Minnesota Wild (21-17-3) 45pts 5th in the Central
2.90 Goals For Per Game (18th in the NHL)
2.76 Goals Against Per Game (6th in the NHL)
21.8% Power Play (9th in the NHL)
85.1% Penalty Kill (3rd in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 12G 27A = 39pts
2. #11 Zach Parise ~ 19G 19A = 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. #36 Nick Seeler ~ 39 PIM’s
2. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 27 PIM’s
3. #29 Greg Pateryn ~ 25 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (16-14-3) 2.56GAA .915%SP 1SO
2. #32 Alex Stalock (5-3-0) 2.60GAA .903%SP
Boston Bruins (24-14-4) 52pts 3rd in the Atlantic
2.88 Goals For Per Game (18th in the NHL)
2.62 Goals Against Per Game (3rd in the NHL)
27.4% Power Play (4th in the NHL)
80.6% Penalty Kill (12th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #88 David Pastrnak ~ 25G 27A = 52pts
2. #63 Brad Marchand ~ 15G 29A = 44pts
3. #37 Patrice Bergeron ~ 13G 22A = 35pts
4. #46 David Krecji ~ 7G 26A = 33pts
5. #47 Torey Krug ~ 4G 22A = 26pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #63 Brad Marchand ~ 80 PIM’s
2. #48 Matt Grzelcyk ~ 48 PIM’s
3. #14 Chris Wagner ~ 27 PIM’s
1. #40 Tuukka Rask (11-8-2) 2.55GAA .917%SP
2. #41 Jaroslav Halak (13-6-2) 2.36GAA .926%SP 3SO
They’re loud, they’re in your face reminding you how many times their teams have won it all. Its annoying, its incessant, but at least they haven’t thrown snowballs at Santa Claus. That is the nature of sports in Boston and their legion of passionate fans.
On the flipside, its one of the few places in the nation that can relate to having a deep, historic love of the game of hockey. They know their hockey and as an ‘Original 6’ franchise, their fans understand the difference when their team is playing well and when it is not.
The Bruins are having another relatively solid season, carried by one of the most dangerous top lines in the NHL in jack of all trades Patrice Bergeron, sniper David Pastrnak and talented super pest Brad Marchand. This line is tremendously pesky and they do not need many opportunities to light you up offensively. Boston’s 2nd line has evolved, but David Krecji is a very capable 2nd line center and toss in young sniper Jake DeBrusk and rugged power forward David Backes is another line with a dose of playmaking, scoring and agitation. Its a formula that has served the Bruins very well and is part of their team’s identity.
The bottom lines are young, fast and pesky and can chip in offensively enough to make them annoying but rather effective at shutting down opponents not prepared to work as hard as they will. They like to crash the net and their speed makes them dangerous in transition which make them ideal checkers.
On the blueline, the Bruins’ have a nice mix of experience in ageless wonder Zdeno Chara and a bunch of great soldiers like Torey Krug and Kevan Miller to go along with young stud, the underheralded Brandon Carlo. This defense can be physically punishing but they move the puck well to support the attack effectively. They certainly miss young phenom Charlie McAvoy who has battled injuries for most of this season. So as well rounded as they are, they could be even better.
Between the pipes, the Bruins are a 1A, 1B rotation between incumbent Tuukka Rask and the surprising Jaroslav Halak whose career seemed to be at a precipice only to rediscover his game (and his confidence) with Boston.
I would suspect Tuukka Rask gets the start against Minnesota after how well the Wild did against Jaroslav Halak earlier in the season. Meanwhile with Dubnyk having played last night, one would think Alex Stalock gets the start.
Minnesota managed to earn a 1-0 win over Montreal, but all in all it was a pretty sloppy effort. Lots of bad passes, lots of energy wasted spent chasing the puck around. So how much energy will they have for a well-rested Bruins squad?
Offensively the Wild too often settled for shots from the perimeter; and while Carey Price played fairly well he didn’t have a lot of traffic to deal with. That will need to change if they expect to beat Boston. Mikael Granlund scored his first goal since November 29th. Jason Zucker, Nino Niederreiter and Eric Staal have all had a number of prime opportunities that they failed to bury. Zucker is especially cold, he’s firing shots well wide of the mark even on chances from in close. Charlie Coyle is playing better, more assertively at both ends of the ice but he still has just 7 goals. Mikko Koivu has just 5 tallies so far.
Zach Parise is the only Wild player scoring with any kind of regularity this season. Luke Kunin may be using his speed well enough to help forecheck along with Coyle and Parise but he has no goals to show for it. The Wild desperately need someone else besides Parise to start lighting the lamp to start spreading some of the offensive workload on this team.
It will be interesting to see if Eric Fehr is back for tomorrow night’s game after his nasty spill to the railing on the Wild’s bench last night. If he can’t go, does the team soldier on with Matt Hendricks or do they call up Joel Eriksson Ek who has had 4 goals, 6 points in 5 games since being sent down to Iowa. My guess with a back to back they’ll just play Hendricks and see how that plays out.
Defensively, the Wild will have to be wary of letting the Bruins work their way in close. The Bruins don’t mind getting dirty and taking the puck to the high traffic areas of the ice far more than Montreal did last evening.
What are the keys to victory for the Wild tonight?
1. Lockdown the Top Line – While it may be an impossible task to completely shut the top line down, but forcing this line to defend might be Minnesota’s best defense against it. Yet if the Wild can limit this line to a goal or less, their chances to win this game improve significantly.
2. Stay out of the Box – This goes along with shutting down their top line, but with such a potent trio its important to limit their opportunities with the man advantage. That line is lethal with extra space on the ice. This is also the 2nd game of a back-to-back, so staying out of the box is important to prevent extra fatigue on important vets Parise and Koivu.
3. Move your feet, draw penalties – the Wild’s power play has been deployed the least of any of the league’s 31 teams. Part of that is the Wild have a tendency to be a bit static which means they don’t force opponents to take penalties to try to slow us down. That needs to change, and going on the power play should help them be less fatigued which should mean they have more fight / battle level as the game goes on.
What do you think will be important in order for the Wild to prevail tonight? Tell us on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist or in the comment section below!