Minnesota Wild (18-15-5) 41pts 6th in the Central
3.08 Goals For Per Game (15th in the NHL)
3.29 Goals Against Per Game (28th in the NHL)
17.3% Power Play (21st in the NHL)
77% Penalty Kill (25th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #12 Eric Staal ~ 14G 17A = 31pts
2. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 4G 20A = 24pts
3. #11 Zach Parise ~ 14G 8A = 22pts
4. #36 Mats Zuccarello ~ 9G 13A = 22pts
5. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 8G 13A = 21pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 44 PIM’s
2. #24 Matt Dumba ~ 33 PIM’s
3. #19 Luke Kunin ~ 28 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (6-8-2) 3.19GAA .897%SP 1SO
2. #32 Alex Stalock (9-6-2) 3.02GAA .901%SP 1SO
Colorado Avalanche (23-11-3) 49pts 2nd in the Central
3.62 Goals For Per Game (1st in the NHL)
2.78 Goals Against Per Game (9th in the NHL)
18.9% Power Play (16th in the NHL)
80.3% Penalty Kill (18th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #29 Nathan MacKinnon ~ 21G 34A = 55pts
2. #72 Joonas Donskoi ~ 13G 15A = 28pts
3. #96 Mikko Rantanen ~ 11G 14A = 25pts
4. #95 Andre Burakovsky ~ 13G 11A = 24pts
5. #91 Nazem Kadri ~ 12G 11A = 23pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #91 Nazem Kadri ~ 46 PIM’s
2. #16 Nikita Zadorov ~ 43 PIM’s
3. #27 Ryan Graves ~ 31 PIM’s
1. #31 Philipp Grubauer (10-8-2) 2.86GAA .913%SP
2. #39 Pavel Francouz (11-2-1) 2.22GAA .932%SP
Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays to all of our readers! Please forgive the brief sighting of a Chicago Blackhawks’ jersey in the National Lampoon’s Chrismas Vacation video clip above. But as Christmas passes by, we now come to the countdown towards a new year and let’s face it, we all have something we wish to purge just like Cousin Eddie did. It may be simple things you want to improve upon personally or at the workplace or just having a hope that things will be better this year. Its the most basic of all holiday wishes isn’t it? The simple thought that life can improve just with a new year’s arrival.
Let’s face it, 2019 for the Minnesota Wild was a pretty rough year. From the team’s poor play on home ice (last season) to the tumultuous but short tenure of Paul Fenton as General Manager there are lots of 2019 that we’re glad it is just a memory now. Watching the team jettison Fenton this summer was like watching a sudden, but much-needed divorce. The relationship between the team, its personnel and their General Manager wasn’t the best and at least the organization recognized this mistake and did not let it get any worse by replacing Fenton with Bill Guerin.
We haven’t seen enough of the new GM to get a solid idea on what he wishes to do with the team but that in itself is probably for the best. He’s letting this season play out its course and the team has started to turn it around a bit since its rough start. It is still struggling to climb out of the deep hole it started, but the younger players like Joel Eriksson Ek, Luke Kunin, Jordan Greenway, Carson Soucy and Kaapo Kahkonen are showing positive development and the older players appear to be having more fun and energy as the season goes on. Last year’s additions in Kevin Fiala and Victor Rask are playing more to their potential and looking more and more comfortable with each game. You’ve also had incredible milestones being celebrated like Mikko Koivu‘s 1,000th game, Eric Staal reaching 1,000 points and Tony DaCosta working his 2,000th NHL game, so 2019 certainly wasn’t all bad.
The Wild are going into the break with the good feeling of a 3-0 win over Calgary. The Avalanche are also feeling good after thrashing the Golden Knights 7-3 as they inch their way closer to the top of the Central Division. The Avalanche are loaded and healthy again as Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog are back from injury. That’s not good news for any of the league’s 30 teams, let alone the Wild. Nathan MacKinnon continues to be stellar and newcomers Joonas Donskoi, Andre Burakovsky and Nazem Kadri have all thrived since arriving in Colorado.
On the blueline, they are still without rookie phenom Cale Makar but Ryan Graves and Samuel Girard are playing well to help support Colorado’s attack. Nikita Zadorov has relished imposing his physical will on the Wild in the past and Erik Johnson always seems to have a bit more hate for his former hometown team.
Between the pipes, Pavel Francouz and Philipp Grubauer have been pretty solid for the Avalanche this season, but of course it doesn’t hurt when you know you are going to get at least 3 goals (or more) in support each game. I would guess that Devan Dubnyk will get the start after sporting a shutout against the Flames.
Special teams, the Avalanche are not quite as lethal on the power play as one may expect but they still have plenty of lethal options so the Wild would be wise to stay out of the penalty box as much as possible. Yes, it was great having Eriksson Ek back in the lineup and there is a small chance Mikko Koivu might make a return but not giving up power plays will certainly help boost Minnesota’s chances this evening. Jonas Brodin and Carson Soucy will be a key shutdown pairing to go against Colorado’s top line.
So what are the keys to a Wild victory?
1. Get the first goal – While much has been made of the Wild’s resiliency to respond to giving up the first goal, the Wild would be well served in not trying to chase the game against such a potent club as Colorado is. Taking that initial lead will help keep Colorado’s crowd quiet and out of the game.
2. Keep your foot on the gas – This should not be confused with wanting the team to play firewagon hockey and try to have some high scoring affair with the Avalanche. However, the Wild cannot simply get the lead and just try to hold onto a 1-goal or 2-goal lead for the majority of the game either. The Wild must force Colorado to defend in its own zone and perhaps add to their frustration by chipping in some goals in the latter part of the game.
3. Good Puck Support – when the Wild have played well, they’ve had good puck support and used the glass and boards less which has meant they’ve sustained puck possession longer. With Colorado being such a terrific skating team, good puck support will be crucial into keeping the game at a comfortable pace for the Wild.
What do you think will be important in order for the Wild to earn a victory? Tell us on Twitter @CreaseAndAssist or in the comment section below!