Minnesota Wild (37-20-4) 78pts 2nd in the Central
3.65 Goals For Per Game (4th in the NHL)
3.13 Goals Against Per Game (19th in the NHL)
19.4% Power Play (21st in the NHL)
76.1% Penalty Kill (22nd in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 33G 45A = 78pts
2. #36 Mats Zuccarello ~ 19G 44A = 63pts
3. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 21G 35A = 56pts
4. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 26G 22A = 48pts
5. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 19G 14A = 33pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 105 PIM’s
2. #44 Nic Deslauriers ~ 90 PIM’s*
3. #21 Brandon Duhaime ~ 80 PIM’s
1. #33 Cam Talbot (26-12-1) 2.82GAA .910SV% 2SO
2. #29 Marc-Andre Fleury (19-21-5) 2.95GAA .908SV% 4SO**
*- denotes stats Deslauriers may have accrued from his time in Anaheim
**- denotes stats Fleury may have accrued from his time in Chicago
Columbus Blue Jackets (32-29-4) 68pts 5th in the Metropolitan
3.23 Goals For Per Game (12th in the NHL)
3.71 Goals Against Per Game (30th in the NHL)
19.4% Power Play (20th in the NHL)
77.8% Penalty Kill (20th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #28 Oliver Bjorkstrand ~ 23G 26A = 49pts
2. #29 Patrik Laine ~ 25G 23A = 48pts
3. #93 Jakub Voracek ~ 4G 43A = 47pts
4. #38 Boone Jenner ~ 23G 21A = 44pts
5. #8 Zach Werenski ~ 10G 32A = 42pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #7 Sean Kuraly ~ 53 PIM’s
2. #44 Vladislav Gavrikov ~ 46 PIM’s
3. #2 Andrew Peeke ~ 44 PIM’s
1. #90 Elvis Merzlikins (22-15-4) 3.40GAA .902SV% 2SO
2. #70 Joonas Korpisalo (7-11-0) 4.15GAA .877SV%
Columbus Blue Jackets
Greenway~Eriksson Ek~M. Foligno
There are days, when you wake up and the first thing you want to do is go right back to bed. Today is one of those days, and thankfully, with today being Saturday it is a possibility. However, these things don’t write themselves, so it will be a case of “write first, sleep later.” With the weird weather outside here at the end of March, is of course adding to this need for blankets over head. But if I’m feeling this way, I know I’m not the only one. Of course, I just hope that is not the case for the Minnesota Wild, as things are once again moving in the right direction.
While things have improved as of late, I am being cautious. Yes, the four-game winning streak feels good, but is really the reason to celebrate? As of right now, the only team in those four wins currently in a playoff spot is Boston. Yes you read that correctly. If the playoffs were to start today, the Vegas Golden Knights would be on the outside looking in. After tonight though, with the exception of next week’s game against Philadelphia, it’s pretty much going to be a fight to the bitter end against mostly playoff contenders. If that doesn’t make you want to go hibernate right now, I don’t know what would. If you haven’t checked the quality of your seat belts recently, I would do do right now.
Tonight also marks a new element to this team. Getting his first start with the Minnesota Wild, is goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury. I know I’m not alone in thinking he would have gotten the start against Vancouver, but it was decided to wait until tonight. This is probably for several reasons, but I think there’s one key reason the debut was postponed a game. I think the biggest reason was to give the new goaltender and his skaters some time to learn each other’s quirks and to figure out communication. With the Wild’s sometimes inability to stop any goal, they needed to sort each other out. Plus of course was getting their new teammate somewhat settled in a new town, but at least it wasn’t a long distance move.
I think one thing working in the Wild’s favor for tonight, is that they’re back in the positive when it comes to the record for the last ten games. During the recent “swoon”, you almost didn’t want to look at the record for the last ten games. However, it’s interesting how a 4-game win streak will flip that record. Right now, the Minnesota Wild are sporting a 6-3-1 record. I don’t know about you, but it’s interesting to look at the records of the other contenders as well. As far as Western Conference, half of the current playoff teams also boast that record: Colorado, Minnesota, Calgary, and Edmonton. Heck, it feels like a reunion of the old Northwest Division.
I don’t know about you, but I cannot express how happy I’ve been with the early play of newly acquired Nic Deslauriers and Jake Middleton. While their tenure with the team is still very new, it is refreshing to see their impact. The Minnesota Wild are a team that needed some grit, but not make the team slower. Sure Tyson Jost is the flashier of the new skaters, but the little things the new team bowling balls have done is very welcome. I know some of you will say “but Theresa, Middleton’s slip up led to Vancouver’s first goal”. Yes, yes it did, however he got back up and made an impact the rest of the game.
Dmitry Kulikov draws into the lineup this evening as the team has Jon Merrill take the night off.
Tonight though, we need to see if we finally have shored up the last line of defense. There are so many questions we don’t have the answers to yet, but I’d like to say we might get an indication of matters. Like I said earlier, the communication between skaters and goaltender is key. But also, it will be interesting to see how the skaters perform in front of Fleury. While I don’t think it will be completely season changing like when Jordan Binnington made his debut with Saint Louis in the 2018-19 season, but just maybe things will be a bit better.
I don’t know about you, but I would like to see a partnership between Fluery and Cam Talbot. To have what are essentially two starting goaltenders should only help matters. A little healthy rivalry between the two, in order to push each other to be better, will help improve the team’s defensive stats. I also want them to boost the confidence of their skaters, so that it shouldn’t matter who gets the start, but they feel confident that someone has their back. Hopefully though, neither one of them gets pouty like Manny Fernandez did when Dwayne Roloson joined the Wild.
While tonight’s game has a normal 7pm start time, I’m going to suggest that you take in a Saturday nap at some point if you can. Everyone deserves a weekend nap or a sleep in, but we so rarely indulge in the activity. Blame the weather, blame work, blame your kids, but do it. And since I can hear my pillow calling my name, I’m going to do just that so that I’m alert for the game.