Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Nashville Predators 10/24/21 @ 5:00PM at Xcel Energy Center

Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Nashville Predators 10/24/21 @ 5:00PM at Xcel Energy Center

Wild

Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Nashville Predators 10/24/21 @ 5:00PM at Xcel Energy Center

By ,

Minnesota Wild (4-0-0)  8pts  2nd in the Central

3.75 Goals For Per Game (10th in the NHL)

2.75 Goals Against Per Game (15th in the NHL)

26.7% Power Play (11th in the NHL)

70.6% Penalty Kill (28th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #36 Mats Zuccarello ~ 2G 4A = 6pts

2. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 0G 5A = 5pts

3. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 2G 2A = 4pts

4. #14 Joel Eriksson Ek ~ 3G 0A = 3pts

5. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 1G 2A = 3pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 24 PIM’s

2. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 8 PIM’s

3. #24 Matthew Dumba ~ 6 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #33 Cam Talbot (4-0)  2.68GAA  .904%SP

2. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen N/A

 

Vs.

 

Nashville Predators (1-4)  2pts  6th in the Central

2.40 Goals For Per Game (24th in the NHL)

3.40 Goals Against Per Game (23rd in the NHL)

26.7% Power Play (10th in the NHL)

73.3% Penalty Kill (25th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 1G 3A = 4pts

2. #59 Roman Josi ~ 2G 1A = 3pts

3. #26 Philip Tomasino ~ 2G 1A = 3pts

4. #92 Ryan Johansen ~ 1G 2A = 3pts

5. #21 Nick Cousins ~ 1G 2A = 3pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #84 Tanner Jennot ~ 13 PIM’s

2. #13 Yakov Trenin ~ 7 PIM’s

3. #17 Ben Harpur ~ 4 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #74 Juuse Saros (1-4)  2.88GAA  .900%SP

2. #33 David Rittich N/A

Lines:

Nashville Predators

Forsberg~Johansen~Duchene

Trenin~Granlund~Kunin

Cousins~Sissons~Jennot

Tolvanen~Novak~Tomasino

Josi~Fabbro

Ekholm~Carrier

Harpur~Myers

Saros

Rittich

Minnesota Wild

Kaprizov~Eriksson Ek~Zuccarello

Greenway~Hartman~M. Foligno

Rask~Gaudreau~Fiala

Duhaime~Sturm~Bjugstad

Goligoski~Spurgeon

Brodin~Dumba

Merrill~Kulikov

Talbot

Kahkonen

NHL superfan Jillian Fisher is back and in her latest video she discusses hockey fans’ anxiety early in the 2021-22 season.  It is interesting because for Minnesota Wild fans there hasn’t really been much true anxiety.  The team is off to a terrific start, with 4 dramatic 1-goal victories in its pocket.  After an underwhelming pre-season, the newcomers seem to be developing good chemistry so far and there is an excitement level with the team that we haven’t seen in many years.

Season-ticket sales have been brisk as the team has delighted fans with some late-game dramatics to win games and fans have flocked to Xcel Energy Center to get their first views of the ‘Kirill Kaprizov Show.’  What could there be to possibly be anxious about with this Minnesota Wild team?

To be honest…plenty.

The team has given up the first goal in each of its 4 games this season and while it managed to overcome that set back, statistically it usually doesn’t bode well to give up that first goal in games.  Another area of concern is the woeful penalty kill which currently is a shade above 70% and near the bottom of the league.  The penalty kill was a strength last year for the Wild, who finished 12th in the league.

The biggest reason it hasn’t been as good has been the play of Cam Talbot.  At even strength, Talbot has been pretty good with a .929% save percentage but when opposing clubs are on the power play it dips to .808%.  It probably doesn’t hurt the team did lose a solid penalty killer in Nick Bonino last season and of course stalwart defenseman Ryan Suter, but the goaltender is always the most important penalty killer.

Even Kirill Kaprizov gives some reason for anxiety.  After signing his 5-year, $45 million contract extension, the Russian winger still hasn’t found the back of the net through the first 4 games.  Yes, he still scoring more than a point per game but he was also paid elite money to continue to be the club’s go-to goal scorer as well.  Teams are certainly giving him less time and space on the ice and its very noticeable how they’re trying to be more physical with the winger but whether its fair or not, this club needs him to be lighting the lamp if they want to keep the winning streak going.

