Minnesota Wild (10-7-2) 22pts 2nd in the Northwest
2.16 Goals For (28th)
2.37 Goals Against (8th)
14.3% Power Play (25th)
85.7% Penalty Kill (6th)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #11 Zach Parise ~ 8G 6A = 14pts
2. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 3G 11A = 14pts
3. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 0G 12A = 12pts
4. #15 Dany Heatley ~ 7G 4A = 11pts
5. #7 Matt Cullen ~ 3G 8A = 11pts
Top 3 PIM's:
1. #28 Zenon Konopka ~ 52 PIM's
2. #27 Mike Rupp ~ 27 PIM's
3. #10 Devin Setoguchi ~ 14 PIM's
1. #32 Niklas Backstrom (8-5-2) 2.22GAA .918%SP
2. #35 Darcy Kuemper (1-1-0) 2.02GAA .934%SP
3. #37 Josh Harding (1-1-0) 2.92GAA .885%SP 1SO
Anaheim Ducks (14-3-1) 29pts 1st in the Pacific
3.33 Goals For (2nd)
2.61 Goals Against (14th)
29.3% Power Play (1st)
74.6% Penalty Kill (28th)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #15 Ryan Getzlaf ~ 6G 15A = 21pts
2. #11 Saku Koivu ~ 6G 11A = 17pts
3. #10 Corey Perry ~ 5G 12A = 17pts
4. #8 Teemu Selanne ~ 5G 11A = 16pts
5. #9 Bobby Ryan ~ 5G 9A = 13pts
Top 3 PIM's:
1. #25 Brad Staubitz ~ 39 PIM's
2. #44 Sheldon Souray ~ 25 PIM's
3. #10 Corey Perry ~ 24 PIM's
1. #30 Viktor Fasth (9-1-0) 1.92GAA .926%SP 1SO
2. #1 Jonas Hiller (5-2-1) 3.34GAA .879%SP
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The Wild demonstrated a rare burst of offense last night in Phoenix as they struck 4 times to earn a 4-3 win over the Coyotes. As unexpected as this offensive burst was, it was how they scored which was also unusual as Minnesota scored off the rush twice in the 1st to take a 2-0 lead. The Wild normally like to slow it down and favor more of a cycling approach and then try to crash the crease and score an ugly goal. Jason Zucker's goal just 1:35 in the game gave Minnesota a rare dose of 1st period confidence that has been absent throughout most of the season. The Wild have normally been quite sluggish in the 1st period, even when they've been well rested so to jump out quickly to a 1-0 lead really helped set the tone for the NHL's 28th best offense. Minnesota was finding ways to enter the offensive zone with speed and it was good to see this taking place from all of its lines instead of just its 1st line. The Wild got a fantastic effort from Matt Cullen who really seems to be finding a groove as well as Devin Setoguchi who is still contributing. When combined with Zucker this line really puts opposing defenses in a state of conflict I don't think they're used to facing against the Wild in some time; probably not since the Marian Gaborik–Pavol Demitra days did hey have to worry about Minnesota In fact, I would like to see the 1st line try to be a bit more up-tempo in this fashion even though Mikko Koivu likes to play more of a slow it down, cycling type of game. I think Charlie Coyle and especially Zach Parise could put a little more pressure on the defense by looking to at the very least use the forward momentum to drive the defenders deep into their zone and that should open some passing lanes and create some prime scoring chances.
The 2nd / 3rd line depending on how you look at it also showed a little firepower as Dany Heatley realized he can still find a way to get off quality shots when he's not (gasp) playing on the 1st line. I thought Heatley showed excellent chemistry with Pierre-Marc Bouchard. Mikael Granlund seems little more than afterthought and did little to help that line be effective. I realize publicly Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo has noted Granlund's 'improvement' and saying that its obvious. However, it doesn't cover up the fact he's been so invisible in most games. Defensively he's still a nightmare and his lack of quickness makes him appear that much smaller on the ice as he seldom wins races to loose pucks. Yeo took Granlund off the power play where he had numerous opportunities to shine in the last two games but hadn't managed to do much of anything, even with the most time and space he's seen since he joined the NHL.
The Wild are going to need to build off of last night's solid road effort if they want to have a chance to beat Anaheim. Note I didn't say we'd beat Anaheim, but we'd have to play with speed while entering the offensive zone if we wanted to have a chance against the Ducks. The Ducks' defense, led by veterans Sheldon Souray and Francois Beauchemin know the best way to stifle the Wild's best players is to stand them up and make them fight through checks. When the Wild slow down they make this task fairly easy, not to mention the lack of speed also makes it easier for those players to interfere without it being called. If the WIld do whatever they can to enter the offensive zone with speed even if Beauchemin, Souray, Cam Fowler or any Ducks' defenseman tries to stand up the Wild forward it should have a better chance at drawing a penalty and give Minnesota power plays that it can exploit. This may be one of those rare cases where the Wild's best defense is a good and aggressive offense.
The Anaheim Ducks have one of the most explosive offenses in the NHL. They have tons of speed, and dynamic players that are great finishers. Ageless wonders Saku Koivu and Teemu Selanne are looking energized and as effective as ever. Kyle Palmieri feasted on the Wild last time. Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry give the Ducks size, strength and an ability to score from in close. Minnesota's defense will not only have to be moving their feet well but be willing to step up and punish physically to keep the crease clear of Ducks. The Wild found that out the hard way the last time they played. In what was an atrocious effort, the Wild were embarassed to a 3-1 victory where the score appeared far closer than what actually took place. I realize its a back to back but the Wild need to dig deep and get points against these clubs which currently make up the top teams in the Western Conference.
The keys to a Wild victory tonight are as follows:
1. Attack the offensive zone with speed – We may not be as fast as the Ducks from top to bottom but we can force them to chase us and wear them down. I also like our chances to score on Viktor Fasth off the rush than trying to slow it down against a club whose speed allows them to burn you so bad in transition.
2. Stay out of the penalty box – The Ducks are good offensively, but scary on the power play. They take full advantage of the extra time and space, and luckily for Minnesota our penalty kill has been terrific at challenging puck carriers to take that time and space away. While I have faith their ability to kill power plays, you don't want to gamble too much with a power play that is converting over 25% of the time.
3. Be physical in a timely fashion – I am not expecting the Wild to become a giant hitting machine, but when facing a faster opponent being physical slows them down and can start the process of wearing them out. This is an area where the Wild really miss the services of Cal Clutterbuck but there are plenty of other guys that can skate and dish out hits too. Everyone has to be apart of this tonight in order to make it work.