Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche 2/2/21 @ 7:30PM CST at Pepsi Center

Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche 2/2/21 @ 7:30PM CST at Pepsi Center


Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Colorado Avalanche 2/2/21 @ 7:30PM CST at Pepsi Center

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Minnesota Wild (6-4-0)  12pts  3rd in Honda West

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

2.80 Goals Against Per Game (16th in the NHL)

5.1% Power Play (31st in the NHL)

85.4% Penalty Kill (6th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #18 Jordan Greenway ~ 2G 8A = 10pts

2. #14 Joel Ericksson Ek ~ 5G 4A = 9pts

3. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 2G 6A = 8pts

4. #25 Jonas Brodin ~ 2G 4A = 6pts

5. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 0G 6A = 6pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #21 Carson Soucy ~ 14 PIMs

2. #18 Jordan Greenway ~ 14 PIMs

3. #27 Nick Bjugstad ~ 8 PIMs

Top Goaltenders:

1. #33 Cam Talbot ~ (3-1-0)   2.49GAA   .916SV%

2. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen ~ (3-3-0)   2.86GAA   .903SV%




Colorado Avalanche (6-3-1)  13pts  2nd in Honda West

3.60 Goals For Per Game (4th in the NHL)

2.30 Goals Against Per Game (6th in the NHL)

28.6% Power Play (8th in the NHL)

91.7% Penalty Kill (1st in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #29 Nathan MacKinnon ~ 2G 12A = 14pts

2. #8 Cale Makar ~ 1G 10A = 11pts

3. #96 Mikko Rantanen ~ 7G 3A = 10pts

4. #49 Samuel Girard ~ 1G 8A = 9pts

5. #92 Gabriel Landeskog ~ 3G 5A = 8pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #27 Ryan Graves ~ 18 PIMs

2. #91 Nazem Kadri ~ 8 PIMs

3. #49 Samuel Girard ~ 8 PIMs

Top Goaltenders:

1. #31 Philipp Grubauer ~ (6-2-0)   1.75GAA   .930SV%   2SO

2. #32 Hunter Miska ~ (0-1-1)   3.55GAA   .881SV%


Colorado Avalanche

Landeskog – MacKinnon – Rantanen

Saad – Kadri – Burakovsky

Nichushkin – Compher – Donskoi

O’Connor – Jost – Sherwood

Byram – Makar

Graves – Girard

MacDonald – Timmins



Minnesota Wild

Parise – Bjugstad – Johnson

Greenway – Eriksson Ek – Hartman

Sturm – Rask – Kaprizov

Rau – Bonino – Mayhew

Suter – Spurgeon

Brodin – Soucy

Cole – Hunt




I know we over a month past Christmas, but every time I sit down to write a game preview, I feel like Ralphie’s character in A Christmas Story when his teacher tells the class that they have to take out their notebooks and write a theme about “what I want for Christmas.” Now, Ralphie was excited, because he figured this was a surefire way to let people know that he wanted the Red Rider BB-gun from Santa. However, I feel more like his classmates, complete with audible groans and making faces. Often, I struggle with coming up with a theme, because what the team did in the previous game and what that means for the next game, essentially writes itself. But it’s the “how do I make this fun and enjoyable to read” part of writing. And let’s face it, this team often makes it difficult to come up with ideas as well. They’re not an offensive juggernaut. They’re not high-flying speedsters. They’re just the Minnesota Wild. Yet because they’re the Minnesota Wild and they’re “my team” I feel the need to come up with something epic, much like the theme that Ralphie came up with in his head and what he thought the resulting grade would be.

A lot of things went right in Sunday’s game. First and foremost, we saw this team play a simplified game. That straightforward approach, applied pressure on Colorado defensively pretty much all night long. Combine that with tight checking by the Wild which helped to neutralize Colorado’s top line, and it gave the Wild the chance to ultimately win in overtime. Now don’t get me wrong, the Avalanche have a lot of firepower outside of the top line, but if you can hamper the offense of the top line, you stand a chance. And it worked on Sunday. The Wild also avoided long stretches of time without a shot on goal. While that may not seem like much of an accomplishment, for this team, (sadly) it is. I think they were able to get the shots on goal, because they weren’t overhandling the puck or looking for the fancy play or pass. Instead, they took the chances when they happened, which for the most part allowed for an open lane to do so.

Now, let’s talk about the taxi squad. On Sunday, we got to see Kyle Rau, Gerald Mayhew, and Luke Johnson play. Nothing quite like for the first time of the season having to use the taxi squad, that we had to use all three skaters in the same game. Now, they weren’t lighting the lamp, but they at least hustled on the ice. With this team, getting a little hustle is always a bonus. And considering that they hadn’t played a game since March 2020, it may be a sign of their excitement to just be back in a game. Sounds like we’re going to continue to see them in action as Marcus Foligno is still out on Covid-19 protocol, Matt Dumba is on Injured Reserve, and Kevin Fiala is still out for this last game of his three-game suspension. Because all three skaters from the taxi squad played, this forced Minnesota to call up two more skaters, Will Bitten and Mason Shaw, from Iowa to fill the taxi back up. Speaking of Dumba, it is hopefully a good sign that his injury isn’t season ending significant, as we haven’t gotten any updates like it being a broken bone or a torn ACL/MCL. So fingers crossed there. For Foligno, we haven’t heard anything more than just Covid protocol. It’s possible that he’s only out because of a close contact exposure or simply asymptomatic. Hopefully that’s the case, because getting sick from it is no fun.

Other positives were a true team effort. First off, they were 4-for-4 on the penalty kill. Minnesota’s penalty kill has been decent this season, but it’s had some moments where you’re thinking “what are they doing?” Not only did they keep Colorado off the score sheet while the Avalanche had the extra skater, but Minnesota didn’t rack up scores of penalties. When you continually march to the penalty box, you might as well just say “hey, we’re going to play tired and in our end all night.” That also gave goaltender Cam Talbot some breathing room in his return. I would say Sunday night was a perfect demonstration that defense comes from skaters and goaltenders working together. This is even more true, when your neither your goaltenders or your skaters are Hall of Fame material. They absolutely had to work together, and discipline is a major component of that.

Tonight, will be a replay of what we’ve already seen. Now, I know for myself, I’d rather see a repeat of Sunday than Saturday. No one can say “well we don’t know what to expect from Colorado.” Heck, they don’t feel any different from last season. So yes, this is an opponent we know. Although, we don’t know yet if Nathan MacKinnon will return after he left Sunday’s game with a lower body injury. Of course, MacKinnon is but one piece of the Colorado puzzle. We saw that Cale Makar can and will score against the Wild. We also had the benefit of facing Hunter Miska and not Philip Grubauer. I would imagine that in Denver, we’re going to see Grubauer and his two shut outs. I would also wager a guess that we’ll see him both nights in Denver, as this isn’t a back-to-back scenario like the Saturday-Sunday series we had in Saint Paul.

If the Wild play like they did on Sunday, they stand a very good chance of winning or at the very least being competitive. If I see a repeat of Saturday though, I may just tune out the game and go to bed early.

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