Minnesota Wild (24-21-3) 51pts 5th in the Central
2.75 Goals For Per Game (27th in the NHL)
2.85 Goals Against Per Game (9th in the NHL)
20.7% Power Play (12th in the NHL)
84.8% Penalty Kill (2nd in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #11 Zach Parise ~ 20G 22A = 42pts
2. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 12G 27A = 39pts
3. #12 Eric Staal ~ 14G 17A = 31pts
4. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 5G 25A = 30pts
5. #46 Jared Spurgeon ~ 7G 20A = 27pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #36 Nick Seeler ~ 41 PIM’s
2. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 31 PIM’s
3. #29 Greg Pateryn ~ 29 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (18-16-3) 2.60GAA .912%SP 1SO
2. #32 Alex Stalock (6-5-0) 2.92GAA .894%SP
Vegas Golden Knights (29-17-4) 62pts 3rd in the Pacific
3.06 Goals For Per Game (14th in the NHL)
2.66 Goals Against Per Game (5th in the NHL)
18.4% Power Play (18th in the NHL)
83.3% Penalty Kill (6th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #89 Alex Tuch ~ 16G 23A = 38pts
2. #81 Jonathan Marchessault ~ 17G 17A = 34pts
3. #71 William Karlsson ~ 16G 16A = 32pts
4. #67 Max Pacioretty ~ 13G 13A = 26pts
5. #20 Cody Eakin ~ 13G 13A = 26pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #75 Ryan Reaves ~ 56 PIM’s
2. #3 Brayden McNabb ~ 34 PIM’s
3. #81 Jonathan Marchessault ~ 26 PIM’s
1. #29 Marc-Andre Fleury (27-12-4) 2.49GAA .911%SP 6SO
2. #33 Maxime Legace N/A
Vegas Golden Knights
When the Golden Knights had a slow start, many fans relished their struggles after their fantastic first season in the league. Especially for those fans of expansion clubs who remember all too well the ‘early days’ where the team simply hoped to avoid being cannon fodder for their opponents for the first five seasons or more.
Wild fans were spoiled when their upstart team of castoffs made the Western Conference Finals in their 3rd season. What Wild fans either fail to remember or seldom bring up was the petty jealousy of other expansion clubs that didn’t have that kind of success so early. Nashville fans were annoyed, Thrasher fans were mostly apathetic, and Columbus fans were especially irked their club wasn’t ahead of Minnesota. Wild fans loved to tease fans of those clubs with the simple taunt, “Have you been to the playoffs yet?”
So when the NHL provided Las Vegas the chance to build an instantly competitive team for an expansion fee that was times more than what Minnesota paid, if you’re Vegas why wouldn’t you take that deal? So when they had a slow start fans mocked their struggles. Those struggles weren’t permanent and the Golden Knights found their rhythm and they’ve been one of the hottest teams in the league the last two months.
Jonathan Marchessault, William ‘Wild Bill’ Karlsson now additions Max Pacioretty and Paul Stastny and former Wild 1st rounder Alex Tuch have re-ignited their scoring touch and the Golden Knights are looking more like that team that ambushed opponents last year. Brandon Pirri was lighting it up in the AHL, and got the call up and has kept lighting the lamp to now be a part of Vegas’ top line. Golden Knights Gerard Gallant still has a fast, hard-working team with lots of interchangeable parts. The team isn’t quite lighting up teams offensively the way they did last season, but they are pretty good at shutting teams down. So maybe, just maybe last year was not just a fluke.
On the blueline, the Golden Knights struggle coincided with not having Nate Schmidt who was serving a lengthy suspension for testing positive to having used performance enhancing substances. Shea Theodore also had a slow start but he’s been regaining his offensive form lately. Brayden McNabb, Deryk Engelland, Josh Holden provide each pairing that dose of sandpaper and physical play. Marc-Andre Fleury has been fantastic and continues to be the rock between the pipes for Vegas.
I would expect Minnesota to give Devan Dubnyk the start which is no surprise after his last two appearances where he’s been rock solid. He’ll need support to deal with Vegas’ relentless attack. Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon will need to be careful with their sojourns in the offensive zone as Vegas loves to use its speed to attack in transition. By the end of Saturday’s game the Wild moved youngster Louie Belpedio to be Jonas Brodin‘s partner and I felt the combination worked pretty well. I thought it was even more noticeable as Greg Pateryn appeared far more comfortable on the 3rd pairing with Nick Seeler.
Up front, the Wild peppered Columbus’ Sergei Bobrovsky with 31 shots. The Wild had a number of quality aka ‘high danger’ scoring chances but were only able to find the back of the net twice. Yet, the approach the Wild were using was correct. They were crashing the net with regularity and moving their feet well to create opportunities to score. Jordan Greenway, Jason Zucker, Joel Eriksson Ek, Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle and Zach Parise all had great chances. Pontus Aberg continues to demonstrate good skill and scoring instincts. Even newcomer Victor Rask rang a shot off the pipe and didn’t look lost on the power play as he was used as the ‘bumper’ so up front the Wild were about as engaged offensively as one could ask for.
So what are the keys to a Wild victory?
1. Attack the net & move your feet – Minnesota may have only had 2 goals on Saturday but they crashed the net about as well as they have all season. That is where the Wild are going to find success against Fleury. When the Wild have had success in the past against Golden Knights, they’ve crashed the net. They also worked pucks deep and cycled the puck where Vegas’ defense had a hard time dealing with Minnesota’s strength along the wall. The Wild moved their feet well on Saturday and gave one of their best full-game efforts of the season. They would be wise to replicate that effort again.
2. Ignore Reaves – Ryan Reaves has pestered the Wild throughout his time with St. Louis and Vegas. Minnesota needs to keep playing fast and negate his agitating qualities by applying offensive pressure. If the Wild keep scoring goals and Reaves will end up being relegated to the bench. The Wild can’t get caught up in his antics or play gun shy.
3. Be selective with pinching – Minnesota likes to activate its defense, but against a fast, quick transitioning team like Vegas that is a dangerous choice. Unless its Spurgeon, Brodin or Belpedio I wouldn’t pinch at all. Suter, Pateryn and Seeler do not have the footspeed to recover if the attempt goes awry and I’d tell them to stay near the blueline and don’t go much further to support the play in the offensive zone.
4. Stay out of the box – The Golden Knights generate energy and momentum off the power play. Being disciplined and staying out of the box will help limit Vegas’ ability to build momentum as well as opening up chances for Marchessault, Pacioretty and Karlsson who are the Golden Knight’s best power play weapons.
What do you feel are the keys to a Wild victory? Tell us on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist or in the comment section below!