Minnesota Wild (12-6-0) 24pts 2nd in Honda West
3.17 Goals For Per Game (10th in the NHL)
2.44 Goals Against Per Game (5th in the NHL)
7.9% Power Play (31st in the NHL)
84.9% Penalty Kill (8th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 6G 11A = 17pts
2. #18 Jordan Greenway ~ 2G 12A = 14pts
3. #14 Joel Eriksson Ek ~ 8G 4A = 12pts
4. #36 Mats Zuccarello ~ 3G 8A = 11pts
5. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 6G 3A = 9pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 29 PIM’s
2. #18 Jordan Greenway ~ 24 PIM’s
3. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 22 PIM’s
1. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (8-4-0) 2.41GAA .915%SP
2. #33 Cam Talbot (4-2-0) 2.19GAA .926%SP
Vegas Golden Knights (12-4-1) 26pts 1st in Honda West
3.00 Goals For Per Game (14th in the NHL)
2.06 Goals Against Per Game (2nd in the NHL)
18.2% Power Play (19th in the NHL)
87.5% Penalty Kill (4th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #61 Mark Stone ~ 4G 13A = 17pts
2. #71 William Karlsson ~ 5G 9A = 14pts
3. #67 Max Pacioretty ~ 8G 5A = 13pts
4. #89 Alex Tuch ~ 7G 6A = 13pts
5. #81 Jonathan Marchessault ~ 6G 7A = 13pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #81 Jonathan Marchessaut ~ 22 PIM’s
2. #61 Mark Stone ~ 13 PIM’s
3. #89 Alex Tuch ~ 12 PIM’s
1. #29 Marc-Andre Fleury (9-3-0) 1.59GAA .941%SP 3SO
2. #90 Robin Lehner (3-1-1) 2.96GAA .890%SP
Vegas Golden Knights
If you’ve lived in the Upper Midwest for any amount of time, you’ve heard the joke/truism that there are two seasons, winter and road construction. Winter can start as early as October and last until March and possibly April. Winter 2018-19 was what I affectionately called “the winter that never ended.” It felt like we were using the snowblower every other day. I kid you not, but it snowed on Tax Day (April 15th, for any non-Americans reading this). Sure it wasn’t much, but considering how winter just coming and coming, it was like Mother Nature wanted to get the last laugh. Now winter comes in many forms. That winter it was snow, snow, and more snow. This winter has been less about snow and more about bitter cold. So while we were waking up to -40F (with the windchill) or colder, people in Texas were experiencing “normal” winter weather for us. Since today is March 1st, many of us start thinking that hopefully “Spring” will come soon. We don’t trust an oversized rodent telling us when the mythical season of Spring will arrive. For us, Spring is that month or two where it doesn’t dip below freezing and none of that white stuff falls. Usually Spring skips us, and goes right to summer with 90F and 100% humidity. And along with corn and soybeans sprouting in the fields, we see all of these orange cones sprouting on our highways. Welcome to the two seasons of Minnesota.
This hockey seasons feels a lot like the two seasons of Minnesota. Considering the opponents the team has faced and the Covid-19 pause, up until now it feels like we’ve been playing an extended pre-season. In a normal season, during pre-season, it feels like you only play two or three teams, and usually one of those teams (including your own team in some seasons) is not of the highest calibre. It’s kind of sloppy hockey, with a lot of prospects from the minor leagues and junior hockey in the lineup. Tell me we haven’t seen that this season. We’ve only played Los Angeles, Anaheim, San Jose, and Colorado. It has definitely felt like an extended pre-season for Minnesota. For many fans, I think we’re feeling pretty good, almost sitting at the top of the world. Briefly on Saturday night after the OT win against the Kings, the Wild were sitting in first place in the Honda West Division. It felt good. It felt like something we’d never see, considering how I think many of us felt going into this season. But tonight, the real regular season begins. Heck, you could even say we’ve gone right from pre-season to the post-season with tonight’s matchup.
I’ve warned of this moment many times this season. Vegas looks like an even bigger threat than they were in their inaugural season. I guess if there’s any silver lining, it’s that we didn’t have to face them until Minnesota is fully warmed up and ready to go. We didn’t have to face them when we had to raid both the taxi squad and the Iowa Wild in order to ice a complete team after the returned from Covid-19 protocol. No, we’re facing them with a healthy team, that to a degree seems to have found their identity. Scoring is coming from all corners and on a nightly basis, you never know what brilliance is going to come from Kirill Kaprizov. Sure we love when he scores goals, but it’s almost become more of a spectacle to see what kind of pass he will make to a teammate that becomes a goal. I will also say that I’m glad that we’re playing Vegas on the road. Why you ask? This is a team that is easily distracted by homelife when they’re back in Saint Paul. Head coach Dean Evason had to chew them out during the morning skate on Friday about their effort. I think we saw the effects of being too comfortable when at home on Saturday night, as too many times during the game, it felt like the effort simply wasn’t there. Honestly, this is a team that should probably check into the Holiday Inn Express across the street from Xcel Energy Center when they’re at home. And please notice I didn’t say the Saint Paul Hotel, as it’s too fancy and comfortable.
Now, when you look at the stats between Vegas and Minnesota, nothing really feels that different. Okay, well there is the abysmal Wild power play, but we’re going to ignore that. I don’t know why they can’t figure out the power play, but it’s a bit of a moot point right now. So yeah, just throw that stat out the window. Although, let me point out, that Vegas’ power play isn’t all that great either. All of the other team stats and individual stats for the most part are comparable. I suppose the one area that the Golden Knights do excel is in the goals against per game. Being #2 in the league is pretty darn good, and they’re allowing just 2.06 goals per game. If I had more time on my hands, I’d like to compare the goals for per game of their opponents this season. Since I know who Minnesota has played this season, it means I kind of know who Vegas has played by default. The worst opponent they’ve had when it comes to goals for per game is Anaheim, who as of now is scoring 1.95 goals for per game, which is last in the league. The next worst is Arizona, with 2.57 goals against per game, which is 27th in the league. Otherwise, San Jose, Saint Louis, and Colorado are respectable. Having just pulled up their schedule, I noticed that they’ve played a bunch of games against Anaheim and Arizona. I guess we know now where the Golden Knights have gotten their great team defense numbers from. But then, we’ve feasted on Anaheim and Los Angeles this season, so the same could be said of us.
I have no idea of how this game is going to go. I feel like the two teams are well matched. I just hope Minnesota doesn’t get it into their head that they just can’t beat Vegas. Trust me, you can. They’re not that much better. This is a team that lets other teams get into their heads. But then they’re also a team that somethings thinks they’re better than they really are and then lay an epic goose egg. Trust me, the Minnesota Wild are a team that exemplifies the true seasons of Minnesota, in that you never quite know what you’re going to get.