Minnesota Wild (22-10-2) 46pts 4th in the Central
3.68 Goals For Per Game (3rd in the NHL)
3.03 Goals Against Per Game (20th in the NHL)
17.3% Power Play (23rd in the NHL)
80% Penalty Kill (16th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 14G 28A = 42pts
2. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 16G 14A = 30pts
3. #36 Mats Zuccarello ~ 11G 19A = 30pts
4. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 8G 16A = 24pts
5. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 14G 9A = 23pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 55 PIM’s
2. #21 Brandon Duhaime ~ 49 PIM’s
3. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 31 PIM’s
1. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (7-2-1) 2.56GAA .917%SP
2. #35 Andrew Hammond N/A
Colorado Avalanche (24-8-3) 51pts 1st in the Central
4.29 Goals For Per Game (1st in the NHL)
3.20 Goals Against Per Game (21st in the NHL)
23.5% Power Play (9th in the NHL)
73.6% Penalty Kill (29th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #91 Nazem Kadri ~ 14G 35A = 49pts
2. #98 Mikko Rantanen ~ 19G 25A = 44pts
3. #27 Nathan MacKinnon ~ 8G 30A = 38pts
4. #8 Cale Makar ~ 16G 20A = 36pts
5. #92 Gabriel Landeskog ~ 14G 22A = 36pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #92 Gabriel Landeskog ~ 49 PIM’s
2. #91 Nazem Kadri ~ 36 PIM’s
3. #56 Kurtis MacDermid ~ 32 PIM’s
1. #35 Darcy Kuemper (17-5-0) 2.74GAA .908%SP 1SO
2. #39 Pavel Francouz (3-1-0) 2.88GAA .895%SP
As the NHL recognizes Martin Luther King Jr. Day with this matinee game, it is only fitting to connect it with a quote from the civil rights leader. “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” A federal holiday was established in 1983, it was meant to be a time to reflect on the continuing struggles in our nation. But today, maybe its time we don’t just reflect but we act.
A more mundane struggle has extended to the ice.
Back in the inaugural days of the Minnesota Wild where there was no salary cap, the Colorado Avalanche were a free-spending team that fielded a club full of future NHL Hall of Famers. Joe Sakic, Patrick Roy, Rob Blake, Ray Bourque and Peter Forsberg, it almost seemed unfair.
If you look at today’s version of the Avalanche, I think a case could be made its a team full of future Hall of Famers in Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen. It almost seems unfair, especially in an era of the salary cap.
The key? The NHL Entry Draft. All of the team’s current list of super stars were drafted by Colorado. Of the Hall of Famers listed above, only Joe Sakic was drafted by the franchise (back when they were the Quebec Nordiques) the rest came via trades. Coincidentally, he’s running the show as the General Manager of the Avalanche.
Colorado is hitting its stride and also putting a lot of pucks in the back of the net with the NHL’s top offense. MacKinnon is finding his game which is bad news for the rest of he league. Nazem Kadri, snubbed by the NHL All Star game is also having an outstanding season for the Avalanche.
Makar is far and away the most dangerous (offensively-speaking) defenseman in the league and he has had his share of highlight reel plays against the Minnesota Wild. Colorado is coming off a 5-0 dominating victory against Arizona on Saturday night. Do the Minnesota Wild even have a chance?
Yes. If this season has proven anything, is to never count the Minnesota Wild out.
If there has been any silver lining to all of the postponements, it has given the Wild a chance to get healthy and more and more players are returning to the lineup.
Kirill Kaprizov‘s return was very noticeable as he had two assists in his return in a 7-2 victory over Anaheim. His return also sparked a two-goal outburst from Mats Zuccarello. Matt Boldy has been a catalyst to give the Wild two very capable scoring lines as he had a goal and an assist to Kevin Fiala who looks reborn as he finally has a quality playmaker to work with.
Ryan Hartman continues find ways to finish and the 4th line of Brandon Duhaime, Nico Sturm and Connor Dewar have provided great energy and speed in the Minnesota Wild’s bottom 6.
Alex Goligoski is set to return to the Minnesota Wild lineup, which should reshuffle the blueline which has played pretty well despite missing team captain Jared Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin. Calen Addison looks more and more comfortable with each game and veterans Dmitry Kulikov and Jon Merrill have performed well in an expanded role.
Kaapo Kahkonen should get the start against Colorado, and I would be surprised if the Avalanche do not give Darcy Kuemper the chance to face his former club. Cam Talbot is back practicing with the Wild, but I think the team is being careful before they return him to the lineup.
So what are the keys to a Minnesota Wild victory?
1. Don’t get caught watching, move your feet – With a team as fast and as supremely skilled as the Colorado Avalanche, you can almost get caught watching but when that happens you end up getting caught flat-footed. The Minnesota Wild cannot puck watch and be static, they have to move their feet to not only better defend Colorado but also avoid a parade to the penalty box with obstruction penalties.
2. Go on the attack – Colorado has a potent offense, but they are not an air-tight team defensively. Minnesota cannot expect to win just staying in their own end playing rope-a-dope. Minnesota needs to force Colorado to defend and they have the ability to bury some goals and frustrate the Avalanche. Sure they have weapons, but so do the Wild and now would be a great time to teach that lesson to Colorado.
3. Expose their penalty kill – Colorado’s penalty kill has struggled this season. Minnesota could help its chances by putting Colorado on the penalty kill and adding to that frustration by scoring on the power play. With Boldy, Fiala, and Kaprizov the Wild power play has some great scoring options they can use to make Colorado pay for their indiscretions. We know Darcy Kuemper is a bit suspect in his composure and in the past we’ve eroded that confidence, scoring on the man advantage will be a great way to make that house of cards implode.
What do you think will be important for the Minnesota Wild in order to earn a victory over Colorado? Tell us on Twitter at @CreaseAndAssist!