Minnesota Wild (50-21-7) 107pts 2nd in the Central
3.72 Goals For Per Game (5th in the NHL)
3.04 Goals Against Per Game (17th in the NHL)
20.6% Power Play (18th in the NHL)
75.7% Penalty Kill (24th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 45G 56A = 101pts
2. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 32G 50A = 82pts
3. #36 Mats Zuccarello ~ 24G 55A = 79pts
4. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 33G 29A = 62pts
5. #14 Joel Eriksson Ek ~ 23G 21A = 44pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #44 Nic Deslauriers ~ 109 PIM’s*
2. #21 Brandon Duhaime ~ 103 PIM’s
3. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 91 PIM’s
1. #33 Cam Talbot (31-12-4) 2.78GAA .911SV% 3SO
2. #29 Marc-Andre Fleury (25-22-5) 2.90GAA .910SV% 4SO*
Nashville Predators (44-29-5) 93pts 4th in the Central
3.15 Goals For Per Game (12th in the NHL)
2.96 Goals Against Per Game (14th in the NHL)
24.2% Power Play (7th in the NHL)
79.1% Penalty Kill (19th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #59 Roman Josi ~ 21G 69A = 90pts
2. #95 Matt Duchene ~ 40G 39A = 79pts
3. #9 Filip Forsberg ~ 39G 38A = 77pts
4. #92 Ryan Johansen ~ 23G 36A = 59pts
5. #64 Mikael Granlund ~ 10G 45A = 55pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #90 Mark Borowiecki ~ 139 PIM’s
2. #84 Tanner Jeannot ~ 123 PIM’s
3. #11 Luke Kunin ~ 95 PIM’s
1. #74 Juuse Saros (38-25-3) 2.63GAA .918SV% 4SO
2. #33 David Rittich (5-3-2) 3.33GAA .886SV%
*- Denotes stats acquired from multiple teams
I don’t know why, but I had it in my head that we were playing Arizona today. But alas, I was wrong, very, very wrong. I suppose part of it because it feels like every time I turn around, there’s another game to be played. But the other part of the equation is probably some sort of avoidance. I don’t know about you, but today’s game features one of the opponents I would rather not face at this point in the season. Let’s face it, Nashville has the Wild’s number, and everyone knows it.
The last time Minnesota faced Nashville, it was an absolute disaster. From the first puck drop, the Predators were able to get under the Wild’s skin. Just over two minutes into the game, Minnesota was goaded into the first of four fights. None of the fights were really warranted, but the first one between Jacob Middleton and Michael McCarron was truly pointless. Well at least pointless for Minnesota. But for Nashville, they were able to prove that they could take Minnesota out of the game early. And they did just that, because the Wild never got their heads back into the game.
So this morning I decided to roam around Twitter and see what kind of Wild news there was. Upon seeing a little nugget of information on Michael Russo’s feed, I wondered why I heard the gnashing of teeth amongst the Marco Rossi fanboys out there. Instead of calling up Minnesota’s first round pick in the 2020 Entry Draft, Minnesota re-called Joseph Cramarossa to add a bit more additional sandpaper. What really makes me laugh about the angst over Rossi’s continuing stint in Iowa, is that it is beyond clear that his fanboys are not watching him play. Clearly, they only check out highlights, but if they watched the actual games, they would see he is not ready for full-time NHL play. But then he’s not really ready for call up play either.
There are some areas of concern heading into tonight’s game in Nashville. Firstly, the Wild will be without Mats Zuccarello. He left the game Friday night with a lower-body injury. He did not make the trip to Nashville. It appears to not be a serious injury, but considering how close the playoffs are, it is best to give him a bit of a rest. While the Wild are guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, home ice is yet to be decided and that is what they’re fighting for. With Saint Louis matching the Wild point-for-point, and Minnesota still having a game in hand, it’s going to come down points. Minnesota needs to keep winning and Saint Louis needs to lose. But instead of giving several players games off, that appears to not be possible.
Secondly, and we’ve talked about this point. Nashville has Minnesota’s number. I don’t care what it takes, but the Wild need to focus on themselves and ignore whatever nonsense the Predators try to bring to the game. It’s time to let Nashville make the boneheaded mistakes that cost them. They’re in a playoff fight of their own, trying to hold onto that first wild card spot. They’re tied with Dallas in points, but like Minnesota they have a game in hand. Let them make the mistakes and go on the penalty kill, because let’s face it we can’t afford for them to go on the power play.
Thirdly, I just need to Minnesota come and play like a playoff team. While that is harder to do against another playoff team, they simply need to dig down deep and find another level of play. When you’re up against the odds, true contenders find a way to stake their claim on the game. We saw a bit of that in Thursday’s game against Vancouver. The first half of that game frustrated me, but they were able to find some sort of inner strength and take control in the second half. And then in Friday’s game against Seattle, disappointment came early. However, they found themselves and fought back with a vengeance.
Minnesota needs to find that vengeance early today, because it’s going to be a tough game. Adding to the difficulty, is that Nashville suffered a beatdown at the hands of Tampa Bay. The Lightning scored the opening goal within the first two minutes and then scored a second goal just past the halfway mark of the first period. The Predators didn’t get on the board until just under three minutes remaining in the opening period. However that feeling of relief was short-lived, as the Lightning scored with just twenty seconds remaining before intermission. The Predators only other goal came halfway into the second period, but then it was all Lightning with three more goals to come.
Tonight is going to come down to who wants it more and who is more disciplined. With Minnesota on a four-game winning streak, they should have the momentum. However Nashville’s most recent loss could inspire them to persevere tonight. The Wild also have the better record in the last ten games, but sometimes that means absolutely nothing. I just hope Minnesota gives me a game I don’t want to give up on in the first five minutes.