However there are plenty of reasons to be bullish or even happy about this Wild team right now.  Ryan Hartman seems to be fitting in just fine on a line with Jordan Greenway and Marcus FolignoFrederic Gaudreau may not be the flashiest center, but you can see why Wild head coach Dean Evason liked him in regards to how he wins battles for the puck and so far Kevin Fiala is playing pretty well at both ends of the ice.  The 4th line of Nico Sturm, Nick Bjugstad and rookie Brandon Duhaime are playing well and seem to have the trust of the team’s coaching staff to be used in all situations.

The newcomers on defense, Jon Merrill and Dmitry Kulikov haven’t made us miss Carson Soucy and Ian Cole too much (knock on wood).  Jonas Brodin plays more and more like a jack-of-all-trades defenseman while Jared Spurgeon and Alex Goligoski look like they’ve been playing together for years.  Matt Dumba is blocking shots and shooting the puck a lot (5th most in the league among defenseman), but it doesn’t seem like he’ll ever rediscover that scoring touch he had back in 2018-19 before his disastrous fight with Calgary’s Matt Tkachuk that resulted in him tearing his pectoral muscle.

Meanwhile, the Nashville Predators and its fans have plenty to be anxious about.  The Predators have $16 million a season committed to disappointing forwards Ryan Johansen and Matt Duchene until at least 2024-25 and they will be paying Kyle Turris $2 million a season not to play for Nashville until 2026-27.  Predators General Manager David Poile tried to offload Johansen and Duchene this summer and found no takers.  Mikael Granlund, the former Wild ‘savior’ leads the team in scoring and rookie Philip Tomasino appears to have promise.

Yet the strength of the Predators is their defensive corps led by Roman Josi.  Josi is one of the best two-way defenseman in the NHL and he not only helps the Predators hold the offensive zone his ability to score from the point helps give Nashville’s forwards more space as well as defenses must account for him and his shot.  Mattias Ekholm is a great stay-at-home defenseman and youngsters Dante Fabbro is good puck mover and Ben Harpur prides himself on being a pain in the ass to play against.

Juuse Saros who has been a revelation the last few seasons taking over for franchise cornerstone Pekka Rinne has been rather pedestrian so far this season.  Saros was out there last night in Nashville’s 1st road game of the season in a 6-4 loss to Winnipeg.  So will we see David Rittich make his first start of the season for the Predators?  Same could be said for the Minnesota Wild who have yet to give a start to Kaapo Kahkonen after he struggled through most of his chances during the NHL pre-season.  Oh, did you just get that anxious feeling again?

What are going to be the keys for the Wild to earn a victory today?

1.  Stay out of the box – The Minnesota Wild defend fairly well at even strength, its when they go a man down that they have issues.  Nashville’s power play is as potent as Minnesota’s so the Wild would be wise not to give the Predators confidence by giving them too many chances with the man advantage.

2.  Keep Up the Momentum – Minnesota has a great vibe going right now.  They’re confident and playing with a fair amount of energy from all of its lines and defensive pairs.  That needs to continue and play with that confidence in this 2nd of a back-to-back game.  It seems to embrace the idea that the team has had a different hero each evening and that team-centered focus has all of their lines buzzing.  That will be important this evening against a club that’s probably a bit surly after a big loss to a divisional opponent last night.  Getting the first goal would be a great way to keep up momentum as well as give the Predators that unsettling deja vu feeling.

3.  Stay out of the shenanigans – This game features a lot of players who have played for the other organization (Kevin Fiala, Frederic Gaudreau, Ryan Hartman, Mikael Granlund and Luke Kunin).  No doubt that will mean the emotions will be cranked up a bit.  However that can also lead to chippy play which often seems to be a signature of these team’s games against its expansion cousin.  The Wild cannot get too caught up in the after the whistle sideshows, and needs to focus on just lighting the lamp and letting the score do all of the trash talking you need instead of having your game turn into trash from getting caught up in the scrums and other on-ice tomfoolery.

What do you think will be important for the Wild to do in order to earn another victory this evening?  Tell us on Twitter at @CreaseAndAssist!

More Sports

More NHL