Minnesota Wild (6-2-2) 14pts 5th in the Central
2.90 Goals For Per Game (22nd in the NHL)
2.60 Goals Against Per Game (8th in the NHL)
12.9% Power Play (27th in the NHL)
86.4% Penalty Kill (6th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #11 Zach Parise ~ 3G 8A = 11pts
2. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 5G 4A = 9pts
3. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 2G 7A = 9pts
4. #16 Jason Zucker ~ 4G 4A = 8pts
5. #12 Eric Staal ~ 3G 4A = 7pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #21 Eric Fehr ~ 10 PIM’s
2. #36 Nick Seeler ~ 9 PIM’s
3. #23 J.T. Brown ~ 8 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (5-1-2) 1.96GAA .945%SP
2. #32 Alex Stalock (1-1-0) 3.45GAA .879%SP
Vancouver Canucks (6-6-0) 12pts 3rd in the Pacific
2.50 Goals For Per Game (26th in the NHL)
3.33 Goals Against Per Game (20th in the NHL)
18.2% Power Play (18th in the NHL)
85.1% Penalty Kill (9th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #53 Bo Horvat ~ 7G 2A = 9pts
2. #40 Elias Pettersson ~ 5G 3A = 8pts
3. #47 Sven Baertschi ~ 3G 3A = 6pts
4. #6 Brock Boeser ~ 2G 4A = 6pts
5. #51 Troy Stecher ~ 1G 4A = 5pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #28 Antoine Roussel ~ 26 PIM’s
2. #44 Erik Gudbranson ~ 25 PIM’s
3. #23 Alexander Edler ~ 14 PIM’s
1. #25 Jacob Markstrom (3-3-0) 3.27GAA .902%SP
2. #31 Anders Nilsson (3-3-0) 2.67GAA .912%SP
Here we go. It’s time to really see what this team is made of. An extended road trip is what will show you what we really have when it comes to the Minnesota Wild. Considering how this season has started and what we’ve seen on the ice, if this team manages to sneak into the playoffs, they’re most likely going to be the lower rated team, ie the one that doesn’t have home ice advantage. And considering we’re in the Western Conference, the travel can certainly take its toll. But we’re a long way from the playoffs at this point, so we’re going to stick to just this road trip. Now, when it comes to an extended grouping of games on the road, it’s a really strange one. We start out in Vancouver then play in Edmonton tomorrow. After that, there are a bunch of days off to then go play in Saint Louis. So this most likely means after the game against the Oilers, they’re going to come back to Minnesota before playing the Blues. Again, they’ll probably come back to Minnesota before traveling to San Jose, Los Angeles, Anaheim, and then another trip to Saint Louis. Honestly, it’s one of the stranger grouping of road games I’ve ever seen. I guess considering that it’s the first half of the season, we should count our lucky stars that in the middle of these road games, there isn’t a random game out in the Eastern Conference as well. Seven games on the road, the longest in franchise history, is enough.
This game could honestly go in any direction, and that right there is the sad yet scary part. Yes, Minnesota has the momentum in this one, with a five-game win streak. However based on team history, I don’t trust this team. When they should be able to win, they don’t take the game seriously. When they should be well-rested, they come out looking sluggish. And tonight, we’re facing a team that has hit a rough patch of their own. While the Canucks are 6-6-0 this season, they’ve lost the past two games. Now those losses haven’t exactly been close one or two goal games. On Saturday, Vancouver played at home against Pittsburgh. That game was an embarrassing 5-0 loss to the Penguins. Now a loss to the Penguins is one thing, but the loss before that might even be a bit more painful. On Thursday, they traveled to Arizona, losing that one 4-1. One could argue that they were tired as they had played in Las Vegas the night before, beating the Golden Knights in the shootout. So they’ve had a day to rest up from the beat down by the Penguins and they’re at home. If the Canucks have their heads screwed on straight, they should try to get the jump on Minnesota, the team who had to travel.
Honestly, these teams are somewhat well matched, albeit if any team has an edge in this one, I would give it to Minnesota. As the old saying goes “defense wins championships.” When it comes to team defense, the Wild have the better of the stats. Sure, neither team is really putting up big numbers when it comes to scoring. If you’re not going to score a bunch of goals, you better be able to prevent a bunch of goals getting past your goaltender. Minnesota is certainly far more successful in that endeavor than Vancouver has been. When it comes to Vancouver’s six losses, three of them were by one goal. The other three were two or more goal losses, and of course the 5-0 loss to Pittsburgh has certainly skewed that goals against per game stat. When it comes to goal scoring, the only player that really stands out is Bo Horvat with seven goals. The scary part is that even with those seven goals, he only has nine points. So while he can score, he’s not doing much to try and set up his teammates. Or perhaps his teammates are simply going out of their way to set him up, and have been successful in doing so. If the Wild can keep Horvat off of the score sheet, they stand a decent chance of coming out on top in this game.
The Wild will most likely see rookie Jordan Greenway tonight. In an attempt to help him gain his confidence, he was reassigned to Iowa for a stint. He was looking lost most nights, so many fans were relieved when the decision was made. I think many were wishing however that Greenway would have had a longer stay in Iowa. Yet while Minnesota was playing Colorado on Saturday night, the Iowa Wild were playing Colorado’s farm team, the Colorado Eagles. In that game, Greenway scored a hat trick. Not only did he score the hat trick, he opened the scoring up just 1:25 into the opening period. If you’re going to try and send the message that you belong in the NHL, it is smart to come out strong instead of sulking. Too many young players, especially those who are top prospects, when they get reassigned to the AHL will often spend some time sulking instead of trying to change your destiny. Greenway did not sulk. Now he needs to take the same drive and determination to the big game. Lord knows we need his size and scoring, especially if Charlie Coyle isn’t going to use his size and scoring ability. Someone needs to step up.
These late night games are good practice for the length of the season. I just wish they didn’t all pile up together like this grouping has. I know it makes sense to group regional travel like this, but it makes for rough mornings at work the next day. If you haven’t already, make sure you check the coffee levels in your house or at the very least make sure you leave enough extra time in your morning commute to pick up a cup of coffee on your way to work. We’re all going to need it.