Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. New York Rangers 3/8/22 @ 7:00PM CST at Xcel Energy Center

Minnesota Wild (32-19-3)  67pts  3rd in the Central

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

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

19.3% Power Play (19th in the NHL)

76.2% Penalty Kill (23rd in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 28G 42A = 70pts

2. #36 Mats Zuccarello ~ 17G 39A = 56pts

3. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 18G 31A = 49pts

4. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 22G 18A = 40pts

5. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 18G 10A = 28pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 93 PIM’s

2. #21 Brandon Duhaime ~ 75 PIM’s

3. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 61 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #33 Cam Talbot (20-12-1)  2.98GAA  .908SV%  1SO

2. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (12-7-2)  2.86GAA  .912SV%

 

Vs.

 

New York Rangers (36-15-5)  77pts  2nd in the Metropolitan

2.95 Goals For Per Game (18th in the NHL)

2.45 Goals Against Per Game (3rd in the NHL)

25.5% Power Play (4th in the NHL)

83.3% Penalty Kill (7th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #10 Artemi Panarin ~ 15G 46A = 61pts

2. #93 Mika Zibanejad ~ 21G 36A = 57pts

3. #23 Adam Fox ~ 7G 48A = 55pts

4. #20 Chris Kreider ~ 38G 15A = 53pts

5. #16 Ryan Strome ~ 12G 27A = 39pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #8 Jacob Trouba ~ 78 PIM’s

2. #16 Ryan Strome ~ 57 PIM’s

3. #29 Dryden Hunt ~ 41 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #31 Igor Shesterkin (28-6-3)  1.93GAA  .942SV%  3SO

2. #40 Alexandar Georgiev (7-8-2)  3.05GAA  .897SV%

Lines:

New York Rangers

Kreider~Zibanejad~LaFreniere

Panarin~R. Strome~D. Hunt

Goodrow~Chytil~J. Brodzinski

Hajek~Gettinger~Reaves

Lindgren~Fox

K.Miller~Trouba

Nemeth~Schneider

Shesterkin

Georgiev

Minnesota Wild

Kaprizov~Hartman~Zuccarello

Fiala~F. Gaudreau~Boldy

Dewar~Eriksson Ek~M. Foligno

Duhaime~Sturm~Bjugstad

Goligoski~Spurgeon

Brodin~Dumba

Merrill~Kulikov

Talbot

Kahkonen

 

I thought my last preview had some ugly truths in it, but I think today will get even uglier. I didn’t think that was possible, but since anything is possible, here we go. Life is feeling rather ugly in general if you’re a Minnesota Wild fan. Considering that things were fairly rosy just a month or so ago, this is hard to swallow. Yet, as a fan of a Minnesota sports franchise, we’ve come to expect such results. When things are good, they’re so very good. But when things crash and burn, the pain is very real. I sometimes think we’ve become immune to the pain, but then I look at Twitter and I’m not so sure.

For our last preview, I looked at special teams. In particular, we looked at the Wild’s penalty kill. However, that breakdown did little to relieve the pain. On Sunday, the Dallas Stars scored two power play goals. It has gotten to the point where when I see the penalty called, I pretty much tune out, because I know a goal is coming. In fact, Dallas’ first two goals were power play goals, one due to puck over the glass, and the second thanks to an unsuccessful challenge by Dean Evason for goaltender interference. While there were only two power play goals scored, it only took those two goals to essentially win the game. Because even by the time Kirill Kaprizov scored his two goals in the third period, Dallas was ahead and would remain ahead for the rest of the game. And this is all you need to know:

 

Today, we’re going to look at a different set of numbers. While they’re not Minnesota numbers, they’re going to be painful and ugly. If you’ve followed hockey for any length of time, you are well aware that goaltenders are the absolute last line of defense. And when it comes to the New York Rangers, they have one of the best. For years, they’ve been accustomed to having solid goaltending in Henrik Lundquist. Well my friends, with his retirement that position has been filled. Not only has it been filled, but it might be surpassed. The Rangers’ crease firmly belongs to Igor Shesterkin. Not only does he boast a 28-6-3 record, but he currently has the best Goals Against Average and Save Percentage in the league.

Those kinds of numbers give the Rangers a decent buffer. What do I mean by “buffer”? While the Rangers have one of the best Goals Against per Game (3rd), they’re a middle of the pack team when it comes to scoring. The fact that Shesterkin has a 1.93GAA, if the Rangers can only manage two or three goals in a game, they stand a good chance of winning. The Minnesota Wild don’t have such a buffer. Neither Cam Talbot or Kaapo Kahkonen have been steady enough when needed. However, I’m not putting the recent record squarely on their shoulders either. How many times have we seen the skaters just standing there or coughing up the puck at the absolute worst time? Yes, we need the goaltenders to come up big, but the skaters have a lot to account for.

The Rangers’ penalty kill is most likely going to cause issues for Minnesota as well. In these most recent games, watching the Minnesota power play has been an exercise in futility. I don’t know about you, but watching a static, pass-first power play isn’t getting things done. In the past, Wild fans have joked about wishing we could decline the power play. But unfortunately, that’s not how hockey works. Instead, we have to sit there and watch an anemic power play. I know I’m not the only person who tunes out during those two minutes of nothing. While it should be a time of exciting play, we’re stuck watching passive passes from the perimeter or intercepted passes.

For the first time in a while, Minnesota has a completely healthy roster. Returning to the lineup tonight is Jordan Greenway. I would like to think that his return will help matters, but I just can’t conjure up that amount of optimism. While I’m sure there were people happy to see Matt Dumba back in the lineup on Sunday, I don’t think his return had the impact some expected. I will admit that Greenway returning doesn’t have me all that excited either. With his size, you would expect him to be a force and presence in front of the goaltender, but we don’t always get that. However, his return might give Marcus Foligno a little breathing room as well, meaning he doesn’t have to be the sole physical presence.

I don’t know about the rest of you, but I can’t say I’m exactly thrilled for this game. In fact, ambivalent or apathetic might be better descriptions. When faced with games like these, I find it hard to pay attention to these games. Even worse, I don’t even care about the games. And even if Minnesota gets the win tonight, until I see consistent wins and consistent effort, I really don’t care about this team. Which of course is the last thing any team can afford.