Minnesota Wild (12-7-1) 25pts 4th in Honda West
3.10 Goals For Per Game (12th in the NHL)
2.70 Goals Against Per Game (11th in the NHL)
7.6% Power Play (31st in the NHL)
83.1% Penalty Kill (7th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 6G 11A = 17pts
2. #18 Jordan Greenway ~ 3G 12A = 15pts
3. #14 Joel Eriksson Ek ~ 8G 4A = 12pts
4. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 7G 5A = 12pts
5. #36 Mats Zuccarello ~ 3G 8A = 11pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 31 PIM’s
2. #18 Jordan Greenway ~ 26 PIM’s
3. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 22 PIM’s
1. #33 Cam Talbot (4-3-1) 2.73GAA .910%SP
2. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (8-4-0) 2.41GAA .915%SP
Arizona Coyotes (10-9-3) 23pts 5th in Honda West
2.59 Goals For Per Game (26th in the NHL)
2.91 Goals Against Per Game (16th in the NHL)
21.1% Power Play (17th in the NHL)
81.3% Penalty Kill (10th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #83 Conor Garland ~ 7G 13A = 20pts
2. #18 Christian Dvorak ~ 9G 7A = 16pts
3. #81 Phil Kessel ~ 8G 8A = 16pts
4. #6 Jakub Chychrun ~ 5G 11A = 16pts
5. #8 Nick Schmaltz ~ 7G 8A = 15pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #6 Jakub Chychrun ~ 18 PIM’s
2. #91 Drake Caggiula ~ 15 PIM’s
3. #67 Lawson Crouse ~ 13 PIM’s
1. #35 Darcy Kuemper (6-7-2) 2.41GAA .913%SP 1SO
2. #32 Antti Rantta (3-1-1) 3.59GAA .907%SP
Crouse~J. Larsson~T. Pitlick
Up. Down. Up. Down. Up. Down. Welcome again to the world of the Minnesota Wild. Just when you think they have things figured out, they pull the rug out from under you. It’s not calm. It’s not relaxing. In fact, it’s downright stressful and frustrating to watch. We were riding high there for a moment. It felt like we were watching a champion yo-yo enthusiast pull off amazing stunts. And then Monday and Wednesday left us feeling like we were just learning how to use a yo-yo and ended up with a tangled mess. In fact, I’m not sure which is worse, a knotted up yo-yo or a messed up Slinky. Thinking about it, if it’s the classic metal Slinky and it’s all messed up, it’s probably the worst, because at least with a knotted up yo-yo, you have a chance of getting those knots untied. A bent Slinky is only fit for the recycling bin.
So where shall we start? Let’s start with the proverbial elephant in the room. Which Zach Parise will we see tonight? Will it be “angry” Parise or “pouty” Parise after he was a healthy scratch Wednesday night? It feels like we’ll get more of the “pouty” version, especially after his comments to the media, where he told reporters that he did nothing wrong, as his goal was to get Marcus Foligno his first NHL hat trick. Here’s the thing Zach, that is not your decision. When fans heard this excuse, it hearkened them back to the Adam Oates fiasco, where Parise and others took it upon themselves to get outside coaching to help fix the team’s then abysmal power play. There are times when Parise’s words and actions feel like they belong more in an r/EntitledPeople story on Reddit than in a sports story. There’s nothing that a sports fan hates more, than an entitled player who had yet to really prove he has anything to be entitled about. Good times. Shall we look and see what he has to be entitled about? Oh let’s see, there’s the -1 in the +/- stat column. This means he is a defensive liability this season. Or should we talk about his paltry three goals? I mean flippin’ Victor Rask has more goals than you and player like Jordan Greenway have the same number of goals. Yeah, you should be entitled about those kinds of numbers. All in all, Parise looks much, much slower this season. When you can’t hustle back the other way on the ice, you definitely become a defensive liability.
It would be one thing if Parise wasn’t expected to do much this season, but he was the team’s leading goal scorer last season. That alone creates expectations of you. This is a team that requires him to be a producer, but it can ill-afford his selfish mistakes like he had Monday night. Let’s not fool ourselves. If his choice in extending his shift was only to help Foligno tally a hat trick, why didn’t Parise leave the ice when Foligno wrapped up his own shift after about 45 seconds? Instead he stayed out there an additional 55 seconds in search of glory and Vegas tied the game. One would think you would need to ask an Alternate Captain to put the team first, yet here we are.
I think many fans are expecting Kaapo Kahkonen to return to the crease tonight. I know I was shaking my head that Cam Talbot played in both games in Vegas. I know Talbot was coming back from Covid-19 and an injury, and you want to get him some playing time, but you also tend to stick with the hot hand. And right now, the hot hand was Kahkonen. In fact, this decision reminds me a lot of last year’s World Series, where in the final game, because of flippin’ analytics, the Tampa Bay Devil Rays Manager Kevin Cash decided to pull pitcher Blake Snell. Well that decision was detrimental and the Los Angeles Dodgers won. There was no reason to pull Snell other than some bean counter analytics bro-dude somehow knew better than the results Snell had during the game. His pitching wasn’t the issue, it was his teammates. This is why I hate analytics and their disciples.
And then there is tonight’s opponent. The Arizona Coyotes are having a bit of an up and down season as well. Let’s start with their top six, in particular a pesky bunch by the names of Conor Garland, Christian Dvorak, and Nick Schmaltz. All three are in there top 5 scorers, and then you add into the mix Phil Kessel who is having a decent enough season and blueliner Jakub Chychrun and they could be a challenge for Minnesota. Especially on the road, because for whatever reason I really dislike playing Arizona on the road. Even when the Coyotes are at their absolute worst, it feels like they somehow have the ability to make Minnesota look like absolute crap. In fact, if the Wild need to know anything about this team, it’s to not let any pucks near Chychrun, especially when Arizona is on the power play. There’s a reason why he’s in the top 5 scorers. As of late, former Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper is listed as day-to-day. However, it wouldn’t shock me one bit if he makes his return against his former team.
The Minnesota Wild need someone or multiple someones to stand up, draw a line in the sand, and not allow a repeat of the last two games. I don’t care who does that, but it needs to happen right from the opening puck drop. It would be great if the Kirill Kaprizov-Victor Rask-Mats Zucarello line would return to last week’s magical form. I don’t even care which of those three score, because it’s just fun to watch them work. I keep thinking of the recent Colorado game, where Kaprizov pretty much schools the entire league on how to maintain possession of the puck and then passes the puck off a spin to a streaking Ryan Hartman. I don’t care who you are, but that was a sight to behold. Now, I can’t believe I’m mentioning analytics in a positive way, considering what I said a couple of paragraphs up, but based on the numbers and equations (ugh, math), but it’s believed that Nico Sturm could be the guy who takes that needed stand. Again, I don’t care (and analytics be damned) who that guy is, just do your flipping jobs. Don’t extend your shifts when you know head coach Dean Evason isn’t that guy who allows you to make your own decisions. Don’t pass when you should shoot. Don’t take foolish penalties.
If you’ve been feeling a bit stressed about this season, I will leave you this yo-yo, well famed cellist Yo-Yo Ma performing the Prelude from the well-known Cello Suite Number 1 in G-Major (BWV 1007) by Johann Sebastian Bach. If that doesn’t put you in an uplifted mode this Friday, I don’t know what will.