Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Calgary Flames 4/28/22 @ 7:00PM CST at Xcel Energy Center

Minnesota Wild (51-22-7)  109 pts  2nd in the Central

3.73 Goals For Per Game (5th in the NHL)

3.08 Goals Against Per Game (18th in the NHL)

20.3% Power Play (19th in the NHL)

75.4% Penalty Kill (27th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 45G 60A = 105pts

2. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 33G 51A = 84pts

3. #36 Mats Zuccarello ~ 24G 55A = 79pts

4. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 34G 29 A = 63pts

5. #14 Joel Eriksson Ek ~ 26G 23A = 49pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #44 Nicolas Deslauriers ~ 113 PIMs*

2. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 112 PIMs

3. #21 Brandon Duhaime ~ 105 PIMs

Top Goaltenders:

1. #33 Cam Talbot   (31-12-4)   2.78GAA   .911SV%   3SO

2. #29 Marc-Andre Fleury   (27-23-5)   2.94GAA   .907SV%   4SO*

 

Vs.

 

Calgary Flames (50-20-10)  110 pts  1st in the Pacific

3.60 Goals For Per Game (6th in the NHL)

2.50 Goals Against Per Game (3rd in the NHL)

23.5% Power Play (9th in the NHL)

83.6% Penalty Kill (6th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #13 Johnny Gaudreau ~ 39G 74A = 113pts

2. #19 Matthew Tkachuk ~ 41G 61A = 102pts

3. #28 Elias Lindholm ~ 41G 40A – 81pts

4. #88 Andrew Mangiapane ~ 35G 20A = 55pts

5. #4 Rasmus Andersson ~ 4G 46A = 50

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #17 Milan Lucic ~ 84 PIMs

2. #16 Nikita Zadorov ~ 75 PIMs

3. #44 Erik Gudbranson ~ 68 PIMs

Top Goaltenders:

1. #25 Jacob Markstrom   (37-15-8)   2.21GAA   .922SV%.  9SO

2. #80 Dan Vladar   (13-5-2)   2.79GAA   .903SV%   2SO

*- Denotes stats are from multiple teams

Lines:

Calgary Flames

J. Gaudreau~Lindholm~M. Tkachuk

Mangiapane~Backlund~Toffoli

Dube~Jarnkrok~Coleman

Lucic~Lewis~Ritchie

Hanifin~Andersson

Kylington~C. Tanev

Zadorov~Gudbranson

Markstrom

Vladar

Minnesota Wild

Kaprizov~Hartman~Zuccarello

Fiala~F. Gaudreau~Boldy

Dewar~Eriksson Ek~Bjugstad

Deslauriers~Jost~Duhaime

Middleton~Spurgeon

Brodin~Jo. Benn

Merrill~Kulikov

Talbot

Fleury

 

I don’t know about you, but there should be almost nothing more hatted than missed opportunities. And there have been some interesting and annoying missed chances this season. Tuesday night’s loss to Arizona is definitely one of those missed opportunities, so today we’re going to take a closer look at that one. While it’s expected for teams to lose games during the course of an 82-game season, there are those particular losses that can quickly put you in a bad mood. This most recent loss by the Minnesota Wild feels just that much more annoying. It was an absolute gift of a game and was presented on a silver platter. While Minnesota was playing Arizona, the second worst team in the league, the Saint Louis Blues were facing the Colorado Avalanche.

It was Minnesota’s opportunity to pull ahead in the standings, and what did they do? Did they play dominant, up tempo hockey and put on a scoring demonstration? No. No, they looked as lackluster and uninterested in the game as they could possibly be. Not one Wild player looked like they were really enjoying themselves, but Arizona looked like they were having fun. Of course that’s the “joy” of playing spoiler. When things are so dismal on your own team, getting to share a little bit of that pain with a playoff team can be its own form of joy. And Arizona played that role well. But to add insult to injury, while the Wild lost 5-3 to Arizona, the Blues lost to the Avalanche 5-3. I’m just glad the Blues didn’t find a way to be inspired by our dismal play to pull ahead in the standings.

I’m pretty sure the Marco Rossi fanboys got their knickers in a twist last night if they tuned into the Iowa Wild game. He was notably absent in the lineup, so the thought had them salivating, thinking we would see them in the Minnesota lineup these last two regular season games. However, I’m going to shatter some dreams this morning. It’s been reported he was out of the lineup due to injury. Not only was he a bit banged up, but it seems he’s been playing injured for awhile. I can’t find anything describing the injury, including its severity, so I suppose the fanboys will live on the hope and dream that we might see him in the playoffs. However between his Covid-related medical conditions that kept him off the ice for a long time and now this recent injury, it looks like the organization isn’t taking any chances.

So now we need to look at tonight’s opponent. This is a game I have been dreading for some time. While part of me tried to ignore what was on the schedule for the last month of the regular season, I still was aware of it and dreading every moment of it. First thing I want to talk about is completely frivolous. Please accept my apologies on this, but I just have to get this out of my system. I would imagine that even though he played Tuesday against Nashville, Dan Vladar will get the start tonight simply to give Jacob Markstrom additional rest prior to the playoffs. Here comes my bit of silliness. I have to say I’m disappointed that Vladar has not embraced the similarity of his name to Darth Vader, one of the best known fictional villains ever. So yes, I am disappointed.

While the Wild are a more physical team with Marcus Foligno, Nicolas Deslauriers, and Jacob Middleton patrolling the ice, I worry that teams like Calgary are able to “out-physical” the Wild. They clearly have players that can play the physical game and have done so this season, but clearly it hasn’t cost them in the grand scheme of things. The Flames have the eleventh most penalty minutes in the league. However, Minnesota has the third most penalty minutes this season where Calgary has the fifteenth most in the league. The Wild also have the third most major penalties in the league. But strangely enough, Calgary has more match penalties and misconducts than Minnesota.

However, the true difference is how the respective teams defend those penalties. With their sixth best penalty kill in the league, the Flames succeed more of than not in killing their penalties. I don’t think we need to spend much time in comparing Minnesota’s success (or lack there of) rate. When you look all of Calgary’s team stats put together, they are clearly a team better built for the playoffs. They can score even strength and with the man advantage, plus they can prevent goals almost as easily. And if somehow the overall team defense fails, they still have two goaltenders with eleven shutouts between them with great goals against average and save percentage.

Honestly, I almost don’t know where the Wild need to put their efforts tonight. While they definitely to try and score a bunch of goals to match Calgary, the focus somehow needs to be on stopping the almost never ending goals. Sure, things have improved slightly when it comes to the overall goals against per game, but the penalty kill just seems to get worse. I don’t know how that is possible, but the Wild seem to find a way to lower my expectations each time. I feel like each failed penalty kill manages to kill my soul just a little bit more. But what may be worse, is that I know they will often fail at the most basic of skills during the penalty kill, the clearing of the zone.

Tonight, the Wild’s game in hand is eliminated. It would be nice if they came out strong and focused against a tough team, but as I’ve said I just don’t know if that’s possible. While the Blues have the night off, it is time for Minnesota to come out swinging and make a statement. Tonight and tomorrow combined are going to be a tough combination to end the season on. But the thing is, it’s one game at a time. A win is possible, but it entirely up to the Wild how they handle tonight and tomorrow. If ever there was a time to play like your life depended on it, tonight is the night to do it.