Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Calgary Flames 1/9/20 @ 8:00PM CST at the ScotiaBank Saddledome

Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Calgary Flames 1/9/20 @ 8:00PM CST at the ScotiaBank Saddledome

Wild

Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Calgary Flames 1/9/20 @ 8:00PM CST at the ScotiaBank Saddledome

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Minnesota Wild (20-17-6)  46pts  5th in the Central

3.07 Goals For Per Game (16th in the NHL)

3.30 Goals Against Per Game (24th in the NHL)

18.4% Power Play (20th in the NHL)

76.1% Penalty Kill (25th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #12 Eric Staal ~ 16G 17A = 33pts

2. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 6G 24A = 30pts

3. #11 Zach Parise ~ 14G 12A = 26pts

4. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 9G 16A = 25pts

5. #36 Mats Zuccarello ~ 10G 13A = 23pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 50 PIM’s

2. #18 Jordan Greenway ~ 35 PIM’s

3. #24 Matt Dumba ~ 33 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (8-10-2)  3.16GAA  .898%SP  1SO

2. #32 Alex Stalock (9-6-3)  3.06GAA  .900%SP  1SO

 

Vs.

 

Calgary Flames (23-17-5)  51pts  4th in the Pacific

2.69 Goals For Per Game (24th in the NHL)

3.00 Goals Against Per Game (13th in the NHL)

18.5% Power Play (19th in the NHL)

82.5% Penalty Kill (7th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #19 Matthew Tkachuk ~ 15G 23A = 38pts

2. #13 Johnny Gaudreau ~ 11G 24A = 35pts

3. #28 Elias Lindholm ~ 18G 16A = 34pts

4. #23 Sean Monahan ~ 14G 20A = 34pts

5. #10 Derek Ryan ~ 7G 15A = 22pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #17 Milan Lucic ~ 36 PIM’s

2. #19 Matthew Tkachuck ~ 34 PIM’s

3. #4 Rasmus Andersson ~ 33 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #33 David Rittich (18-10-5)  2.81GAA  .911%SP  2SO

2. #39 Cam Talbot (5-7-0)  2.62GAA  .917%SP

Lines:

Calgary Flames

Gaudreau~Monahan~Backlund

Mangiapane~Lindholm~Tkachuk

Lucic~Ryan~Dube

Bennett~Jankowski~Reider

Giordano~Brodie

Hanifin~Hamonic

Mi. Stone~Andersson

Rittich

Talbot

Minnesota Wild

Greenway~Staal~Zuccarello

Parise~Koivu~Fiala

Foligno~Eriksson Ek~Kunin

Donato~Rask~Hartman

Suter~Spurgeon

Brodin~Dumba

Hunt~Soucy

Dubnyk

Stalock

 

Sacrifice. It’s one of those things, that we are often asked to do to make life better. Now, I’m not talking about a literal animal sacrifice, but more of the metaphorical variety. Sometimes, it’s giving something up for another person. Other times, it’s making do with what you have until things get better. A few years ago on the now defunct message boards at wild.com, we had a running joke in the game day threads, that when the team had piled up a few losses, all it took was for one of the regular fans to have a household appliance kick the can to get the Wild back in the win column. At that time, Derek and I weren’t exactly dealing with appliance woes, so we weren’t really making the “needed” sacrifice, although we did have some issues with a fairly new snowblower or needing to have the gas detector on our furnace cleaned. Of course, back then, we could chalk up the change in fortune to the fact that the Minnesota Wild were a better team than any sort of sacrificial offering to the hockey gods. Well now, it is our turn to make the sacrifice. Our dishwasher is on the fritz. I went to the appliance store earlier this month, ordered one. I thought by now it would be here, so I took today off in hopes of having it installed. Nope. Said dishwasher is on backorder, so I continue to have to wash dishes by hand (one of my most hated household chores) and deal with the super dry skin of dishwater hands. Yes, the sacrifice is real.

It is time for this team to make a sacrifice. I realize they spend a lot of time on the road, away from their families, but they did choose to be a professional athlete. They knew what sacrifices would be necessary. When they’re home or have long stretches between games, this is an organization that tends to hold “optional” practices or no practices at all. This past week has seen the team have a lot of time between games. Now some teams, respond well to having time off. They use it to rest up and heal any bumps and bruises they may have, and end up returning looking refreshed and ready to go. For the Minnesota Wild though, they often return looking tired and complacent. I know there are coaches out there in years past, especially playoff bound teams, when there’s a long home stretch and time off between games, they will have the team put up in a hotel instead of getting too comfortable sitting at home. I’m not sure that’s even allowed by the current CBA, but there are times I’d like to see the Wild’s front office make that decision. Seriously, put them up at the Holiday Inn Express across the street from the Xcel Energy Center, and have daily practices when you have these long stretches. Take them out of the comfort zone, sacrifice some family time, and see what happens.

One of the things that I would like to see the Wild focus on, and make sacrifices to do so, is their penalty kill. This is a team, that for much of their history, has been defensively minded. It’s sad to watch the penalty kill be decimated like it has this season. Derek put up a poll on his Twitter about this, and I think the results from the poll speak volumes:

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While there were four options, let’s break down the three portions that make up those four options, as option four was the typical “all of the above” (which also received the majority of the votes). The penalty killers themselves seems to be a concern for many people. I would say though, that the issues we see on the penalty kill are the same ones we see even strength when in our own zone. We don’t see our players clearing the crease area, attempting to clear out the opposition who screen our goaltenders. Consequently, they also aren’t screening the puck in the offensive zone either. The past two seasons (if not longer), this has been a team that struggles to clear the zone on the penalty kill. Receiving an even number of votes were goaltenders and coaching staff. In the case of head coach Bruce Boudreau my only complaint is this. We hear every now and then “oh, I’m going to change things up.” We may get some personnel changes, but they may last a shift or two, and then they go right back to the same old combinations. So let’s move to goaltenders. Let’s face it, neither Devan Dubnyk or Alex Stalock are going to take us to the promised land, so we have to just grin and bear it as much as we can. And now, we will be without Dubnyk for a few games, as he will be back out of the lineup due to his wife’s medical issues and Kaapo Kahkonen has been recalled from Iowa. But all in all, since hockey is a team sport, all of these reasons are part of the problem with the penalty kill, and the team in general.

Tonight of course is a repeat of Sunday’s game. However, this time we’re on the road and playing in Calgary. Not only did the Flames win that game, but they also won their next game, which was Tuesday night in Chicago. They also won that game in regulation. Minnesota needs to focus on the defensive side of the game. Giving up 3.30 goals per game (24th in the league) is not helping things. As I mentioned earlier, they’re not sacrificing their bodies to get in the way of the puck. They’re not sacrificing their bodies to move the opposition out of the crease. They’re not clearing the zone when they have the opportunity to do so. Yes, I realize that there’s a risk of injury to get in the way of a shot puck or a risk of taking a penalty to move an opposing player out of the way, but they are risks that need to be taken. Hockey is not a passive game, and we’ve seen far too much passive hockey this season. I’d rather watch this team play with their heart on their sleeves, than watch what we’ve been watching this season. Often great sacrifice reaps great rewards.

 

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