Minnesota Wild (11-9-3) 25pts 6th in the Central
3.00 Goals For Per Game (13th in the NHL)
2.87 Goals Against Per Game (11th in the NHL)
24.6% Power Play (4th in the NHL)
83.3% Penalty Kill (8th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #12 Eric Staal ~ 8G 13A = 21pts
2. #16 Jason Zucker ~ 12G 7A = 19pts
3. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 5G 10A = 15pts
4. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 4G 11A = 15pts
5. #46 Jared Spurgeon ~ 3G 12A = 15pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 18 PIM’s
2. #22 Nino Niederreiter ~ 16 PIM’s
3. #12 Eric Staal ~ 14 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (9-7-0-2) 2.85GAA .911%SP 3SO
2. #32 Alex Stalock (2-2-0-1) 2.42GAA .928%SP
Winnipeg Jets (14-6-3) 31pts 2nd in the Central
3.13 Goals For Per Game (9th in the NHL)
2.70 Goals Against Per Game (7th in the NHL)
23.7% Power Play (6th in the NHL)
78.3% Penalty Kill (21st in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #55 Mark Schiefele ~ 11G 14A = 25pts
2. #26 Blake Wheeler ~ 5G 20A = 25pts
3. #29 Patrik Laine ~ 11G 6A = 17pts
4. #27 Nikolaj Ehlers ~ 10G 7A = 17pts
5. #81 Kyle Connor ~ 6G 6A = 12pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #33 Dustin Byfuglien ~ 41 PIM’s
2. #26 Blake Wheeler ~ 18 PIM’s
3. #44 Josh Morrissey ~ 16 PIM’s
1. #37 Connor Hellebuyck (12-2-0-2) 2.33GAA .928%SP
2. #35 Steve Mason (2-4-0-1) 3.45GAA .903%SP
What should we say about Saturday night? It definitely felt a lot like a leftover coma in more ways than one. And not of the good leftover variety. It felt a lot like leftovers that had sat in the fridge for at least a week, and now you’re getting ready to empty the containers the night before trash day. Some of them were right before they start growing furry spots of mold. At least if you catch those forgotten leftovers early enough, you don’t also have to pitch the containers they were stored in. Of course I had the fortune of not being the one hosting Thanksgiving, so I didn’t have worry about having any of those forgotten leftovers. I can easily do without any turkey for a few weeks, and I’m not just talking about the turkey on the plate.
The Wild had a few turkeys on the ice, and I can do without any of those for a long time. In fact, if I didn’t have to see any turkeys in skates for the rest of the season, I would be quite content. Yet with this team, I cannot make that promise. And anyone who does make that promise, especially those paid by the Minnesota Wild, I wouldn’t believe them either. However, if you partake of some Wild Turkey, believing such nonsense won’t be quite as painful.
I know I would like to see a responsible team when it comes to penalties. It’s getting beyond old seeing the continual march to the penalty box. We saw it in the pre-season and as we get closer to the end of 2017, it doesn’t seem to abating any time soon. I have to wonder if the players thought that the officials would eventually forget and put their whistles back in their pockets. While for once it feels like NHL officials are going to continue calling the slashing penalties as well as calling the games closer in general, the true experiment will happen in the playoffs. What counts as a penalty in the regular season is often let go during the post-season and vice versa. And of course there are the suspensions during the post-season, where it depends on what kind of player you are and what kind of player you inflict the hit on. Players like Sidney Crosby and Alexander Ovechkin are often allowed more leeway when it comes to physical play, but if you take a run at them, it’s like you killed someone’s mother.
But until the Minnesota Wild can figure out how to play responsibly, and not take foolish penalties, they will continue to struggle. It’s hard to play a consistent offensive game, when you continue to take penalties. And looking at the Wild’s top three penalty minutes (Mikko Koivu, Nino Niederreiter, and Eric Staal) these are players who are taking the dumb slashing penalties that they used to get away with. That was in the past. Time to move on to the future.
Adding to what can make this game even harder, is playing a soaring Winnipeg team. Not only are they having a great season, but Minnesota of course gets to play this game in Winnipeg. Their fans are loud and not afraid to let you know they’re there. The key to playing the Jets, especially in their arena, is to take their fans out of the game early. Not only do you have to take them out of the game but keep them out of the game. That is a challenge that the Wild struggle with in a good season.
In an uninspiring, bordering on bad, season, I honestly don’t if this team has it in them. And that’s the hardest thing to watch. There are players on this team who I know can play better, but for whatever reason haven’t really stepped up to the plate. Then there are players who are being asked to play above their skillset, and of course then that comes to haunt this team. Yes, we’ve seen the Minnesota Wild play above their skillset as an entire team in those early years of the team. However they were all out of their element, even a rookie Marian Gaborik and to a degree probably bonded over that fact. This team doesn’t have that ability. You have high-paid vets, young skill players, and role players all mixed together, and right now it doesn’t feel like the right mixture. Most successful teams have a mix of experience, youthful exuberance, and muckers. However it has to be the right mix and the right personalities. Minnesota doesn’t have that, so are stuck with this group of leftovers.
I can’t say I’m looking forward to tonight’s game. Saturday truly left a bad taste in my mouth. It would be nice to see this team to take a stand and say “we’re no team’s doormat.” Yet just when we think they’re going to take that stand, they lay an epic goose egg. While I hope to see it, I’m not going to hold my breath.