Minnesota Wild (45-25-8) 98pts 2nd in the Central
3.15 Goals For Per Game (3rd in the NHL)
2.53 Goals Against Per Game (8th in the NHL)
20.3% Power Play (9th in the NHL)
82.6% Penalty Kill (10th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 25G 42A = 67pts
2. #12 Eric Staal ~ 27G 33A = 60pts
3. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 18G 37A = 55pts
4. #22 Nino Niederreiter ~ 22G 30A = 52pts
5. #3 Charlie Coyle ~ 17G 34A = 51pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #7 Chris Stewart ~ 94 PIM’s
2. #21 Ryan White ~ 77 PIM’s
3. #24 Mathew Dumba ~ 57 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (37-19-5) 2.23GAA .924%SP 5SO
2. #35 Darcy Kuemper (7-5-3) 3.26GAA .900%SP
3. #32 Alex Stalock (1-1-0) 1.51GAA .944%SP
Colorado Avalanche (21-53-3) 45pts 7th in the Central
1.96 Goals For Per Game (30th in the NHL)
3.35 Goals Against Per Game (30th in the NHL)
12.8% Power Play (30th in the NHL)
76.7% Penalty Kill (29th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #29 Nathan MacKinnon ~ 16G 35A = 51pts
2. #9 Matt Duchene ~ 17G 20A = 37pts
3. #4 Tyson Barrie ~ 6G 30A = 36pts
4. #98 Mikko Rantanen ~ 17G 18A = 35pts
5. #92 Gabriel Landeskog ~ 15G 14A = 29pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #92 Gabriel Landeskog ~ 60 PIM’s
2. #14 Blake Comeau ~ 58 PIM’s
3. #17 Rene Bourque ~ 54 PIM’s
1. #31 Calvin Pickard (14-28-2) 2.89GAA .908%SP 2SO
2. #40 Jeremy Smith (1-6-0) 3.78GAA .878%SP
Brodin~Folin / Prosser
I think everyone knows how it feels to walk into a room where you know the likely outcome is you are going to get chewed out. You can see your boss or parent is just waiting to tear into you and the rest of the people in the room because they’re considerably annoyed or disappointed with your behavior. That is how Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau looked when he talked to the media after the team’s 3-0 loss to Nashville. He said, “I was happy with how we played the first 10 minutes but after that,” awkward pause. We will probably never know if that turned into a profanity-laced tirade on the flight to Colorado last night or not, but its likely he has a lot he’d love to vent about.
As the statistics above reveal, it has been a season to forget for the Colorado Avalanche as they are the league cellar dwellers by a comfortable 20 points. The Avalanche are at or near the bottom of every major statistical category and have been looking forward to the end of the regular season since about December. As bad as the Avalanche been, it has all the hallmarks of a trap game for Minnesota. The Wild have struggled to keep their intensity going a full 60 minutes and the Avalanche have a lot of young players trying to show the organization they’re worthy enough to keep around in what will likely be a painful rebuild. Not to mention, the Colorado Avalanche hate the Wild perhaps more than any other team means they’ll certainly relish the chance to play the role of spoiler this early evening as well as on Thursday of this week at Pepsi Center.
Nathan MacKinnon has been the hot hand as of late for the Avalanche offensively and if Colorado has any strength is a fair amount of young, talented forwards. Matt Duchene and Gabriel Landeskog both seem to want to be anywhere but with the Avalanche as trade rumors swirled about the two last month. Minnesota cannot assume they’ll be an easy out as they beat a motivated St. Louis squad a few nights ago that has a lot to play for itself. They too have been giving their other young players opportunities to show what they can do. 2016 1st round pick, Tyson Jost left the University of North Dakota after his freshman season and has not scored his first goal yet and you know how Minnesota likes to give young players their ‘first’ NHL memories.
The Avalanche have been riddled with injuries to its defense and goaltending that has forced the team to soldier on with Calvin Pickard as its workhorse between the pipes. In front of him is a mix of young, inexperienced defensive group and then disappointment led by Tyson Barrie, grizzled vet Francois Beauchemin and bitter pill Erik Johnson. Minnesota certainly has plenty of talent to take advantage of this group, but they have to show a greater willingness to battle to get to the dirty areas in and around the Avalanche crease.
Boudreau decided to give Devan Dubnyk some extra rest by allowing Alex Stalock to start the last two games. The South St. Paul-native played reasonably well, earning kudos both from the players and coaching staff. No doubt Colorado is going to want to ruin those plans by blitzing Dubnyk which could mean he’s pretty busy this evening. The Avalanche have a lot of team speed with the way their lineup looks as of right now, and that should give our defenseman a nice test after gotten exposed a bit by some of Nashville’s smaller and faster players. I think this is an important game for either Nate Prosser and Christian Folin to demonstrate they can perform well in their end to earn that final spot on the Wild’s blueline going into the post-season.
Offensively the Wild have been consistent in both effort and production as of late. The Mikael Granlund, Mikko Koivu, Jason Zucker (who will be out for today’s game) line has been missing action the last 5-6 games. Minnesota needs to try to create more chances in close which is something that was noticeably absent in yesterday’s loss to Nashville. Boudreau’s ire was mostly directed towards what he felt was the Wild taking the easy way out (offensively) far too often.
So what must the Wild do to earn a victory today?
- Nevermind the record – Its really easy to look at Colorado’s record and dismiss them, but Minnesota must focus entirely on the now. And right now, this team needs points if it wants to keep its 2nd place spot in the Central. Minnesota must play as though they’re going against a potential playoff foe, because Colorado will be playing loose and care free. Minnesota cannot afford to overlook this game and needs to bear down and take care of business.
- Attack with a purpose and authority – Minnesota needs to play tougher in the area around the crease. No more flybys, the playoffs are about paying the price and battling for rebounds. The Wild need to bury those chances and build some confidence offensively. While that may be easier said and done, the Wild will only be flirting with disaster if they’re allowing themselves to settle for shots from the perimeter.
- Don’t get caught up in the after the whistle garbage – A tactic Colorado has employed in the past is to try to goad the Wild into foolish retaliatory penalties. While I am not advocating the Wild turtle or back down, but the best thing for Minnesota is to avoid it and just focus on beating them on the scoreboard.