Minnesota Wild (44-24-8) 96pts 2nd in the Central
3.17 Goals For Per Game (3rd in the NHL)
2.54 Goals Against Per Game (8th in the NHL)
20.1% Power Play (11th in the NHL)
82.1% Penalty Kill (10th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 25G 41A = 66pts
2. #12 Eric Staal ~ 27G 32A = 59pts
3. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 18G 36A = 54pts
4. #22 Nino Niederreiter ~ 20G 30A = 50pts
5. #3 Charlie Coyle ~ 17G 32A = 49pts
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 N/A
Ottawa Senators (41-25-9) 91pts 2nd in the Atlantic
2.55 Goals For Per Game (21st in the NHL)
2.55 Goals Against Per Game (9th in the NHL)
17.9% Power Play (22nd in the NHL)
80.5% Penalty Kill (19th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #65 Erik Karlsson ~ 15G 53A = 68pts
2. #68 Mike Hoffman ~ 22G 33A = 55pts
3. #7 Kyle Turris ~ 26G 25A = 51pts
4. #61 Mark Stone ~ 22G 28A = 50pts
5. #16 Derick Brassard ~ 13G 24A = 37pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #74 Mark Borowiecki ~ 145 PIM’s
2. #2 Dion Phaneuf ~ 98 PIM’s
3. #25 Chris Neil ~ 63 PIM’s
1. #41 Craig Anderson (22-10-3) 2.30GAA .927%SP 4SO
2. #1 Mike Condon (19-12-6) 2.47GAA .916%SP 5SO
Well it is Spring Break here in not-so-sunny Wisconsin. Unlike many people who jettison off to sunny locales for one of the most gloomy weeks of March, we’re still here. Since I don’t work in the school system, I’m working. But while Derek does, the high school tennis season (which he coaches) can officially kick off with practices this week, hence why we’re still here. Since I have a fairly craptastic schedule, it hasn’t felt like we’ve gotten to spend much time together. To alleviate that feeling, I took a vacation day today, which combined with tomorrow (which is one of my days off), it will feel like a mini-vacation. Nothing more glamorous that hanging around home, writing Minnesota Wild articles, doing some housework, possibly working on the income taxes, and then tuning into tonight’s game. Yes, welcome to our Hollywood lifestyle. Aren’t you jealous? But needless to say, getting the chance to take an extra day off is always much appreciated.
The Minnesota Wild on the other hand have not been getting days off. There’s been no time to have a real practice between games. Because of the epic crunch of this month, when they do practice, it’s more of an optional or morning skate kind of practice. When your schedule is pretty much games on Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays, and Sundays for an entire months, the quick skates are all you get time to work in, both physically and mentally. Bruce Boudreau would love to be able to have an intense workout and practice with the team. They definitely need it. They need the time to work on and address their mistakes and issues. But there simply isn’t time. Sure, Boudreau can talk with the team about the problems, but what equates to nothing more than a chalk talk cannot be compared to a real practice. You can somewhat compare it to taking notes during the college lecture. The professor gives the lecture or chalk talk. However, if you don’t do something to synthesize their words like take notes, or practice, it’s hard for the professor’s words to take hold. Heck, back in my college days, when I would be studying for an exam, I would pretty much re-write my notes to help further cement my knowledge into my brain. For me, there was something about the mechanics of re-writing the notes that helped me recall knowledge come exam time. By not practicing, the team just isn’t getting a chance to put Professor Boudreau’s words into action.
During this month though, there have been night’s where it has felt like the team is on a vacation though, at least mentally (and sometimes physically). The drive and focus that they’ve been praised for for much of the season, and what is responsible for putting them near the top of the Western Conference standings (and at one time, the top), simply is no longer there. There are people out there that believe that General Manager Chuck Fletcher is to blame for bringing in Martin Hanzal and Ryan White at the trade deadline. That these two are somehow messing up the chemistry of the team. Let’s take a step back here people. For the most part, this season’s team is not much different roster-wise than last season’s. The big difference is the staff behind the bench. Boudreau and his coaching staff have figured out how to get the most out of the players he has. For old school Wild fans, this should take us back to the days of Jacques Lemaire behind the bench. I would have loved to have seen what Lemaire could have done with today’s roster, but even his genius would be dealing with the insanity of the schedule, when there’s no time to fix things.
Tonight, we get to see another new face on the roster, albeit not a new face for Minnesotans. Getting his Minnesota Wild debut will be Alex Stalock. With Boudreau needing to give Devan Dubnyk a night off, it was time to use another goaltender. However, that other goaltender will not be Darcy Kuemper. Stalock has done okay in Iowa this season with a 20-16-7 record along with 2.31GAA and .924SV%. I highly doubt that Stalock is the answer to the Wild’s goaltending needs or that the skaters will play their hearts out to protect their goaltender, but he just might be enough to shake things up a bit. There’s a lot of complacency on this team right now. And a completely new guy between the pipes just might do it. Also making his return to the lineup will be Joel Eriksson-Ek. He’s been up in Saint Paul for a few days, but tonight he will play. It was probably a good thing he was called up when he was, especially with the day-to-day injury of Zach Parise. Again, I’m not sure it’s enough to inspire the team to victory against Ottawa, a team the Wild don’t have a great track record with, but at this point, I’m willing to try just about anything. In other organizational news, the Wild signed Gopher star, Justin Kloos to an entry level deal. He will report to Iowa and will not be available to the Minnesota Wild this season. For a team that in the past almost refused to sign a college player (yeah, I’m looking at you Doug Risebrough), they have certainly been willing to go to that pool under Fletcher. Since Erik Haula has worked fairly well with this team (albeit only with Boudreau coaching), there’s hope that Kloos might also be a serviceable NHL player.
Honestly, I don’t know what we’re going to see tonight. I have a bad feeling that since Minnesota has clinched a playoff spot, they’re just going to try and relax a bit. They’re not having to claw their way into a spot this season. Seeing them shy away from the physical aspects of the game, I’m thinking they’re just going to try to get to the playoffs without any major injuries. However, if you don’t play hard now, what’s to say you’ll be able to turn on the jet fuel come the post season.