Minnesota Wild (15-10-2) 32pts 5th in the Central
3.19 Goals For Per Game (12th in the NHL)
2.85 Goals Against Per Game (13th in the NHL)
23.9% Power Play (9th in the NHL)
84.1% Penalty Kill (4th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 11G 17A = 28pts
2. #11 Zach Parise ~ 13G 10A = 23pts
3. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 4G 17A = 21pts
4. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 4G 17A = 21pts
5. #12 Eric Staal ~ 10G 10A = 20pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 23 PIM’s
2. #21 Eric Fehr ~ 20 PIM’s
3. #24 Matthew Dumba ~ 16 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (10-8-2) 2.68GAA .911%SP
2. #32 Alex Stalock (5-2-0) 2.45GAA .913%SP
Calgary Flames (17-9-2) 36pts 1st in the Pacific
3.57 Goals For Per Game (6th in the NHL)
2.89 Goals Against Per Game (14th in the NHL)
23.8% Power Play (10th in the NHL)
75.9% Penalty Kill (26th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #13 Johnny Gaudreau ~ 12G 23A = 35pts
2. #23 Sean Monahan ~ 17G 16A = 33pts
3. #19 Matthew Tkachuk ~ 13G 19A = 32pts
4. #28 Elias Lindholm ~ 13G 17A = 30pts
5. #5 Mark Giordano ~ 3G 24A = 27pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #93 Sam Bennett ~ 42 PIM’s
2. #19 Matthew Tkachuk ~ 24 PIM’s
3. #5 Mark Giordano ~ 18 PIM’s
1. #33 David Rittich (8-2-1) 2.39GAA .919%SP 1SO
2. #41 Mike Smith (9-7-1) 3.12GAA .884%SP 1SO
I don’t know about you, but I try to watch the national news every night. During the day, I’m usually too busy to peruse any sort of news source during week. Heck, even refreshing Facebook or Twitter on some days feels to be too much to accomplish. So at 5:30pm, I’m watching the news. I don’t care which network you watch, but there’s usually some sort of drama involved in the news. And I’m not just talking about American politics or world news in general. However, there are moments with the news where the stories show the humanity of others. As I’m writing this preview, it’s actually Wednesday night, so of course the lead story is the funeral for the 41st President of the United States of America, George H. W. Bush. Earlier this week, we were introduced to Bush’s service dog. The eulogies for the former president and his service dog showed a side of Bush, that some of us probably never knew. We knew him as a world leader and not as an average person, the person his family saw him as. There are many nights where watching the news makes me angrily frustrated, however Wednesday night’s news was not that.
So after watching the news I started preparing for this preview. In doing that, I pulled up the website for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Sports are full of drama, that normal news often can’t compete with. When you pull up the main sports page, it’s predominantly football related. The main story is about the placekicker woes of the Minnesota Vikings. Then there is a related football story and how the Green Bay Packers have fired an assistant coach who tweeted something less than complimentary about star quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Not only is this drama, but it feels like soap opera worthy. While things for the Vikings haven’t exactly been smooth this season, it could always be worse, you could be a Packers fan this season. But then, it seems they rarely hold their star players accountable for much. Trust me, living in Wisconsin I would know if there was suddenly a lot of chatter blaming Rodgers.
With the Wild’s losing streak feeling like it was unending there for a while, I felt like the drama was about ready to rear its ugly head. Heck, I was surprised that it really hadn’t started yet. Before Tuesday night, it was a six-game losing streak. It’s not what you would want to see at any point in a season, but when at one point you were sitting in second place in the Central Division and only trailed the Nashville Predators by two points, those six consecutive losses really hurt. Yet at the same time, as fans we’ve sadly become accustomed to the November, December, or January slump. Yet for some reason, our new General Manager, Paul Fenton wasn’t worried about the slump. I guess if you’re in charge of a team that manages an extended slump at some point in the season and still manages to make the playoffs in the long run, I guess one shouldn’t worry too much. What concerns me in his interview in the Star Tribune is that he called six losses a “couple of losses.” I guess Fenton has a different concept of “couple” than what most people think of that word. Oh well. Should I bother to tell you that he’s not concerned about the production of Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter or would that be too much to handle?
Thankfully though, that six-game losing streak ended Tuesday night in Vancouver. When the Canucks opened up the scoring, I will be the first person to admit I had that “well here we go again” feeling. With the game starting after 9:00pm, I was really tempted to go to bed. But I decided to tough it out. Thankfully Zach Parise got the Wild back into the game with a power play and then a pair of goals on a 5-on-3 power play in the second period almost made me forgive the 6-game losing streak. We so rarely see this team score on both of the power plays of a 5-on-3, that I can almost forgive this team just about anything. In fact, I can’t remember the last time the Wild accomplished that feat. So a 3-2 win, on the road after losing six, I’ll take it. Sure, there are still plenty of things that need to be addressed. Myself, like many, once again asked “why is Devan Dubnyk starting?” The opening Canucks goal by Josh Leivo was the kind of goal that a Dubnyk who is in the zone, doesn’t give up. The sad thing though, is that we’ve seen way too many of those weak goals lately, that Wild fans should be concerned.
Tonight’s game is not only the first trip to Calgary this season, but the first game against the Flames in general. Let’s start with the obvious. This is not the Calgary Flames of recent seasons, where they along with the Edmonton Oilers have been a bit of an afterthought. I can’t remember the last time where I’ve looked at the standings and have seen the Flames at the top of the divisional settings, whether the old Northwest Division and the now Pacific Division. They’re currently ahead of the Anaheim Ducks by three points. But if there’s anything we know as Wild fans, the standings can be temporary. All it takes is an ill-timed losing streak and you can find yourself in fifth place in your division instead of at or near the top. The Flames do have some power pieces in their line up when it comes to scoring, hence why they’re near the top of the league when it comes to goals per game, with an average of 3.57 goals per game. But let’s look at the number of goals their top five scorers have scored. Calgary’s top five have 58 goals between them. Now, let’s compare that to Minnesota’s 42. Yeah, that’s a bit of a disparity. And while we have Ryan Suter and Mikko Koivu in our top five with a measly 4 goals each, Calgary has Johnny Gaudreau, Sean Monahan, Matthew Tkachuk, Elias Lindholm, and Mark Giordano in their top five, with Giordano being the only one with under 5 goals. Calgary is also riding a three-game win streak. Needless to say, they should have a bit more confidence. Although, their last win against Columbus should make most people raise an eyebrow or two, with a 9-6 win. Yes, they scored nine goals, but where was the defense. I kind of wished I had tuned into that one, because I want to know if it was team defense of goaltending.
With the drama of news, and particular sports news, all I ask is that the drama involved with the game with Calgary is not of the bad kind. I would like drama of the positive kind, of the exciting kind. You know, the kind that comes with a win.