Minnesota Wild (34-20-7) 75pts 3rd in the Central
2.98 Goals For Per Game (12th in the NHL)
2.79 Goals Against Per Game (14th in the NHL)
21.1% Power Play (10th in the NHL)
80.8% Penalty Kill (15th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #12 Eric Staal ~ 29G 29A = 58pts
2. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 17G 32A = 49pts
3. #16 Jason Zucker ~ 25G 19A = 44pts
4. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 6G 33A = 39pts
5. #24 Matt Dumba ~ 10G 24A = 34pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 62 PIM’s
2. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 38 PIM’s
3. #24 Matt Dumba ~ 37 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (25-11-5) 2.57GAA .919%SP 4SO
2. #32 Alex Stalock (9-9-2) 2.73GAA .916%SP 1SO
San Jose Sharks (33-21-8) 74pts 2nd in the Pacific
2.84 Goals For Per Game (17th in the NHL)
2.74 Goals Against Per Game (10th in the NHL)
21.8% Power Play (5th in the NHL)
84% Penalty Kill (1st in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #88 Brent Burns ~ 10G 41A = 51pts
2. #39 Logan Couture ~ 25G 22A = 47pts
3. #8 Joe Pavelski ~ 15G 31A = 46pts
4. #48 Tomas Hertl ~ 15G 18A = 33pts
5. #62 Kevin Lebanc ~ 7G 25A = 32pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #4 Brendan Dillon ~ 53 PIM’s
2. #28 Timo Meier ~ 41 PIM’s
3. #88 Brent Bruns ~ 38 PIM’s
1. #31 Martin Jones (19-16-5) 2.52GAA .916%SP 3SO
2. #30 Aaron Dell (14-5-3) 2.71GAA .912%SP 2SO
San Jose Sharks
I’m usually not a big fan of action movies. However, those based more on actual history like Kingdom of Heaven and Gladiator I quite enjoy. Although, I can’t say I really enjoy 300 or Troy. For 300 there was too much CGI involved and for Troy it was the cast. The acting felt a bit too stilted for me. I don’t have the same issues with Kingdom of Heaven or Gladiator. With the first one, you get a good look at the fight over the Holy Land that continues to this very day (I really appreciate the epilogue or post-script right before the closing credits). Especially when the only religious military-style group that people are familiar with are the Knights Templar, when there were other orders involved in the jockeying for power in Jerusalem. And it when it comes to Gladiator, it did a fairly decent job of showing how the games were arranged in the Coliseum and where the participants came from. The reason I’m thinking of some of these movies, is that I’m thinking of one particular line from Gladiator:
Yes, are you not entertained?
Now let’s face it, the three-game Metropolitan Division road trip isn’t quite the same as a gladiator match. Sure, there can be some blood involved in hockey, but nothing quite to decapitating your opponent with two swords. But considering the season that the Wild have had, this was definitely a battle. I know for myself, I certainly couldn’t have imagined a road trip with three consecutive wins, and a road trip that did involve a back-to-back at one point. This wasn’t the average road trip though. Of the three team, the New Jersey Devils have the best chance of making the post-season, and their acquisition of Michael Grabner from the Rangers could go a long way to solidify their spot, albeit a wild card, in the playoffs. The New York Islanders also have a chance as well, as they’re currently tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets with 65 points (at the time I’m writing this, the Blue Jackets are tied with the Chicago Blackhawks in their own game). As of now, the Blue Jackets have the final playoff spot due to wins and number of games played. Although the Blue Jackets desperately need this win tonight, as the Islanders are the winner of the tie because of the ROW (Regulation and Overtime Wins) stat. And well the Rangers game, I’m sure the Rangers and their fans would love to just forget this season even happened.
The point though, is that none of the three teams we faced on this road trip are exactly fearsome. They were though the worst kind of opponent for the Wild, middling to horrible, meaning the kind of teams we let down our guard against. And then, let’s not forget that the Wild were on a road trip. The Wild are 14-15-1 on the road this season. If you’re best hope is for a wild card spot in the playoffs, you need to be able to win on the road, as that’s where you’re going to spend the bulk of your time in the first round at least.
So now, the Wild get to return to their home arena. This is a place they tend to play well, or at least competitively. Minnesota is going to need to channel every positive achievement they acquired on the road these past three games and combine that with the home ice work ethic for this next game. The San Jose Sharks are a much different beast than the Islanders, Devils, or Rangers. First off, they’re sitting in 2nd place in the Pacific Division. Sure, to be in the 2nd place in the Pacific, you only need 74 points. It appears it’s going to be a battle for 2nd and 3rd place in that particular division between San Jose and Anaheim. Trust me, the chance that either of those teams catch up to and overtake Las Vegas is highly unlikely. And heck, there’s even a chance for Calgary or Los Angeles to sneak into 2nd or 3rd place, as they have 73 and 71 points respectively. So with three teams nipping at their heals, the Sharks should come out swinging. And they need to do so in regulation, as they’re losing the ROW tie breaker to the three teams behind them. And let’s face it, the Sharks have players that tend to show up against the Wild. Plus, the Sharks have put Brent Burns back on the blueline after moving him to forward due to Joe Thornton being out. They needed a big guy up front, but quickly realized they needed him on defense. They were probably also trying to get him back in the goal column. While Burns may be leading the Sharks’ scoring, he’s done so with only 10 goals. The last time Burns scored that few goals, was the lockout shortened season of 2012-13, and even then he scored nine goals. If they can get Burns to heat up, it could certainly help them cement their position in the standings. And it wouldn’t shock me for him to find his scoring touch, against the very team that drafted him. Lucky us.
I would like to see the Wild keep with the entertaining (ie winning) hockey. For that to happen, they need to get the scoring from all lines. While it would be great to see goals from the people who are tying ridiculously vast quantities of the salary cap, I’ll take a bunch of goals from the 4th line and blue line as well. And the line of Eric Staal, Jason Zucker, and Mikael Granlund was potent. Hopefully that doesn’t get busted up because there may be some hurt feelings due to their success. It’s time for people to grow up, be a team player, and get the job done. That is how you have entertaining hockey. It’s also how you keep yourself in 3rd place in the craziness that is the Central Division.