Minnesota Wild (24-17-4) 52pts 4th in the Central
2.87 Goals For Per Game (16th in the NHL)
2.82 Goals Against Per Game (16th in the NHL)
18.6% Power Play (18th in the NHL)
83.1% Penalty Kill (7th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #12 Eric Staal ~ 19G 18A = 37pts
2. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 13G 22A = 35pts
3. #16 Jason Zucker ~ 16G 16A = 32pts
4. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 6G 23A = 29pts
5. #24 Mathew Dumba ~ 9G 15A = 24pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 47 PIM’s
2. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 34 PIM’s
3. #12 Eric Staal ~ 28 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (17-9-0-2) 2.60GAA .920%SP 3SO
2. #32 Alex Stalock (7-8-0-2) 2.71GAA .914%SP 1SO
Vancouver Canucks (17-21-6) 40pts 7th in the Pacific
2.64 Goals For Per Game (26th in the NHL)
3.23 Goals Against Per Game (27th in the NHL)
21.6% Power Play (8th in the NHL)
77.6% Penalty Kill (27th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #6 Brock Boeser ~ 22G 18A = 40pts
2. #26 Thomas Vanek ~ 12G 19A = 31pts
3. #33 Henrik Sedin ~ 2G 29A = 31pts
4. #22 Daniel Sedin ~ 10G 19A = 29pts
5. #53 Bo Horvat ~ 10G 10A = 20pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #44 Erik Gudbranson ~ 31 PIM’s
2. #23 Alex Edler ~ 26 PIM’s
3. #18 Jake Virtanen ~ 24 PIM’s
1. #25 Jacob Markstrom (11-14-0-5) 2.75GAA .908%SP 1SO
2. #41 Anders Nilsson (6-7-0-1) 3.57GAA .901%SP 2SO
D. Sedin~H. Sedin~Goldobin
After a victory where you knew you’d have to dig deep in order to be successful, sometimes the toughest thing to do is to get yourself emotionally ready to play against a lesser foe the next night. In October, the same Vancouver Canucks squad arrived in St. Paul and Minnesota wasn’t mentally prepared to compete and they were shutout 1-0. It was a sad effort on home ice, especially when you consider the Wild two full days to rest and prepare. With its league-mandated 5-day furlough on the horizon after tonight’s game the Wild would be wise to remember that outcome unless it wants to drop another one to the Canucks.
Vancouver, led by Head Coach Travis Green certainly doesn’t have the firepower they used back in the glory days of Markus Naslund and Trevor Linden but they try to make up for it by being tough to play against. The Canucks are rebuilding and with some good draft classes they’ll again be formidable, but right now they’re good enough to compete and grind out wins against clubs that aren’t prepared to work hard.
Rookie and Burnsville-native, Brock Boeser is making a strong case for the Calder trophy as the league’s top rookie, as his 22 goals easily makes him Vancouver’s most dangerous scoring threat. He scored his first ever NHL goal against the Wild and will no doubt want to impress friends and family this evening. Henrik and Daniel Sedin still do their best to lead the way for Vancouver even if they are in the twilight of their impressive careers. While Wild fans loved making fun of the ‘Children of the Corn’, they were one of the most productive brother combinations (over 2,000 points between them) in NHL history and have given Vancouver.
Bo Horvat is the tenacious worker who inspires with his effort much the same way Zach Parise once did with the Wild. Thomas Vanek has demonstrated himself to be a ‘bargain’ at $2 million per season as he’s the Canucks’ 2nd leading scorer and no doubt he will want to stick it to the team that bought him out and is actually paying him more ($2.5 million this season) than Vancouver is. Sven Baertschi and Markus Granlund (Mikael’s younger brother) round out the Canucks attack.
Defensively is where Vancouver has the most issues. The Canucks defense is led by Alexander Edler and puck mover Chris Tanev. Erik Gudbranson provides the physical play and Michael Del Zotto tries to give Vancouver a scoring threat from the point. Between the pipes I am going to guess Green is going to go with Jacob Markstrom who had the shutout against the Wild when they played in late October.
Minnesota may go with Devan Dubnyk if he feels rested enough after his 31 save performance last night against the Winnipeg Jets. If he has any second thoughts, it would not surprise me to see the Wild give Alex Stalock the start either but considering some of the post-game comments from last night my guess is 70% Dubnyk, 30% Stalock for the start this evening.
Offensively the Wild did a great job of peppering Connor Hellebuyck with shots last night, taking the puck to the net with regularity and then forcing the defense to chase them down low which gave plenty of time and space for Mathew Dumba to unleash his wicked slap shot. Expect the Wild to again activate their defense with regularity against the Canucks.
Jason Zucker managed to score his first goal in 16 games and has been a streaky scorer throughout his career and it would not surprise me to see him light the lamp against Vancouver. Mikael Granlund is quickly catching up to Eric Staal as the points leader as the 33-year old center has leveled off a bit offensively. Hopefully other members of the top 9 like Charlie Coyle, Tyler Ennis, Joel Eriksson Ek and Parise start finding the back of the net.
Defensively the Wild has been playing better as of late, but that might be a byproduct of playing at home where the team is able to match up better against its foes as it gets the last change. Still, I feel Jonas Brodin, Nate Prosser and Jared Spurgeon have been pretty solid in their own end. They will be charged with trying to neutralize Boeser and doing what they can to keep Vancouver from storming the crease like they want to.
So what will be the keys to beating Vancouver tonight?
- Finish strong – The Wild know they have a 5-day layoff, their biggest challenge will likely be the mental and emotional hurdle to focus on the here and now and play their game. Minnesota has helped itself with two nice victories, but they would throw all of that way with a loss against the Canucks tonight. Minnesota needs to replicate the ‘taking care of business’ approach it had last night against Winnipeg.
- Protect the Crease & limit penalties – the Canucks have embraced a blue collar philosophy under Travis Green. They crash the net and hope to frustrate opponents by keeping games close and then looking to score an ugly goal. Attention to detail will be important. Vancouver does have a decent power play, so Minnesota would be wise to stay out of the box and keep the game at even strength as much as possible.
- Attack the Crease – the Wild do not possess a bunch of skilled snipers either, so attacking the net the way they did against the Jets will help draw penalties and put Minnesota in the best situations to succeed (i.e. the power play). In October, the Wild made Markstrom’s job easy by not creating any traffic to make it difficult for him to see incoming shots; Minnesota must do what it can to deprive him of a clear view and capitalize on the rebounds he will give up.
What do you think will be important in order for the Wild to earn a win against Vancouver tonight? Let us know on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist or in the comment section below!