Minnesota Wild (45-21-6) 96pts 2nd in the Central
3.65 Goals For Per Game (4th in the NHL)
3.04 Goals Against Per Game (16th in the NHL)
20.2% Power Play (19th in the NHL)
75.2% Penalty Kill (26th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 42G 49A = 91pts
2. #36 Mats Zuccarello ~ 22G 50A = 72pts
3. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 26G 39A = 65pts
4. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 29G 27A = 56pts
5. #14 Joel Eriksson Ek ~ 21G 20A = 41pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 112 PIM’s
2. #44 Nic Deslauriers ~ 105 PIM’s
3. #21 Brandon Duhaime ~ 98 PIM’s
1. #33 Cam Talbot (29-12-3) 2.77GAA .912% 2SO
2. #29 Marc-Andre Fleury (23-22-5) 2.99GAA .910% 4SO*
Dallas Stars (42-27-4) 88pts 5th in the Central
2.89 Goals For Per Game (20th in the NHL)
2.95 Goals Against Per Game (18th in the NHL)
21.9% Power Play (12th in the NHL)
78.9% Penalty Kill (18th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #16 Joe Pavelski ~ 27G 46A = 73pts
2. #21 Jason Robertson ~ 34G 34A = 68pts
3. #24 Roope Hintz ~ 32G 30A = 62pts
4. #91 Tyler Seguin ~ 22G 23A = 45pts
5. #14 Jamie Benn ~ 18G 27A = 45pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #14 Jamie Benn ~ 81 PIM’s
2. #12 Radek Faksa ~ 48 PIM’s
3. #2 Jani Hakanpaa ~ 43 PIM’s
1. #41 Scott Wedgewood (13-14-4) 3.10GAA .910% 1SO *
2. #29 Jake Oettinger (26-13-1) 2.53GAA .914% 1SO
*- Denotes it includes statistics from another team
??~Eriksson Ek~M. Foligno
This past Tuesday night, was a high scoring night in the NHL. While the Minnesota Wild won 5-1 against the Edmonton Oilers, there were some other impressive scores. For example, the Washington Capitals scored nine goals (only one of them by Alexander Ovechkin) compared to two scored by their opponent, the Philadelphia Flyers. Heck, even the beleaguered New Jersey Devils scored six goals, mind you they were playing Arizona, but that’s a different story altogether. I’m beginning to wonder if teams are just tired and want to get to the end of the regular season, and are coasting a bit when it comes to team defense.
But amongst these high scoring games, there were two games that ended 1-0, one in overtime and one in regulation. Ryan Johansen scored the overtime winner for Nashville over San Jose. But it’s the 1-0 regulation win that has bearing on tonight’s game. While the Wild were doing a bit of a scoring demo of their own, tonight’s opponent, the Dallas Stars, was facing the Tampa Bay Lightning. If you didn’t look at the scores, it wasn’t the Lightning that came out ahead in that game. I think that low score tells us more about our opponent than if they had scored 4+ goals.
Firstly, the Dallas Stars are having a team defense year much like the Minnesota. In previous seasons, these are two teams where we might have talked more about how they can absolutely shut down their opponent. Opposing beat writers might have accused both teams of playing “boring” hockey, simply as a way to lessen the sting of defeat. However, this season both teams are having a bit more struggle with their team defense. Neither team is having a season where even if scoring was anemic you believed you had a chance. While Minnesota’s penalty kill is abysmal all around, Dallas doesn’t exactly have one to write home about either.
Secondly, the Stars clearly are keeping the standings in mind. Right now, they’re three points ahead of Vegas for the second wild card spot in the playoff race. Tonight however, they’re more likely looking ahead. Just one point ahead of them are the Nashville Predators, the other team who had a 1-0 win Tuesday night. While I doubt that neither the Stars nor Predators will overtake Saint Louis in the Central Division standings, I can see both wanting the higher of the two wild card spots. While neither are a playoff team I want to contemplate playing, I do like the thought of them keeping Vegas out of the playoffs.
Thirdly, the lone goal scorer for Dallas on Tuesday night could very well be an omen of things to come tonight. While he may have one of the more interesting looking names in the NHL, Roope Hintz (32) also has the second most goals on the Stars’ roster. Only sophomore Jason Robertson has more goals (34). What may be even scarier, is that Hintz and Robertson are on the same line with Joel Pavelski. Yes, that is one high scoring line, but it is probably an area of concern for the Stars. If you can neutralize the Stars’ top forward line, you stand a great chance of winning. However, even if one of those three players is somehow kept out of the goal column, it appears that their other linemates make up for things.
I would like to say that the Wild’s recent scoring ability works in their favor, but when they play Dallas I tend to throw those ideas out quickly. For whatever reason, Dallas is probably the worst opponent to face at this point in the season. There just seems to be a mental block of some sort that forces Minnesota into playing boneheaded hockey against the Stars. I’m having a hard time coming up with a positive spin on a game against the Stars played in Dallas, but I’m coming up short. A road game in Dallas couldn’t possibly come at a worst possible time, but maybe, just maybe Minnesota will surprise me.
Perhaps the new franchise records can make us all feel a bit more comfortable, but I’m not sure how much I can spin that either. Yes, we all know that Kirill Kaprizov now holds the Wild regular season record for goals scored, and that number seems to keep growing. However, it’s the assists record that has yet to be determined. It should come as no surprise, but whether it’s Kaprizov of line mate Mats Zuccarello that comes out on top with that star, it’s fun to watch. I don’t know about you, but watching their chemistry on ice and on the bench has been fun to watch. And even more important, they are two players who look like they’re having fun as well.
While this may be most fun we’ve had as Wild fans since the 2002-03 season, there’s still a long way to go. There’s bound to be a hiccup or two before the playoffs, but it’s how they handle themselves after those mistakes that will be telling. I know I’ve been pleased with how this team has handled themselves for the most part when things haven’t gone right, but we’re in a true grind now. If the Wild can consider the rest of the regular season like a mini-playoffs, I think they could get out of the first round. But again, it’s all up to them, and challenges like tonight’s opponent could very well tell us what we have.