Minnesota Wild (34-31-9) 77pts 6th in the Central
2.69 Goals For Per Game (26th in the NHL)
2.88 Goals Against Per Game (12th in the NHL)
20.8% Power Play (12th in the NHL)
80.5% Penalty Kill (17th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #11 Zach Parise ~ 26G 32A = 58pts
2. #12 Eric Staal ~ 20G 29A = 49pts
3. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 7G 39A = 46pts
4. #46 Jared Spurgeon ~ 14G 27A = 41pts
5. #16 Jason Zucker ~ 21G 18A = 39pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #36 Nick Seeler ~ 57 PIM’s
2. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 51 PIM’s
3. #29 Greg Pateryn ~ 37 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (28-25-6) 2.59GAA .912%SP 2SO
2. #32 Alex Stalock (6-6-3) 3.05GAA .893%SP
Washington Capitals (43-23-8) 94pts 1st in the Metropolitan
3.41 Goals For Per Game (5th in the NHL)
3.11 Goals Against Per Game (21st in the NHL)
21.6% Power Play (9th in the NHL)
79% Penalty Kill (23rd in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #8 Alexander Ovechkin ~ 48G 35A = 83pts
2. #19 Nicklas Backstrom ~ 18G 51A = 69pts
3. #92 Evgeni Kuznetsov ~ 20G 45A = 65pts
4. #74 John Carlson ~ 12G 53A = 65pts
5. #77 T.J. Oshie ~ 22G 25A = 47pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #43 Tom Wilson ~ 115 PIM’s
2. #6 Michael Kempny ~ 60 PIM’s
3. #92 Evgeni Kuznetsov ~ 50 PIM’s
1. #70 Brayden Holtby (27-18-5) 2.95GAA .907%SP 3SO
2. #1 Phoenix Copley (16-5-3) 2.88GAA .906%SP 1SO
I know I’ve mentioned over the years, that there are few country artists or songs out there that I like. It’s just a genre that I have little time for. I also feel the same about rap and hip-hop. While I don’t like these kinds of music generally, there are a few out there that do transcend my general dislike. When it comes to country music, I generally prefer the older music, as the newer music just sounds the same. When it comes to country, musicians like Bill Monroe, Roy Acuff, and Willie Nelson are the ones I like. I suppose it has more to do with music that will stand the test of time. Vast amounts of current music (and I’m not just talking country music here) will not stand the test of time. It’s hard to say what makes music stand the test of time, but it’s probably a combination of the melody, the lyrics, and the time that it originally became popular. Willie Nelson is a living legend when it comes to music in general. He’s performed with artists in other genres and works hard for things like FarmAID. And of course, when many people hit the road, whether for business or pleasure, this classic tune by Nelson is often in people’s heads.
Considering how this season has gone, it’s actually a relief to be on the road again. As we’ve discussed before, most teams usually perform better at home than when they’re on the road. One of repeating lines of lyrics from Nelson’s songs is “I just can’t wait to get on the road again.” That is certainly the case right now. Of the eight remaining games (including tonight’s), five of them will be played on the road. To a degree, that a relief. Well until you look at the opponents. Obviously, tonight against Washington will be a challenge, and we’ll get into those challenges in a a moment. The other road opponents are Carolina, Las Vegas, Arizona, and Dallas. None of them are ideal for a fragile team like the Minnesota Wild. Sure, they may get a few wins out of these remaining games, I don’t see them being enough to say “this is a real playoff team” or “they deserve to make the post-season.” Another benefit to being on the road for most of the remaining games, is that when they fail in some epic fashion, it’s not as frustrating for local fans because they haven’t shelled out the big bucks to watch them fail.
But let’s talk about the Capitals. Tonight’s opponent is sitting at the top of the Metropolitan Division. While that’s the case now, they still haven’t officially clinched a playoff spot. In the Eastern Conference, the only team that has done so is Tampa Bay, but then they’ve been so far ahead much of the season, that’s not much of a shock. They also clinched the President’s Trophy. In the Wester Conference, the only teams that have officially made the playoffs are Calgary and San Jose. For Washington, they’re looking at tonight as another step of officially clinching a playoff spot. They also want to do everything they can to win the top spot in the Metropolitan. Plus, both the New York Islanders and the Pittsburgh Penguins are just three points behind them. As the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, Washington wants to do everything they can to keep the home ice advantage as much as they can when the playoffs start. Plus considering when the playoffs start, it’s an entirely new season.
I don’t really need to state the obvious when it comes to Washington, but I will because when it comes to the Minnesota Wild, the obvious tends to escape them. It is a rare night between these two teams when Capitals captain, Alexander Ovechkin fails to tally a point. He has his magic spot on the ice where the Wild (and actually quite a few teams) fail to take away from him. But then he doesn’t need just that one spot to snipe a goal or two. He’s a scoring threat pretty much anywhere on the ice, which of course makes him difficult to defend. Then when you do manage to contain Ovechkin for a night, you then leave his other teammates open. The point totals for his other top five scorers are a threat as well. Seriously, if Zach Parise was on the Capitals with his current point totals, he would be in fourth place, just above T.J. Oshie. And that my friends, is the sad state of affairs of the Minnesota Wild.
While Devan Dubnyk and Bradon Holtby have fairly comparable goals against average and save percentages (although Dubnyk has the better numbers when it comes to those stats), where the Capitals pull ahead in goaltending, is that they have the better backup. Not only is Phoenix Copley better than Alex Stalock no questions asked, where the true superiority is that Copley has far more games under his belt. Looking at the numbers between Copley and Holtby, it looks like there’s a lot of trust in Copley, and when they want to give Holtby the night off, they can safely do so. The Capitals aren’t great when it comes to goals per game and penalty kill, and both Holtby’s and Copley’s goals against average and save percentage aren’t something to write home about either. But the absolute saving grace for the Capitals’ goaltenders are that the skaters in front of them can seemingly score at will. This is the complete opposite in Minnesota. I know I’ve been tough on Dubnyk this season as he’s let in too many soft goals, but many nights he’s not getting the support from his skaters either offensively or defensively.
While the Wild have played better on the road this season, I just don’t think they have it in them tonight. I’d like to be wrong. Again, I’d like to get ahead of Colorado in the standings. But again, I just don’t know if this team has it in them. I would like this team to decide which team they are. Are the playoff team or are they not? Hey, but at least if they do make the playoffs, they’ll be doing it on the road.