Minnesota Wild (0-1-0) 0pts 7th in the Central
1.0 Goals For Per Game (31st in the NHL)
4.0 Goals Against Per Game (26th in the NHL)
0% Power Play (30th in the NHL)
66% Penalty Kill (16th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #11 Zach Parise ~ 1G 0A = 1pt
2. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 0G 1A = 1pt
3. #22 Nino Niederreiter ~ 0G 1A = 1pt
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #24 Matthew Dumba ~ 2 PIM’s
2. #12 Eric Staal ~ 2 PIM’s
3. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 2 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (0-1) 2.03GAA .947%SP
2. #32 Alex Stalock N/A
Vegas Golden Knights (0-1-0) 0pts 8th in the Pacific
2.0 Goals For Per Game (29th in the NHL)
5.0 Goals Against Per Game (30th in the NHL)
0% Power Play (31st in the NHL)
75% Penalty Kill (13th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #81 Jonathan Marchessault ~ 1G 0A = 1pt
2. #41 Pierre-Edouard Bellemare ~ 1G 0A = 1pt
3. #15 Jon Merrill ~ 0G 1A = 1pt
4. #29 Marc-Andre Fleury ~ 0G 1A = 1pt
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #67 Max Pacioretty ~ 4 PIM’s
2. #56 Erik Haula ~ 4 PIM’s
3. #71 William Karlsson ~ 2 PIM’s
1. #29 Marc-Andre Fleury (0-1) 10.00GAA .688%SP
2. #30 Malcolm Subban (0-0) 0.00GAA 1.00%SP
Vegas Golden Knights
Before I say anything more, beyond the player stats which are 100% accurate we are having to estimate a bit on the team stats because currently NHL.com‘s stats site works about as good as my grandma’s Christmas tree lights (they never work). So with a little searching on Tsn.ca we did our best to approximate where the team comparison stats would be. So, with that out of the way its time for another game day.
The Minnesota Wild did not make a real good first impression for fans on Thursday in a lackluster effort against division-rival Colorado in which they lost 4-1. The Avalanche had two empty-net goals, but the score was representative of just how much the Minnesota Wild were outplayed in that game. Minnesota managed to generate a mere 21 shots and if it wasn’t for the solid play of Devan Dubnyk the outcome could’ve been 5-1 or 6-1 easily.
Minnesota appeared slow and tired for most of the contest as they struggled to cope with Colorado’s excellent team speed. The Wild consistently were a step or two too slow to win the small races for loose pucks and appeared overwhelmed for long stretches of the game. Veterans like Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter who is probably still not 100% recovered from ankle surgery seemed to have difficulty keeping up with the likes of Nathan MacKinnon, Tyson Jost and Mikko Rantanen.
Minnesota’s veteran core is in its mid-30’s which makes this general lack of team speed problematic and disturbing. Especially as they go into their next game against another fast, excellent skating club like the Vegas Golden Knights. Vegas has plenty of speed built in throughout its lineup, especially in its top 2 lines with Jonathan Marchessault, William ‘Wild Bill’ Karlsson, Reilly Smith and former Minnesota Wild speedster Erik Haula. No doubt after watching film of the Wild’s slothful play on Thursday, the Golden Knights will look to attack Minnesota with speed.
The Golden Knights had their own dose of post-Cinderella season reality when they got hammered by the Philadelphia Flyers 5-2 in their home opener on Thursday. Vegas had hoped to build on their surprising runner-up season by adding veterans Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny to keep up with the other elite teams in the Western Conference. Vegas got off to a fast start last year, but this season clubs will likely be better prepared for their fast, blue collar style which often caught opponents off guard. Head Coach Gerard Gallant made the Golden Knights into one of the best counter attacking clubs in the league; where they used their speed to hound opponents through the neutral zone and quickly transition turnovers into the odd-man scoring chances.
Minnesota is one of two clubs (New York Islanders are the other) to have never lost to the Golden Knights; winning all 3 games against Vegas last year. Perhaps they benefited from the fact they did not play Vegas early in the season and had a chance to watch and learn from the mistakes of other clubs. The Wild dominated Vegas by working pucks low and playing a strong cycling game that the Golden Knights’ blueline struggled to deal with. No doubt they’ll deploy a similar approach this evening.
No matter what, the Wild certainly need a much better effort than they had Thursday night. It is one thing to have a paltry effort on the road, but to have it on home ice will likely draw out the boo birds. If someone feels the expectations are too high, the Minnesota Wild only have themselves to blame. Afterall, it was Wild team owner Craig Leipold insisting that only ‘tweaks’ were needed to make this team into a true contender, logic that I am not sure a fair portion of the fanbase really buys into.
If Minnesota comes out again and looks slow and non-competitive expect some significant fan panic and alarm set in as the team will have another 5-day break before their next game on Thursday against Chicago. Effort is something totally within the Wild’s control and if they’re going to want to make fans, coaches and management realize they still are playoff-calibre squad they’ll have an opportunity to show it.
The Wild need a definite improvement from its 3rd line of Joel Eriksson Ek, Jordan Greenway and Charlie Coyle. This line looked lost and horribly ineffective against Colorado. The big-bodied group is well suited to the cycling game that Minnesota had some success with against Vegas last year so if they’re going rebound one would think this would be the opponent to do it against.
Marc-Andre Fleury‘s 1st game numbers look horrible, but I’d be shocked if he doesn’t get the start tonight against Minnesota. Minnesota beat Malcolm Subban twice last year, so I would think Vegas will go with their ace hoping he can give them a better performance in the crease.
If Minnesota had any silver linings from their loss on Thursday it was the fact Zach Parise looks like he’s starting the season with his crease crashing game and Devan Dubnyk’s fairly solid play between the pipes. Hopefully tonight there are less ‘passengers’ and more players ready to battle. So what will be the keys to a victory tonight?
- Move your feet – On Thursday, Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau noted how often his team was caught ‘standing around’ against Colorado which only made them appear to be even slower than they were. Minnesota must be move its feet unless it wants a repeat of Thursday night.
- Stay out of the box – One side effect of moving your feet is it should help the Wild avoid the lazy holding / hooking penalties. Vegas’ power play is at 0% just like Minnesota’s but you don’t want to give the Golden Knights too many chances with the man advantage.
- Go to the net – Too often against Colorado the Wild were content to take shots from the perimeter. Minnesota does have a few defenseman who can really let it go, but the Wild would be best served by crashing the net early and often. Ugly goals count just as much as the pretty ones do and Minnesota needs to keep it simple on home ice.
What do you think will be important for the Wild to do in order to bring about their 1st win of the season? Tell us on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist or in the comment section below!