Minnesota Wild (18-10-1) 37pts 3rd in Honda West
3.00 Goals For Per Game (14th in the NHL)
2.59 Goals Against Per Game (8th in the NHL)
8.5% Power Play (31st in the NHL)
84.7% Penalty Kill (5th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 10G 15A = 25pts
2. #36 Mats Zuccarello ~ 5G 15A = 20pts
3. #18 Jordan Greenway ~ 5G 15A = 20pts
4. #14 Joel Eriksson Ek ~ 11G 5A = 16pts
5. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 9G 5A = 14pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #18 Jordan Greenway ~ 38 PIM’s
2. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 33 PIM’s
3. #21 Carson Soucy ~ 32 PIM’s
1. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (12-5-0) 2.29GAA .921%SP 2SO
2. #33 Cam Talbot (6-5-1) 2.66GAA .915%SP 1SO
Anaheim Ducks (9-16-6) 24pts 8th in Honda West
2.23 Goals For Per Game (30th in the NHL)
3.32 Goals Against Per Game (27th in the NHL)
12.3% Power Play (29th in the NHL)
76.7% Penalty Kill (21st in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #67 Rickard Rakell ~ 6G 15A = 21pts
2. #53 Max Comtois ~ 9G 10A = 19pts
3. #14 Adam Henrique ~ 8G 6A = 14pts
4. #4 Cam Fowler ~ 2G 11A = 13pts
5. #22 Kevin Shattenkirk ~ 2G 11A = 13pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #20 Nick Deslauriers ~ 21 PIM’s
2. #28 Jani Hakanpaa ~ 20 PIM’s
3. #22 Kevin Shattenkirk ~ 20 PIM’s
1. #36 John Gibson (6-12-5) 3.11GAA .894%SP 3SO
2. #30 Ryan Miller (3-4-1) 3.47GAA .882%SP
Ahhh, the 1970s. Considering I was born in the mid-70s, I don’t remember a lot about the decade. However, it’s pretty easy to re-live the era (or experience it for the first time if you’re of the younger persuasion). Between the bazillion cable channels, streaming music, and fashion houses, the 1970s are but a click or purchase away. If there’s one thing you need to know about the 1970s, it was a decade of the disaster movie. Movies like 2012 and San Andreas have nothing on the gems of the golden age of the disaster movies. Movies like Airport, Airport 1975, and Airport ’77 pretty much became the foundation of disaster movies to come. However, probably the best known disaster movie didn’t take place in the air, but on the high seas. Yes, I’m talking about the 1972 classic, The Poseidon Adventure, starring Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, and Shelley Winters. This was a movie that combined so many elements, that included corporate greed cutting corners on customer safety and Mother Nature. And those are themes that have continued into today’s disaster movies.
Well the past two games in Denver felt very much like a classic disaster movie. Especially considering they came off the big wins against Vegas. For both games, Minnesota looked completely unprepared for what was coming their way. That is definitely something they have in common with the classic disaster movie. You’re made to feel comfortable with your surroundings, only to have the rug pulled out from under you. The Colorado Avalanche felt like the unbeatable foe, from the first puck drop. I think what was most frustrating about that, is that Minnesota has been able to beat the Avalanche in previous games this season. But the problem is that the team that beat Colorado earlier was clearly not on the ice the past two games. I’m not even sure at this point if Cam Talbot and Kaapo Kahkonen were simply brought back to Earth or they lacked support by their skaters. I’m learning toward the latter.
But we’re back home tonight. Not only are we back in the friendly confines of Xcel Energy Center, but we get the dubious honor of playing the worst team in the division. Yay. In the past, playing a cellar dweller would give me cause to worry. This is a team that historically doesn’t take lesser opponents seriously. However, this season, things have felt a bit different. Minnesota has definitely taken advantage of teams like Anaheim. When you have limited opponents to choose from, you have to grab the wins when you can. Also, it feels like every time we turn around, we’re playing the Ducks. Eventually however, these games against Anaheim will be no more. So it is very, very important to get the wins against teams like Anaheim when we can, because we still have many games against Vegas, Colorado, and Saint Louis (have you forgotten about them?).
There is a possibility of an NHL debut by a Wild skater tonight. During yesterday’s practice, Connor Dewar was skating on the fourth line. He was a scoring star on his junior team, the Everett Silvertips. Dewar definitely put in a good showing during the Wild’s training came, so it would be well deserved that he finally gets his debut. What would Dewar bring to the lineup? How about speed and youthful energy? I don’t know about you, but I’ll take that. With some of the injuries in the lineup currently, the team feels a lot more hesitant, and a shot to the arm would only be a good thing. Now don’t get me wrong, Marcus Foligno is not known for speed, but I think his steady presence is missed, making the team feel even more lost and cautious. Hence the look of fatigue against the Avalanche. Also possibly returning to the lineup could be Marcus Johansson. Now while I don’t think many of us are exactly thrilled with his play, he too will bring a little speed to the lineup as well. I’ll take whatever speed we can get at this point.
One of the issues that Minnesota has been dealing with, is the Kevin Fiala question. We got so used to his offensive ability last season, that this season is driving everyone crazy, but probably Fiala the most. Yes, the opponents have been able to easily neutralize him on the ice. I think what is driving Fiala absolutely bonkers, is that he watches his rookie teammate Kirill Kaprizov just shed the skaters who shadow him and make things happen. Heck, Kaprizov can have skaters draped all over him, and it’s like it doesn’t even matter. However, the difference is that Kaprizov has found perfect chemistry with Mats Zuccarello and Victor Rask. I don’t think anyone imagined that Rask would be so important to this team this season, Rask included. Fiala on the other hand is left flailing, not finding the right line. He needs a center or a play-making center that can match Fiala’s pace, who is at his best when he uses his speed. Having him play with a slow Zach Parise isn’t the answer.
Anaheim poses an interesting question for Minnesota. This is a team in transition, something that the Wild have never really been able to do. We’re starting to see the new Ducks, with players like Trevor Zegras and Jamie Drysdale, This skill level of these two alone should make die hard Ducks fans hearken back to the glory days when it was Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry leading the way, There’s more to Anaheim’s youth movement as well. When you add in Troy Terry, Max Comtois, Max Jones, and (currently injured) Sam Steel, the future is extremely bright. These players are being given more and more responsibility and ice time. Sure, when you’re skating that many young players, there’s bound to be some growing pains. But this is how you build a team, through a youth movement, something we’ve never really allowed to happen in Minnesota. And with youth on the mind, it’s hard to know if veteran Ryan Miller will get the start in goal or if it will be Anthony Stolarz. With all of the struggles the Ducks have faced this season, it wouldn’t be out of the question for Anaheim to start Stolarz. Because let’s face it, if they can win with Stolarz, that would only create some confidence for both the goaltender and the team as a whole.
Hopefully, the tidal wave that was Colorado hasn’t completely sunk the USS Wild. Everything had been smooth sailing prior to that trip to Denver, and made everyone comfortable. Now that we were battered and bruised by the rough waters, now we have to wonder if this team is really good or simply an illusion created by a schedule that pitted them against the bottom feeders early in the season. Will at-sea repairs be enough or will a complete dry-dock repair be needed? That is the question.