Minnesota Wild (20-19-6) 46pts 6th in the Central
2.98 Goals For Per Game (18th in the NHL)
3.29 Goals Against Per Game (26th in the NHL)
17.5% Power Play (22nd in the NHL)
76.5% 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. #16 Jason Zucker ~ 12G 12A = 24pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 50 PIM’s
2. #18 Jordan Greenway ~ 37 PIM’s
3. #19 Luke Kunin ~ 34 PIM’s
1. #40 Devan Dubnyk (8-10-2) 3.16GAA .898%SP 1SO
2. #32 Alex Stalock (9-7-3) 3.01GAA .903%SP 1SO
Pittsburgh Penguins (28-12-5) 61pts 2nd in the Metropolitan
3.36 Goals For Per Game (9th in the NHL)
2.71 Goals Against Per Game (7th in the NHL)
18.9% Power Play (20th in the NHL)
81.5% Penalty Kill (13th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #71 Evgeni Malkin ~ 13G 31A = 44pts
2. #17 Bryan Rust ~ 18G 20A = 38pts
3. #58 Kris Letang ~ 10G 18A = 28pts
4. #19 Jared McCann ~ 13G 13A = 26pts
5. #24 Dominik Kahun ~ 10G 16A = 26pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #71 Evgeni Malkin ~ 34 PIM’s
2. #17 Bryan Rust ~ 24 PIM’s
3. #72 Patric Hornqvist ~ 19 PIM’s
1. #35 Tristan Jarry (15-6-1) 2.08GAA .932%SP 3SO
2. #30 Matt Murray (13-6-4) 2.91GAA .896%SP 1SO
If you happened to tune into last night’s NCAA Football National Championship Game between the two best teams in college football, well let me clue you in. Tonight, you’re not watching the two best teams in the National Hockey League. Well, one of them may be near the top of the league, but the same cannot be said about the Minnesota Wild. If you’re somehow still hanging on the belief that this team can make an epic rally and sneak their way into the playoffs, let me disabuse you of that notion. It ain’t happening, nor should it. I know we’re past the halfway mark of the season, but it seriously feels like we should be near the end of the season. I look at the schedule, and it just makes me sad and mildly depressed. In fact, I don’t even want to look at the schedule at this point.
Watching champions in any sport and at any level, make you realize quickly that this team doesn’t have the ability or the heart. In fact, the heart is even more MIA right now with the return of our injured players. In fact, this team seemed to work harder without Mikko Koivu, Jared Spurgeon, and Jason Zucker. This team found a way to dig deep, and find a way to get wins on the board. Sure, those wins didn’t make much of a difference in the long run, but it did make for more interesting games. Yet, as each of the above mentioned players returned to play, it seemed like the team tried less and less to score goals and put up a defense. It’s as if the team said “oh, so and so is back, so now I don’t have to work my butt off like I have for the past month or so.” Well guess what, you don’t get a night off.
Early in this season, when the Wild were definitely near the bottom of the league standings, there were fans (myself included) who were cheering for the losses. This is a team that has for a long time needed to build through the draft, although with legit draft picks instead of throw aways in the first round on players like Filip Johansson. Well when things turned around a bit, there was less talk of just tanking this season. Things again have turned to talk of tanking. And that’s honest and true. This is a conversation that needs to be happening. There are teams like Tampa Bay and Dallas (the next two games after tonight), that are both playing very well right now. Seriously, just let them take the win. However, at least put up a decent effort. I for one can take a loss when this team looks like they actually care. When they lose and look like they’re just going through the motions, this is when fans get angry.
Looking at Pittsburgh’s stats, I don’t even know if I want to point out the obvious. In every category, they outpace the Wild. Their overall goals for per game and goals against per game are impressive enough. Now, their power play and penalty kill are just fine, not great, but fine. In fact, they’re the kind of stats we only wish we could boast. I know for myself, I would gladly welcome an 81.5% penalty kill. Then when you add the players they have, the haves and the have nots become clear as day. Right now, Evgeni Malkin is the Penguins’ leading scorer. You’re probably asking yourself “hey, where is Sidney Crosby?” Well, it sounds like he’s a gametime decision. Lucky us. Now pointwise, the difference between Pittsburgh’s and Minnesota’s #4 and #5 scorers isn’t that much different. Heck, the number of goals isn’t that far off either. But compare Pittsburgh’s #2 scorer with Minnesota. We have Ryan Suter with his sad six goals compared to Bryan Rust with his eighteen goals. It almost doesn’t seem fair. I know, I’m comparing a forward to a defenseman, but it’s just hard to stomach sometimes. I think it also calls out how scoring can be inflated by assists, when goals are what really matter.
So here we are. This will probably be another slow game for Minnesota. It’s going to be a bumpy ride, but I don’t think you exactly need to buckle up. It’s going to be a slow, long ride to the end of the season.