he’s made his living. Even better, he demonstrated his skill at spatial awareness on the Jared Spurgeon goal that Las Vegas challenged for goaltender interference. If you’re going to hang out in front of the goaltender like Parise does, you need to be aware of where you are and where the opposing goaltender are when you have your back to them. Not everyone has that kind of awareness, and you find goals getting waived. And tonight, we’re going to need more of that. Plus, the Wild need to work hard on Kari Lehtonen tonight as Ben Bishop is out of the lineup and they’ve called up Landon Bow from the AHL to back up Lehtonen. I’ll admit I’m worried when we have to face a backup (or worse, the backup to the backup). This team has a way of making backup goaltenders look like the next coming of Martin Brodeur or Patrick Roy.
Not only do we have goaltender woes when facing Dallas, then there’s their x-factor when playing the Minnesota Wild. Not only does he have the most points for the Dallas Star, but defenseman John Klingberg is a Wild killer. Sure, he only has six goals for the Stars, but if there’s a player who can and does score against the Wild, he’d be the guy that I’d look to see increase his goals tonight. But it’s not just Klingberg. Their top point scorers definitely should definitely make you worry. Between Alexander Radulov, Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, Mattias Janmark, and Klingberg, you have a total of 84 goals. The Wild’s top point scorers have only 72 goals between them. The Stars can and do score, so they definitely have that working in their favor. And between their skaters and goaltenders, they’re not letting many goals in. With that in mind, you have to wonder how the heck are the Dallas Stars clinging to just the first wild card spot. Well the answer is this. You have to look at the standings, and I’m not talking about the divisional or wild card standings. You need to look at the Western Conference standings. If you look at the top 8 teams in the Western Conference, only two teams (Las Vegas and San Jose) are from the Pacific Division. The other six teams are from the slug-fest known as the Central Division. And the crazy part, the 8th best team in the Western Conference (Colorado) would be out of the playoffs if they started today, simply because we have to send 3 teams from the Pacific Division, so Anaheim which is in ninth place would be in and Colorado would be out. And that my friends is how the remainder of the season is going to go down. Dallas, Minnesota, Colorado, and possibly Chicago (if they get their butts in gear) will be slugging it out for the seventh and eighth spots in the Western Conference. So with that in mind, Dallas is going to do everything they possibly can to not let Minnesota take the 7th place spot from them tonight.
I don’t have a good feeling about tonight. But then I wasn’t feeling too good about last night. If the Wild can come out with energy and keep it up through 60 minutes like they did against Las Vegas, I like their chances. But I just don’t know if this team can do this on the second half of a back-to-back. I also have concerns that they’re on the road. The Minnesota Wild have a serious case of road woes, and that will be the ultimate test tonight.