Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Chicago Blackhawks 1/22/22 @ 8:00PM CST at Xcel Energy Center

Minnesota Wild (23-10-3)  49pts  4th in the Central

3.69 Goals For Per Game (3rd in the NHL)

2.97 Goals Against Per Game (17th in the NHL)

16.7% Power Play (25th in the NHL)

80.3% Penalty Kill (15th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 16G 30A = 46pts

2. #36 Mats Zuccarello ~ 11G 23A = 34pts

3. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 18G 14A = 32pts

4. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 9G 17A = 26pts

5. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 15G 10A = 25pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 61 PIM’s

2. #21 Brandon Duhaime ~ 56 PIM’s

3. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 35 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (8-2-2)  3.00GAA  .909%SP

2. #35 Andrew Hammond N/A

 

Vs.

 

Chicago Blackhawks (15-19-6)  36pts  7th in the Central

2.33 Goals For Per Game (30th in the NHL)

3.25 Goals Against Per Game (22nd in the NHL)

18.3% Power Play (19th in the NHL)

76.7% Penalty Kill (25th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #88 Patrick Kane ~ 9G 27A = 36pts

2. #12 Alex DeBrincat ~ 23G 9A = 32pts

3. #4 Seth Jones ~ 3G 22A = 25pts

4. #38 Brandon Hagel ~ 10G 10A = 20pts

5. #19 Jonathan Toews ~ 4G 14A = 18pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #77 Kirby Dach ~ 33 PIM’s

2. #5 Connor Murphy ~ 27 PIM’s

3. #22 Ryan Carpenter ~ 27 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #29 Marc-Andre Fleury (13-12-3)  2.79GAA  .913%SP  3SO

2. #32 Kevin Lankinen (2-5-3)  3.38GAA  .887%SP

Lines:

Chicago Blackhawks

Hagel~L. Reichel~P.Kane

DeBrincat~J.Toews~Kubalik

Borgstrom~Lafferty~Kurashev

Khaira~Carpenter~Entwistle

DeHaan~Murphy

Stillman~Galvas

C.Jones~Gustafsson

Fleury

Lankinen

Minnesota Wild

Kaprizov~Hartman~Zuccarello

Greenway~Eriksson Ek~M.Foligno

Boldy~F.Gaudreau~Fiala

Duhaime~Sturm~Dewar

Jo.Benn~Dumba

Merrill~Goligoski

Addison~Kulikov

Kahkonen

Hammond

 

Well I don’t know about you, but that was a nice way to start the weekend. Sure it would have been even better if Kaapo Kahkonen had been able to get the shutout as well, but beggars can’t be choosers. Although some stories as told on Reddit may challenge that.

Yet today is a new day. This of course means what happened last night has little to no bearing on what happens tonight. Hopefully what did happen last night doesn’t go to their heads. Yes, this year’s Chicago Blackhawks is not the Blackhawks of the somewhat recent past. They are still a team with fifteen wins this season. It also bears noting that six of their losses came via either overtime or shootout. Had they been able to convert those six losses to wins, they would have a record more like the Wild’s, at least when it comes to wins.

One issue I had with last night’s game, was again the number of penalties Minnesota took. Sure, it didn’t bite them in the butt, but it could have. It should be concerning, that once again, they took a penalty twenty-two seconds into the first period. And sadly, the penalties kept coming, including a game misconduct by Connor Dewar, At least a matching game misconduct went to Chicago as well. One concern with those penalties, is the too many men penalty in the second period, but at least it was in the middle period. You know, the period with the long change.

Now, we must ask what the Wild needs to do tonight. Again, we need to see a team that can address its penchant for taking penalties. It’s one thing to take a bunch of penalties against a team like Chicago, but it’s another to take a bunch of penalties against a team like Tampa Bay. Looking at the power play stats, Minnesota definitely has upcoming games against the top ten power play teams.

Another thing the Minnesota Wild must do again tonight, is support their goaltender like they did last night. Last night, Kahkonen looked calm, cool, and collected. Of course it helps, when your skaters put up a bunch of goals on the opposition.  It’s been reported already that Kahkonen will get the start against tonight. Hopefully, we’re finally going to see the emergence of our new number one goaltender.

Finally, Minnesota absolutely must not let up on its offensive pressure. I know for myself, seeing the Minnesota Wild ranked so high in goals for per game has been a bit of a mental adjustment. It’s clear to me, that we’ve become so used to cheering for a team that can’t score. However, that has not been the case this season. Tonight, they need to score early and keep scoring. Perhaps, they can figure out a way to make some of those goals power play goals. To clarify, the goals have been nice, but some power play goals would be even nicer.

As I’m writing this, we have yet to get confirmation on whether or not Jared Spurgeon will make his return. While it seemed probable that it would happen this weekend, if there’s anything the past few seasons have taught us, is to never count on anything. For myself, I can go either way with his return. The team has definitely overcome his absence, but having another veteran presence on the blueline is only a good thing. I know for a fact, we’ve all seen the return of key players on occasion, but it disrupts team chemistry.

To wrap things up, tonight’s game will be the conclusion of another Hockey Day Minnesota. For those of you in the Twin Cities Metro, you should be able to watch the full day’s festivities. I don’t know about you, but I’m generally more interested in the high school and college games on this day. Sadly, a good day can turn grim when the Wild close out the day with a loss. When compared to last night’s effort, a loss tonight would hurt even more.

To wrap things up, let’s get the win tonight. Because a win tonight can only help springboard this team into the crazy updated schedule to come.