Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Seattle Kraken 4/22/22 @ 7:00PM CST at Xcel Energy Center

Minnesota Wild (49-21-7)  105pts  2nd in the Central

3.69 Goals For Per Game (5th in the NHL)

3.04 Goals Against Per Game (17th in the NHL)

19.7% Power Play (21st in the NHL)

75.9% Penalty Kill (24th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 44G 53A = 97pts

2. #36 Mats Zuccarello ~ 23G 55A = 78pts

3. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 32G 45A = 77pts

4. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 32G 29A = 61pts

5. #89 Frederic Gaudreau ~ 13G 29A = 42pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #44 Nic Deslauriers ~ 109 PIM’s*

2. #21 Brandon Duhaime ~ 98 PIM’s

3. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 87 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #33 Cam Talbot (31-12-4)  2.78GAA  .911SV%  3SO

2. #29 Marc-Andre Fleury (25-22-5)  2.90GAA  .910SV%  4SO*

 

Vs.

 

Seattle Kraken (26-44-6)  56pts  8th in the Pacific

2.59 Goals For Per Game (29th in the NHL)

3.43 Goals Against Per Game (24th in the NHL)

14.4% Power Play (29th in the NHL)

75.6% Penalty Kill (25th in the NHL)

Top 5 Scorers:

1. #26 Jared McCann ~ 26G 19A = 45pts

2. #37 Yanni Gourde ~ 18G 26A = 44pts

3. #7 Jordan Eberle ~ 19G 22A = 41pts

4. #21 Alex Wennberg ~ 10G 25A = 35pts

5. #29 Vince Dunn ~ 7G 27A = 34pts

Top 3 PIM’s:

1. #29 Vince Dunn ~ 61 PIM’s

2. #24 Jamie Oleksiak ~ 52 PIM’s

3. #6 Adam Larsson ~ 51 PIM’s

Top Goaltenders:

1. #31 Philipp Grubauer (18-29-5)  3.09GAA  .891%  2SO

2. #60 Chris Driedger (8-12-1)  3.05GAA  .897%

*- Denotes stats acquired from multiple teams

Lines:

Seattle Kraken

Donato~Beniers~Eberle

McCann~Gourde~Kuhlman

Sprong~Sheahan~Donskoi

V. Rask~Wennberg~Lind

Dunn~A. Larsson

Soucy~C. Fleury

Oleksiak~Borgen

Grubauer

Driedger

Minnesota Wild

Kaprizov~Hartman~Zuccarello

Fiala~F. Gaudreau~Boldy

Deslauriers~Eriksson Ek~Bjugstad

Duhaime~Dewar~Chaffee

Middleton~Spurgeon

Brodin~Kulikov

Merrill~Goligoski

Talbot

M-A. Fleury

 

Just like I mentioned in yesterday’s preview, today’s stats also tell a story. Strangely enough though, they don’t really tell a story about one of today’s teams. No, they tell the story of a completely different franchise, but I doubt they’re going to like much of what I’m going to say. Well the feeling is mutual and I don’t have a lot of respect for this other franchise nor their “fans”. Personally I hope the bro-dudes come at me and spout of some 1950s gender norms nonsense. That would be a fun way to kick off the weekend. So here we go.

Looking at the team stats for the Seattle Kraken are nothing special. In fact if you’re a Seattle fan, they’re probably a bit depressing. However, as a fan of an expansion team myself, my response is simply, this is what an expansion team is supposed to look like. You’re supposed to hang out at the bottom of your division standings for quite a while, and slog through the muck. They’re called growing pains. Every expansion team has experienced this agony.

Well every expansion team except one. If by chance any Vegas Golden Knights fans happen to read this, see this is what a real expansion team looks like. They’re built off of real castoffs and hopefully through the Entry Draft. Just because you were handed a golden ticket of a team upon a silver platter does not make that the norm. Yet, they still trot out the line that they were a team built of castoffs. That is pure an utter BS, and the rest of the league knows your lie. The fact that your “castoff” team is still without a playoff spot right now is payback if you ask me. I personally love it, and it’s about time you feel the pain of failure.

Now that I’ve vented, let’s get to tonight’s game. But in order to do that, we probably need to look at Minnesota’s game last night. The first ten or so minutes of the game by the Wild, I really liked. They looked focused and were putting pressure on Vancouver. I was thinking that maybe, just maybe, we were going to get a solid effort. However, once that first TV timeout happened, things shifted. The Canucks were able to re-group, but Minnesota got a bit too loosey-goosey for my comfort levels.

To further illustrate this point, look especially at the first four goals last night. Both the Kevin Fiala and Jared Spurgeon goals were quickly followed by goals by Elias Pettersson and Matthew Highmore. It just felt like Minnesota either couldn’t or wouldn’t hold onto a lead last night. That is something that cannot continue. The Wild need to get the lead, hold the lead, and push to expand the lead. If we struggled with that concept against the Vancouver Canucks, do you think it will be any easier against the Saint Louis Blues in the playoffs?

But if there was on bright spot in last night’s game, and probably for the last couple of weeks or so, it has been the play of Frederic Gaudreau. When he was acquired, I felt it was another case of Minnesota getting the “other” player who just happened to have the same last name as another much more talented player. Sure, he will never produce at the levels of his more famous namesake, Johnny Gaudreau, but I’m not going to complain over his recent play. Plus it probably helps that he’s found chemistry with linemates Fiala and Matt Boldy.

So now we need to focus on the game at hand. In the season series with the Kraken, I can’t say I’ve been pleased. The first meeting this season was a 4-1 loss in Seattle. That was followed by a 4-2 win at home. This is a game where Minnesota should dominate, but I still don’t trust them when it comes to team defense. Even against teams like Seattle and Vancouver, they struggle to keep the puck out of their net. We still see too many boneheaded passes and clearing attempts that lead to either scoring chances or goals.

With the return of Marc-Andre Fleury to the net, I expect we’ll see a standard rotation of starts the rest of the regular season. Based on the past rotation, he should have started last night, but Cam Talbot got the start. Yet at the same time, opponents practiced based on who they expected to see in net. However, these are all professional athletes, playing against goaltenders and skaters they’ve all played against previously. A one-game aberration in Minnesota’s goaltender rotation wasn’t going to complete throw everyone off.

With the remaining schedule, we want and need to see a Wild with some fire. But whether that happens or not is entirely up to them. While they’ve accomplished the first goal of making the playoffs, we’ve seen this story play out too many times in past seasons. This is the season to make a statement, because with the upcoming salary cap issues, this may be the last playoff season for a while. I had no issues with buying out Ryan Suter and Zach Parise, but it is going to take its toll on this team. But then their personalities were taking their toll on the team overall, and shedding them has made things so much better.

Playing a team like Seattle, takes me back to Minnesota’s early years. However, we’re no longer the cellar dweller looking to take our opponent down a notch or too. That alone makes Seattle that much more dangerous, but it doesn’t have to be. As long as the Wild stay focussed on the game at hand, they should be able to take home the two points.