Minnesota Wild (22-16-3) 47pts 5th in the Central
2.90 Goals For Per Game (15th in the NHL)
2.80 Goals Against Per Game (14th in the NHL)
19.4% Power Play (15th in the NHL)
84.3% Penalty Kill (4th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #12 Eric Staal ~ 17G 18A = 35pts
2. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 11G 19A = 30pts
3. #16 Jason Zucker ~ 15G 13A = 28pts
4. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 5G 19A = 24pts
5. #24 Mathew Dumba ~ 7G 14A = 21pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 37 PIM’s
2. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 32 PIM’s
3. #10 Chris Stewart ~ 25 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (15-8-0-2) 2.57GAA .920%SP 3SO
2. #32 Alex Stalock (7-8-0-1) 2.67GAA .916%SP 1SO
Colorado Avalanche (21-16-3) 46pts 6th in the Central
3.17 Goals For Per Game (6th in the NHL)
3.02 Goals Against Per Game (21st in the NHL)
19.9% Power Play (14th in the NHL)
84.1% Penalty Kill (5th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #29 Nathan MacKinnon ~ 17G 32A = 49pts
2. #96 Mikko Rantanen ~ 14G 24A = 36pts
3. #92 Gabriel Landeskog ~ 16G 15A = 31pts
4. #4 Tyson Barrie ~ 4G 23A = 27pts
5. #13 Alexander Kerfoot ~ 10G 15A = 25pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #6 Erik Johnson ~ 46 PIM’s
2. #16 Nikita Zadorov ~ 38 PIM’s
3. #29 Nathan MacKinnon ~ 32 PIM’s
1. #45 Jonathan Bernier (8-7-0-1) 2.94GAA .906%SP 2SO
2. # Andrew Hammond N/A
With tonight’s game, I’m suddenly thinking of my college days. Now my college days were far from the stereotypical college days. I wasn’t a part of Greek life. Of course that was difficult since my alma mater didn’t have any fraternities or sororities beyond chapters for the academic honor groups like Phi Beta Kappa (which you didn’t become a member of until near graduation). We also didn’t have the raging keggers like you see in classic movies like Revenge of the Nerds and Animal House, this being due to my alma mater being a dry campus (thank you Norwegian immigrant founders who were part of the temperance movement including alum Andrew Volstead). Plus considering how much tuition was (private school), I wasn’t about to waste my parents’ hard earned money. I pretty much lived in the music library when I wasn’t in class, a practice room, or sleeping. With that dedication, I pretty much had my nose buried in my books, and that hard work and dedication had be graduating in four years and missed graduating with honors by 2-hundredths of a point. But even then, I still had some missteps. My junior year, I overslept for my history exam. I had studied the night before and had gone to bed at a decent time. I think what had me thrown off (besides a faulty alarm) was that the class was an afternoon class, but the exam was held at 8 in the morning. Luckily for me, I was only 15 minutes late. Any later, and I would have been denied entrance. However, I wish I had those 15 minutes back, since the exam was primarily essay and I felt very rushed. I did okay on the exam, but I probably could have done better had I shown up on time. It’s those little things, the probably had me be short by 2-hundredths of graduating cum laude.
For the Minnesota Wild, it’s felt like they’ve been continually short. Whether short of time or short of players that is what has this team feeling behind. Having been without Zach Parise at the start of the season until just recently, that has certain hurt. Then you add injuries to players like Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, and Jason Zucker have certainly cost this team. Thankfully these later injuries were short term, but they didn’t help. Then there was the drama of the Kyle Quincey acquisition. He was hired to play the right side, but after signing with the team, he out-right refused to play where he was told to. The coaching staff and front office had put up with his nonsense until the Saint Louis Blues put former Wild defenseman Nate Prosser on waivers. When that finally happened, the Wild put Quincey on waivers, which he passed and is now down in Iowa, and were able to pick up Prosser. Getting rid of the Quincey drama and getting the steady, drama-free presence of Prosser seems to have helped the Wild change their fortunes. For the first time this season, the team is healthy, both physically and emotionally.
With a healthy team, we saw (hopefully) the real Minnesota Wild. The one that the general manager and owner were talking up as a true contender in the off-season. Of course on paper before any games were played, things looked good. Thursday night against Buffalo, things finally felt good. Sure, there were some slow moments, such as it seemed to take forever for the team to get shots on goal. Getting six goals on 27 shots on goal felt pretty good. However, they still ended up being out-shot by the Sabres, which is something I’m not exactly comfortable with. And when you get back to it, you got six goals on Robin Lehner and Chad Johnson. That’s not exactly something to write home about, as they’re not exactly leaders in the goaltending department. You almost have to feel bad for Buffalo. They keep trying, but have nothing to show for their effort. For all of their lack of success, they are one of the few teams that haven’t been in the relocation conversation like Carolina, Arizona, and Calgary have. That’s an almost miracle, because when things go bad and stay bad, it’s one of the things that starts to be hinted at. However, Buffalo seems to have a dedicated owner in Terry Pegula and looks to keep his team in Buffalo.
But that was Thursday against Buffalo. Tonight against Colorado is much, much different. First off, they’re just one point behind the Wild in the standings. If the Avalanche win, they will overtake the Wild in the standings and claim the 8th spot in the Western Conference. Also, the teams have fairly similar team stats, especially when it comes to special teams. This is also a matchup where both teams will come to play. It should be a physical matchup. Of course, I’m not exactly thrilled about that particular aspect of the game. Just when you finally get the entire team back healthy, you have a play a team that will pretty do anything they can to put the hurt on their opponent and get the win. Colorado wants nothing more than these two points and they won’t let anything stand in their way to get them. While I want nothing more than the two points (and in regulation), what I want even more is to not come out of Denver with the kind of bumps and bruises that could sideline a player for a few games or weeks. Tonight will certainly serve as a test. We need to see what the Wild can truly do with the full complement of players. And tonight will be the first test, hopefully more of a pre-test as we still need to face Winnipeg, Saint Louis, Nashville, and Dallas with everyone healthy. Even though they’re in last place in the Central Division, I’d even be curious to see what happens with a healthy Wild against the Chicago Blackhawks.
So yes, tonight will be a test. Hopefully no one “oversleeps” for exam time by showing up with tired legs. Because as we’ve discussed before, tired/lazy legs creates stick infractions. Tonight would not be a good night to spend lots of time in the penalty box. While the Avalanche’s power play is much like ours (meaning not great, but not horrible either), they’re the kind of team who would definitely take advantage of the Wild’s bad habits. So no cheating, no oversleeping for this test thank you very much.