Minnesota Wild (4-1-0) 8pts 2nd in Honda West
3.00 Goals For Per Game (15th in the NHL)
2.00 Goals Against Per Game (3rd in the NHL)
4.4% Power Play (30th in the NHL)
93.8% Penalty Kill (2nd in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #14 Joel Eriksson Ek ~ 3G 2A = 5pts
2. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 1G 4A = 5pts
3. #18 Jordan Greenway ~ 1G 4A = 5pts
4. #24 Matt Dumba ~ 2G 1A = 3pts
5. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 0G 3A = 3pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #18 Jordan Greenway ~ 8 PIM’s
2. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 6 PIM’s
3. #24 Matthew Dumba ~ 6 PIM’s
1. #33 Cam Talbot (2-1-0) 2.34GAA .925%SP
2. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (2-0-0) 1.20GAA .951%SP
3. #31? Andrew Hammond N/A
San Jose Sharks (2-3-0) 4pts 8th in Honda West
2.40 Goals For Per Game (27th in the NHL)
3.60 Goals Against Per Game (27th in the NHL)
23.8% Power Play (13th in the NHL)
88.9% Penalty Kill (6th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #48 Tomas Hertl ~ 3G 3A = 6pts
2. #39 Logan Couture ~ 2G 2A = 4pts
3. #9 Evander Kane ~ 1G 3A = 4pts
4. #28 Timo Meier ~ 1G 2A = 3pts
5. #88 Brent Burns ~ 1G 2A = 3pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #9 Evander Kane ~ 14 PIM’s
2. #88 Brent Burns ~ 6 PIM’s
3. #62 Kevin Lebanc ~ 4 PIM’s
1. #31 Martin Jones (2-1-0) 3.08GAA .893%SP
2. #40 Devan Dubnyk (0-2-0) 3.23GAA .887%SP
San Jose Sharks
Yay. As of now life is grand. As fans, we’re definitely enjoying things. I highly doubt any of us imagined this would be the fate of the Minnesota Wild out of the gate. Honestly, I thought the Wild would be sitting near the bottom of the division. Sure, between the West and Central Divisions for this season, the West was going to be far more kind to Minnesota. But again, the true tests have yet to happen. In a previous article, I pretty much called the games so far what would have been pre-season games in seasons past. Tonight is essentially the end of that so-called pre-season and things are about to get real. But until we’re truly thrust into the adult world, we’re just going to sit back and enjoy this ride. So let’s dive in, and see what we’re looking at.
Let’s start with the actual elephant in the room. As the saying goes, “all’s fun and games until someone gets hurt.” Well we’re possibly at that point, and that’s not good. At some point during the first period, Cam Talbot left the game with an injury. This then put Kaapo Kahkonen in net. The Finnish backup stopped all 17 shots that he faced the rest of the game. We’re at the point now wondering how long the net will belong to Kahkonen. As of the time I’m writing this, I’m not seeing any updates on Talbot’s status, so as of now, everything is up in the air. According to head coach Dean Evason, Talbot is day-to-day. I would say most of us welcome day-to-day, as it could be much, much worse. As of now, this means Kahkonen will most likely start tonight. We also haven’t heard if Andrew Hammond has been recalled from Iowa. So as today progresses, we may hear more about recalls and starters. All I know, is that I’m glad to see the solid game that Kahkonen had on Friday night. Hopefully that continues, as good teams tend to have two solid goaltenders that can be relied on at the drop of a hat. Lord knows, we’ve needed a solid tandem for a long time. And of course if we see Kahkonen for extended time, I just may need to put out an article about the correct pronunciation of Kahkonen’s (really it should be writted as Kähkönen), like I had to do several years ago with Mikael Granlund. But that’s a tale for another day.
And now it’s time to talk offense. Friday night, we were finally gifted goals by Zach Parise and Kevin Fiala. Sure, Fiala’s goal was an empty net goal late in the game, but last I looked, a goal is a goal. The Wild’s broadcasters were talking about that very thing. Sometimes all it takes is a goal. It doesn’t matter if even-strength, shorthanded, power play, empty net, or shootout. It also doesn’t matter if it’s a highlight goal or a dirty goal. A goal is a goal. Hopefully getting that monkey off of his back, will find Fiala frequently in the scoring column. Again, we need goals from him. And while Fiala was struggling to find the back of the net, Parise was also having the same battle. There were several things I really liked about Parise’s goal. It started with Kirill Kaprizov getting the puck out of the zone. Then there was the accurate passing between Carson Soucy and Nick Bjugstad and eventually over to Parise. But the true icing on the cake, was that it took Parise two chances on that goal. He shot and then Devan Dubnyk allowed a rebound that Bjugstad was able to collect and get a shot on goal. That also created another rebound that Parise, in front of Dubnyk was able to then get past the Sharks’ goaltender. This is the kind of play that we need to see from Parise. He’s a strong player in close, and it looks like he may now have skaters with him who fully realize they need to get that puck in close for Parise to do something with it.
And again, we need to discuss the solid play of Minnesota’s third line. That third line is being lead by the Wild’s best scorer, Joel Erickson Ek. There have been calls by a certain segment of the fanbase to move him up to the first or second lines. While he’s finding success on his current line, that doesn’t mean it will translate the same way. We see this all the time. Every team who has a player who was very successful in a lower level league, and when they get promoted to a higher level, that same success doesn’t follow them. I would rather keep Erickson Ek where he is right now, as he’s successful there. Honestly people, we need to have four solid lines. Having the successful third line as it is now, is serving as a foundation. They’re currently holding down the fort while the other lines, especially the first and second lines, are finding their identity. If only Kaprizov has scored on his between the legs shot.
So here we are. I’m just glad we’re seeing a Wild team that isn’t taking their opponents lightly. For far too long, we’ve seen them take nights off against lesser opponents. Yet this season, we’re starting off against those lesser opponents. They’re taking advantage of the situation, and piling up points where they can. Like the third line has been this team’s foundation so far this season, these early games are serving as a foundation for early in the season. We all remember seasons, where this team has struggled at the beginning of the season (or an extended losing streak later in the season) that later causes a panic in the last few weeks of the regular season, where they pretty much have to hope for other teams to fail more than Minnesota. I just hope that the Wild play as solidly as they have on other nights tonight. Again, we need that foundation for the four-game series against Colorado, which is coming very, very soon. We shall see.