Minnesota Wild (33-14-4) 70pts 3rd in Honda West
3.27 Goals For Per Game (9th in the NHL)
2.73 Goals Against Per Game (11th in the NHL)
18.7% Power Play (22nd in the NHL)
82.2% Penalty Kill (9th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 24G 21A = 45pts
2. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 20G 19A = 39pts
3. #36 Mats Zuccarello ~ 11G 20A = 31pts
4. #18 Jordan Greenway ~ 6G 25A = 31pts
5. #14 Joel Eriksson Ek ~ 18G 10A = 28pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #21 Carson Soucy ~ 49 PIM’s
2. #18 Jordan Greenway ~ 49 PIM’s
3. #24 Matt Dumba ~ 46 PIM’s
1. #33 Cam Talbot (18-7-4) 2.57GAA .918%SP 2SO
2. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (15-7-0) 2.69GAA .909%SP 2SO
Vegas Golden Knights (36-13-2) 74pts 1st in Honda West
3.37 Goals For Per Game (4th in the NHL)
2.24 Goals Against Per Game (1st in the NHL)
18.5% Power Play (23rd in the NHL)
85.8% Penalty Kill (2nd in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #61 Mark Stone ~ 21G 38A = 59pts
2. #67 Max Pacioretty ~ 24G 27A = 51pts
3. #27 Shea Theodore ~ 8G 34A = 42pts
4. #81 Jonathan Marchessault ~ 16G 24A = 40pts
5. #71 William Karlsson ~ 14G 22A = 36pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #81 Jonathan Marchessault ~ 39 PIM’s
2. #55 Keegan Kolesar ~ 30 PIM’s
3. #20 Chandler Stephenson ~ 27 PIM’s
1. #29 Marc-Andre Fleury (23-10-0) 2.08GAA .926% 5SO
2. #90 Robin Lehner (12-3-2) 2.27GAA .915%SP 1SO
Vegas Golden Knights
Back in the late 1980’s there used to be a periodic NFL commercial called ‘You Make the Call’ where fans were treated to a real scenario and were asked what the correct call would be. The commercial would be for some company, like IBM for example which gave fans a chance to consider what the correct call would be and then they’d reveal what the proper call would be at the end.
As a football fan I always enjoyed the challenge and if I was wrong I’d learn something about the rules of the game. If I was right, I could impress those around me with my knowledge of the rules. With so many fans who think officiating is easy, especially when they have the benefit of slow motion replay or multiple camera angles focused on the key area to make the correct call in hindsight we often forget how tough the job really is.
Yet, when the NHL instituted instant replay in 2015, it gave coaches the chance to challenge goal calls to re-examine the play for goaltender interference or offsides. Initially the challenges seemed a bit incessant as teams used the replay excuse as a garner perhaps a timeout with the challenge being some kind of an added bonus. Eventually the league would make it so if you challenged a goal that you would be given a delay of game penalty if it did not result in the overturning of the call on the ice. Yet that possibility didn’t stop Wild Head Coach Dean Evason from making an early challenge against the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday night.
At that point, the goal only made the game 1-1 but Evason’s challenge failed and this put Vegas on the power play and they’d get the go-head goal on the man advantage. So whether it was assistant coaches Bob Woods, Brett McLean, Darby Hendrickson, goaltending coach Freddie Chabot, or video coach Jonas Plumb, or any other member of the coaching staff that looked at the screen of Cam Talbot and thought there may have been contact enough to justify goaltender interference it turned the tide of the game. I realize the Wild have been victimized the other way by even weaker goaltender interference calls but there doesn’t seem to be any set standard and while that is frustrating as a coach I’d be awfully hesitant to make such a challenge. Especially so early in the game (mid-1st period) where the team the decision seems foolish to me unless you really thought it was egregious.
Adding insult to injury, later in the period the Golden Knights appeared to have scored a goal when they were offsides by a fair margin, but because of the earlier failed challenge the coaching staff chose to let the goal stand and it made the original failed attempt feel like a 3-goal mistake when you considered the failed challenge on Shea Theodore‘s goal, the ensuing delay of game goal by Alex Martinez and the non-challenge to Alex Tuch‘s goal probably because they hesitated because of the other failed challenge.
As we get closer to the post-season, the smallest of mistakes become amplified whether it be a poor challenge or a bad turnover as Jared Spurgeon found out when he tried to send a puck through the the middle of the ice from his own end only to see it intercepted by Vegas’ Mark Stone and the Golden Knights’ captain moved in and wired a shot by Talbot who seemed to be struggling as of late. That being said, I’d be surprised if Talbot starts again tonight. I think Kaapo Kahkonen gets the start and I think we might see Marc-Andre Fleury for the Golden Knights after Robin Lehner started on Monday.
Vegas hopes to get leading goal scorer Max Pacioretty back in the lineup as he’s still listed day to day by TSN. No doubt his firepower was missed on Monday and it certainly makes Mark Stone even more dangerous to have his favorite sniper to work with. The Honda West division title is still up for grabs with 4 points separating the top 3 teams of Vegas, Avalanche and the Wild.
Give Minnesota credit for continuing to show great resilience, especially in the 3rd period where you can tell they believe they can come back. Toss in a few top-quality offensive players like Kevin Fiala, Kirill Kaprizov and a surging Jonas Brodin and you have the ability to ambush clubs that try to coast a bit in the 3rd. That’s exactly what happened Monday night where Minnesota just wouldn’t go away and with two rebound goals by Fiala and Kaprizov it set the stage for Brodin to be the hero as he buried his career-high 9th goal of the season. The question is, can they do it again to earn another sweep over the Golden Knights? What must the Wild do in order to earn a victory?
1. Weather the storm ~ After Minnesota’s dramatic come-from-behind 6-5 victory on Monday, they can expect to see Vegas want to get out to a fast start against the Wild. I think we’ll see Vegas flying to start the game and hoping to assert its will by using its speed. So circling the wagons around Talbot or Kahkonen will be essential early on so the Wild can quash some of this initiative Vegas will have. If they can hold them off the first 6-8 minutes of the game, and then hit the Golden Knights between the eyes with a goal of their own they can really get into the mind of Vegas’ players.
2. Crash the Net, No Flybys ~ Even though Robin Lehner struggled a bit, the Wild still capitalized on their rebound chances because they were playing tough around the blue paint and were not drifting beyond the cage as they sometimes do. Playoff hockey is all about being tough in the high-traffic areas of the ice. Minnesota won that battle on Monday and won the game, they would be wise to follow that formula again.
3. Stay out of the Box, or Watch the Back Door ~ The Golden Knights’ power play had some success on Monday by working the back door play as Shea Theodore and Alex Martinez both scored on one-timers from just beneath the right faceoff dot. Minnesota would be best served by staying out of the box as much as they can, especially since I think Vegas might be a bit chippy to start the game as well but if they do find themselves a man down they need to stop Vegas’ favorite play on the man advantage.
What do you think will be important in order for the Wild to earn a sweep against Vegas tonight? Tell us on Twitter at @CreaseAndAssist!