Minnesota Wild (7-3-2) 16pts 3rd in the Central
2.92 Goals For Per Game (24th in the NHL)
2.83 Goals Against Per Game (11th in the NHL)
20.5% Power Play (15th in the NHL)
86.8% Penalty Kill (5th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 6G 6A = 12pts
2. #11 Zach Parise ~ 4G 8A = 12pts
3. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 3G 9A = 12pts
4. #12 Eric Staal ~ 4G 6A = 10pts
5. #16 Jason Zucker ~ 4G 5A = 9pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #21 Eric Fehr ~ 14 PIM’s
2. #29 Greg Pateryn ~ 12 PIM’s
3. #12 Eric Staal ~ 10 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (5-2-2) 2.19GAA .937%SP
2. #32 Alex Stalock (2-1-0) 3.30GAA .895%SP
St. Louis Blues (4-4-3) 11pts 7th in the Central
3.73 Goals For Per Game (3rd in the NHL)
3.82 Goals Against Per Game (29th in the NHL)
29.8% Power Play (4th in the NHL)
77.8% Penalty Kill (18th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #90 Ryan O’Reilly ~ 3G 12A = 15pts
2. #57 David Perron ~ 5G 5A = 10pts
3. #10 Brayden Schenn ~ 3G 6A = 9pts
4. #91 Vladimir Tarasenko ~ 4G 5A = 9pts
5. #20 Alex Steen ~ 4G 3A = 7pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #19 Jay Bouwmeester ~ 10 PIM’s
2. #10 Brayden Schenn ~ 10 PIM’s
3. #7 Pat Maroon ~ 9 PIM’s
1. #34 Jake Allen (4-2-3) 3.88GAA .878%SP
2. #31 Chad Johnson (0-2-0) 3.27GAA .872%SP
St. Louis Blues
It’s always interesting to read the words of older players on any professional sports team, and read what they think about health and nutrition. Sure, they’ve been around the sport longer than their younger teammates, but sometimes I feel like their ideas can often be taken as the gospel truth. When Matt Cullen came back Minnesota after a decent stint with Pittsburgh, he talked about how the entire Penguins roster (if I remember correctly) went gluten-free and how it made a huge difference in how they played. Sure Matt, having players like Sidney Crosby and Evgeni Malkin had nothing to do with your success, but lack of gluten, well that was the difference. Then yesterday on startribune.com we get the words of another elder statesman on the Wild’s roster, this time Eric Staal. Now Staal’s words seem a little more tempered, in that as he gets older, he simply has to be more conscious of what he eats. That makes far more sense as opposed to eliminating entire food groups. I think it’s more of a “listening to your body” situation for Staal. Everyone can tolerate things differently, and it’s ridiculous (and possibly even unhealthy) to tell an entire team “hey you can no longer eat ________.” And when professional teams do that, then it influences amateurs as well. I mean it would be like if I was on a team, and I was told “you must drink 12 ounces of whole milk with every meal.” Well, I can tell you that as a lactose intolerant individual, it would be a nightmare. I’m also one of those people who actually likes tofu (I’m not vegetarian or vegan), but so many current diets out there say to eliminate soy. I think when you’re told to eliminate one food or component, it then creates an imbalance. I just hope that these team nutritionists work more on the balance of the nutrition than eliminating XYZ from everyone’s diet. Again, listening to your own body is far more important than what works for someone else.
But while Staal is talking about discipline in his diet and training, there’s one area of discipline on this team that needs to be addressed. There has been what feels like an almost constant march to the penalty box. In the last six games, the Wild have taken 27 penalties. That is not something any team wants to see. If I was of the homer kind of fan, I would simply blame those penalties on the horrors of NHL officiating. Yes, the officiating is bad, and it does seem like Minnesota often gets the short end of the stick. However, this team needs to do a much, much better job of not giving the officials any reason to send the Wild to the box. If there was one thing I would like to see changed when it comes to officiating it’s this. If you’re going to call slashing and the supposed slashed player drops his stick, embellishment could and should be called. If you’re trying to draw the penalty that bad embellishment would be an appropriate call. At the very least, while the Wild have been marching to the box, the penalty kill has come up aces, as they’ve only allowed two power play goals by the opposition in those same six games. Two players (beyond goaltenders Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock) who have been key in the success of the penalty kill have been Marcus Foligno and Eric Fehr. It brings back memories of those early days when it was Wes Walz and Antti Laaksonen who were highly successful in the penalty kill. Although, Foligno and Fehr don’t have quite the same speed, I can’t complain too much with only allowing those two powerplay goals. Look for Foligno and Fehr being put to the test tonight. The Blues have a power play force in Vladimir Tarasenko, who has four power play goals this season. Considering how much time this team spends in the box, Tarasenko will see plenty of time on the ice during the Blues power play.
As strange as it may see, the Wild have been somewhat successful with the man-advantage. Sure, they don’t get much time on the power play, but when they do, they have taken their chances with the extra skater. In the 13 chances Minnesota has had on the power play since October 27th, they’ve managed score fives times. While I’m sure other teams would wish for better, this is a result than when it comes to the Minnesota Wild, I can’t really complain. For many seasons, we as fans have called it the powerless play. It’s been a downright embarrassment many nights. When you watch the same passing and weak shots from the perimeter it become monotonous. It’s certainly looked better, but there are still things that need to happen on the power play. First off, traffic needs to be in front of the opposition’s goaltender. We have some bigger bodies like Charlie Coyle but we rarely (if ever) see it truly put to use by Coyle himself. Once they get a bit banged up, they tend to shy away, and we’ve definitely see that with Coyle. Which has what has been nice with Jordan Greenway. Yes, he has been a bit lost on the ice, but he will use his body. I would still like to see Greenway get a little more icetime, including the power play. Since Coyle is rarely willing to put his body into the fray.
The other issue that will also test the Wild’s overall discipline is that the Blues themselves are see a resurgence of their own. Boasting a 3-1-1 record in their last five games, Saint Louis is definitely looking like a strong opponent. Of course, that record is probably also granting some breathing room for head coach Mike Yeo. Prior to these last five games, it was starting to look like Yeo was losing yet another locker room. For Wild fans, we know this painful tale all too well. But then when you’re winning, as a coach you look good. But when you’re losing, much of the blame lands on your shoulders. When Yeo (and even before him, Todd Richards) was in Minnesota, I would say the blame should have been shared by coaching, management, and players. However, the coach always falls first. Then we brought in Bruce Boudreau. The next to fall was former General Manager Chuck Fletcher to be replaced this past off-season by Paul Fenton. Really, the only players that can be replaced are those on the lower end of the pay scale. Most teams have little room to make significant roster changes, so often if there are problems on a team, little will change with coaching and management changes. Many of the probels that Minnesota has faced over many seasons still exist, and due to contracts will exist for many more years.
The fact that tonight is on the road against a rising Blues team, is not exactly instilling confidence in me. While the players themselves work on their own discipline on a regular basis, I’m not sure there’s a true team discipline. They can talk and talk about how they’re trying to work harder and be better, we need to see it. Continuing to have to always play catch up in games is not exactly a sign of discipline. It’s time for this team to actually walk the walk instead of just talk the talk.