Minnesota Wild (20-17-3) 43pts 5th in the Central
2.95 Goals For Per Game (17th in the NHL)
2.83 Goals Against Per Game (10th in the NHL)
22.4% Power Play (9th in the NHL)
84.7% Penalty Kill (3rd in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #11 Zach Parise ~ 19G 19A = 38pts
2. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 11G 27A = 38pts
3. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 4G 23A = 27pts
4. #12 Eric Staal ~ 13G 13A = 26pts
5. #46 Jared Spurgeon ~ 7G 17A = 24pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 27 PIM’s
2. #29 Greg Pateryn ~ 23 PIM’s
3. #36 Nick Seeler ~ 22 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (15-14-3) 2.64GAA .912%SP
2. #32 Alex Stalock (5-3-0) 2.60GAA .903%SP
Montreal Canadiens (22-15-5) 49pts 5th in the Atlantic
3.07 Goals For Per Game (12th in the NHL)
3.14 Goals Against Per Game (23rd in the NHL)
13.0% Power Play (30th in the NHL)
77.8% Penalty Kill (24th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #13 Max Domi ~ 14G 24A = 38pts
2. #92 Jonathan Drouin ~ 13G 20A = 33pts
3. #90 Tomas Tatar ~ 14G 17A = 31pts
4. #26 Jeff Petry ~ 8G 21A = 29pts
5. #24 Phillip Danault ~ 7G 20A = 27pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #13 Max Domi ~ 45 PIM’s
2. #24 Phillip Danault ~ 27 PIM’s
3. #11 Brendan Gallagher ~ 26 PIM’s
1. #31 Carey Price (16-11-4) 2.76GAA .908%SP 2SO
2. #37 Antti Niemi (6-4-1) 4.01GAA .881%SP
I’m sure I’ve mentioned it before, but I grew up with a very interesting mix of music in my household. My mom taught K-12 music and my dad worked for Wisconsin Public Radio and Television. Playing on our household radios could be everything from the greatest classical composers, to folk music, to old school country music. One of my dad’s favorite singers/groups was Roy Acuff and his Smoky Mountain Boys. One of Acuff’s most famous songs was the “Wabash Cannonball.” I’m sure most people are familiar with the Johnny Cash or the Boxcar Willie versions than the Acuff one. However, it’s the one I grew up with. And while I’m not a big fan of country music, this song always puts a bit of a smile on my face simply because it reminds me of my late father. And since the Wild took the train between Ottawa and Montreal, it seemed only right to use one of the most famous train songs out there as a theme for tonight’s game.
So far, this has been a good road trip. I’ll admit, none of us really liked how the game started in Toronto with the two early goals by Mitchell Marner, but as I often need to remind myself, it’s not how things start but how they end that matter. The trend of the opposition scoring first continued in Ottawa as well, with Matt Duchene scoring late in the first period. But one positive thing came out of those two games.
With the loss of Matt Dumba to injury, the question has been “who on the defense can make up for his offensive ability?” The answer seems to be Jared Spurgeon, who scored three goals in the first two games of this road trip. Not only is Spurgeon finding his scoring touch, but the team in general is finding a way to score multiple goals in a game. During December, it felt like Minnesota was only capable of one goal a night, and two if they were lucky. But of course, when you’re scoring so few goals, it also required Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock to play perfect games, and with team defense being a bit suspect last month, that wasn’t happening. In both of these first two games, the Wild have scored four goals a game, which is a very welcome change of pace.
Tonight’s opponent, feels like the Eastern Conference version of the Minnesota Wild. When you look at the top scorers for each team, the numbers feel comparable. As of when I’m writing this on Sunday evening, both teams are in fifth place in their respective divisions. On top of that, both teams are just outside of a wild card spot in their conferences. Right now, the Canadiens are just one point behind the Buffalo Sabres, so one would expect them to do everything they can to take that second wild card spot from the once-hapless Sabres. The Canadiens are also just three points behind tomorrow’s opponent, the Boston Bruins, who currently sit in third place in the Atlantic Division. The same kind of jockeying is possible in the Western Conference as well. Right now, Minnesota is just two points behind the Anaheim Ducks, the team in possession of the second wild card spot in the West. But of course, there’s a team between the Wild and Anaheim, that being the Vancouver Canucks, who are just one point behind Anaheim. So it should be interesting to see what happens in both conferences the closer we get to the playoffs.
But in order for the Wild to keep things interesting in the Western Conference standings, they need to keep doing what they’ve been doing in the past two games. Yes, there are things that need to improve from those games. With this year’s Wild, I’m not comfortable giving up three goals, even in a win. Yes, they won in Ottawa, but those three goals could have easily been four. If that had happened, then we most likely would have seen an overtime or shootout ending, and that’s not some I’m comfortable with. Thankfully that was not a scenario we had to contend with, but the point it, it could have been. One thing that Minnesota needs to take advantage of in Montreal, is their poor special teams. Now as we’re all aware of, Minnesota hasn’t been getting many chances on the power play lately. When they do get the chance, it is imperative that they take advantage of the man advantage. Montreal’s penalty kill is sitting near the bottom of the league, so it would be an opportune time to get back into power play scoring. And considering that the Canadiens have one of the worst power plays in the league, I wouldn’t be against padding our penalty kill stats and possibly even tallying a shorthanded goal. Heck, I would be very supportive of that accomplishment. And if any of the scoring would find Jason Zucker, Eric Staal, or Mikael Granlund back in the scoring column, that would simply be icing on the cake.
Honestly, I hope the team enjoyed the novelty of traveling to their next game via train. For most NHL games, travel is by air. Hopping the train is more like their minor league or junior league days, traveling game to game by bus. Plus, for Americans and Canadians, train travel is bit more novel, because unless you live in a large metro area with an extensive mass transit system, taking the train was not an every day thing for most. And truly, the few times I have taking a train, I find it far more relaxing than a plane. Although, I doubt few of them had the “Wabash Cannonball” in the head while riding the rails.