Minnesota Wild (20-18-6) 46pts 6th in the Central
3.02 Goals For Per Game (16th in the NHL)
3.27 Goals Against Per Game (25th in the NHL)
18.1% Power Play (20th in the NHL)
75.8% Penalty Kill (26th 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 ~ 11G 13A = 24pts
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
1. #32 Alex Stalock (9-7-3) 3.01GAA .901%SP 1SO
2. #40 Devan Dubnyk (8-10-2) 3.16GAA .898% 1SO
Vancouver Canucks (24-17-4) 52pts 5th in the Pacific
3.29 Goals For Per Game (10th in the NHL)
3.13 Goals Against Per Game (18th in the NHL)
24.7% Power Play (5th in the NHL)
79.9% Penalty Kill (17th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #40 Elias Pettersson ~ 20G 27A = 47pts
2. #6 Brock Boeser ~ 16G 27A = 43pts
3. #9 J.T. Miller ~ 16G 26A = 42pts
4. #53 Bo Horvat ~ 13G 25A = 38pts
5. #70 Tanner Pearson ~ 12G 21A = 33pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #23 Alexander Edler ~ 40 PIM’s
2. #9 J.T. Miller ~ 34 PIM’s
3. #57 Tyler Myers ~ 26 PIM’s
1. #25 Jacob Markstrom (16-12-3) 2.81GAA .914%SP 1SO
2. #35 Thatcher Demko (8-5-1) 3.20GAA .903%SP
Winter in the Upper Midwest can only be described as both predictable and unpredictable. When it comes to the predictability of the season, it’s this. You know it’s going to be cold and you’re going to see both snow and ice at some point. And because of that, you keep your snowblower tuned up and you purchase ice melt. You also keep things like blankets and either sand or kitty litter in your trunk in case you need them. Yet at the same time, winter can be extremely unpredictable. And the messengers of this unpredictability, are your local meteorologists. Where I am in Wisconsin, we were told to expect a winter storm with a minimum of six inches of snow Friday heading into Saturday. So with that forecast before us, I went out to the supermarket so I wouldn’t have to go out during or shortly after the storm. So for all the dire reports we got, at most we got a dusting of snow. Certainly not enough to break out a shovel, and certainly not worth taking out the snowblower. Compared to last winter, this one has not had much of a bite.
The Minnesota Wild have been much like this winter. Of course for those of you in the Twin Cities, you have certainly had your share of winter weather this year. But you honestly never know what you’re going to get. Some nights, they’ll put up a five goal night, yet give up four. Then there are other nights, where it feels like they can’t even buy a single goal. You just don’t know what they’re going to do, and I think that might be one of the most frustrating facets of this season. I mean the extra scoring this season is somewhat exciting, as when you’re fans of a team not always known for scoring, it can be a bit fun. Yet, when you’re also a team that is known for preventing goals, the number of goals given up on a nightly basis is not a comfortable feeling. This is the kind of unpredictability that has killed any chance this team may have thought they had.
One thing that is predictable this season, is the Wild’s absolutely abysmal penalty kill. Usually what we as fans complain about is Minnesota’s power play. It’s anything but powerful, but we could usually depend on the penalty kill most nights. That has not been the case this season. In fact, the penalty kill seems to get worse and worse every game. There seems to be two reasons for this. One, Minnesota’s puck pressure isn’t the greatest. This gives opposing teams the time and space to score, which they often do. How? Well how many times have we seen the skaters continue to clear the puck? Two, let’s face it, we have below average goaltending. Sure, it may seem a bit harsh to blame the goaltenders, but as is often said, your best penalty killer is your goaltender. When you can’t depend on your last line of defense, you’re going to expect goals getting scored regularly on the penalty kill. In the last 15 games, the Wild’s penalty kill is operating at a 67.1% clip and that isn’t nearly good enough.
What will be nice, is the possibility of some players returning from injury. For obvious reasons, I’m writing this on Saturday night, so things can and may change before game time on Sunday afternoon. After a long absence due to injury, we may see the return of Greg Pateryn. Trust me, I realize the return of a third-pairing defenseman isn’t going to be the key to turning the season around. However, there’s something about a third-pairing defenseman that brings about some normalcy. You don’t expect them to put up big goals or to really slow down the opposition, but they’re the kind of player that knows his role, and will play it quietly and solidly. That’s what was so good about Nate Prosser for all those years. A more important return to the lineup is Jason Zucker. We definitely need his speed, as there have been some night during his absence, where it’s like watching paint dry to watch the Wild. And it would be nice to see if his time off will somehow have improved his scoring touch, as he seemed a bit snake-bitten this season. It will be interesting to see if he comes out like a beast in order to become trade bait to get out of this dumpster fire. Both Zucker and Pateryn will be game time decisions.
This afternoon, the Wild penalty kill will certainly be tested, and will most likely fail at least once. Vancouver has certainly found success this season on the power play. Their goals for per game, isn’t too shabby either. Now this won’t feel like the games of old against the Canucks, when the Wild had to contend with Ed Jovanovski, Todd Bertuzzi, Trevor Linden, Marcus Naslund, Henrik Sedin, and Daniel Sedin. Currently, led by sophomore center Elias Pettersson, sniper Brock Boeser, and team leader Bo Horvat the Canucks are surprising a lot of clubs with their better than average attack. J.T. Miller has been a solid contributor so far as well and rookie Quinn Hughes gives them a dynamic offensive presence on the blueline.
But the Canucks have certainly been working on rebuilding, mostly through the draft and not taking foolish swings for the fences with a club that is still not a Stanley Cup contender which is something that Minnesota has yet to embrace. Of course, it’s difficult to rebuild when this team keeps handing out no-trade and no-movement clauses during contract negotiations. Minnesota is continually handcuffed by these contracts, whether it’s payroll wise or just trying to get prospects in order to make changes. However, if we could go back to those earlier days of the Minnesota Wild when we had to play the above mentioned former Canucks, we at least would get a solid effort by the team.
Jacob Markstrom started last afternoon in Vancouver’s 6-3 win over Buffalo, so there is a fair chance we’ll see Thatcher Demko between the pipes today. The Minnesota Wild still have not announced who will be their starting goaltender, which is probably a sign they don’t seem to have a lot of confidence in either Alex Stalock or Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk is back in the line up after having left the team briefly while his wife underwent a ‘serious medical procedure.’ How that operation will affect his ability to focus remains unclear but he is still giving up more than 3 goals per game and its tough to be bullish about having your starting goaltender back when he’s performing like that.
Even as unimpressive as this winter has been so far, it has at least felt like winter as far as temperatures go. I’m not sure if what we’ve been watching this season really counts as watching hockey.