Game Preview: Minnesota Wild vs. Winnipeg Jets 2/16/22 @ 6:00PM CST at Canada Life Centre

Minnesota Wild (30-11-3)  63pts  2nd in the Central

3.80 Goals For Per Game (3rd in the NHL)
2.84 Goals Against Per Game (15th in the NHL)
20.6% Power Play (15th in the NHL)
80.1% Penalty Kill (16th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 22G 35A = 57pts
2. #36 Mats Zuccarello ~ 14G 32A = 46pts
3. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 14G 23A = 37pts
4. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 19G 15A = 34pts
5. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 17G 10A = 27pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 87 PIM’s
2. #21 Brandon Duhaime ~ 63 PIM’s
3. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 48 PIM’s
Top Goaltenders:
1. #33 Cam Talbot (19-8-1)  2.78GAA  .915SV%  1SO
2. #34 Kaapo Kahkonen (11-3-2)  2.53GAA  .921SV%
Vs.
Winnipeg Jets (20-18-8)  48pts  6th in the Central
2.83 Goals For Per Game (22nd in the NHL)
2.89 Goals Against Per Game (17th in the NHL)
21.4% Power Play (12th in the NHL)
75.0% Penalty Kill (26th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #81 Kyle Connor ~ 26 24A = 50pts
2. #55 Mark Scheifele ~ 14G 22A = 36pts
3. #80 Pierre-Luc Dubois ~ 20G 15A = 35pts
4. #9 Andrew Copp ~ 12G 16A = 28pts
5. #26 Blake Wheeler ~ 4G 22A = 26pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #80 Pierre-Luc Dubois ~ 52 PIM’s
2. #5 Brendan Dillon ~ 44 PIM’s
3. #17 Adam Lowry ~ 40 PIM’s
Top Goaltenders:
1. #37 Connor Hellebuyck (16-16-7)  2.81GAA  .913SV%  3SO
2. #1 Eric Comrie (4-2-1)  2.34GAA   .920SV%
Lines:
Winnipeg Jets
 
Stastny~Scheiefele~Wheeler
Connor~Dubois~Perfetti
Copp~Lowry~K.Reichel
Harkins~Toninato~E.Svechnikov
 
Morrissey~DeMelo
Heinola~Schmidt
Stanley~Dillon
 
Hellebuyck
Comrie
Minnesota Wild
Kaprizov~Hartman~Zuccarello
Fiala~F.Gaudreau~Boldy
Greenway~Eriksson Ek~M.Foligno
Duhaime~Sturm~Dewar
Brodin~Spurgeon
Jo. Benn~Goligoski
Merrill~Kulikov
Talbot
Kahkonen
Okay, so we have another game where I was confused by what day it actually is. I saw a 6:00pm start time, and thought to myself “oh, it’s going to be a nationally broadcast game, so I can actually watch it on TV.” Nope, not at all. With such a “prank” being pulled, I started thinking of Saint Urho’s Day. Somehow in my mind I thought it was the day after Valentine’s Day. But then upon looking it up, it’s actually the day after Saint Patrick’s Day. Of course this makes more sense, but again, nothing about this season is making sense in my head. I suppose if you’re reading this and wondering “what the heck is Saint Urho’s Day”, my guess is you’re either not Finnish-American or haven’t spent much time on the Iron Range. Oh well.
I’m still going to go with the Saint Urho’s theme, as I see the Winnipeg Jets as nothing more than an annoying and destructive plague of grasshoppers. Their fans descend on Saint Paul like the swarms of mayflies that can be seen on radar in the Spring. If there was anything “good” about Covid restrictions, it was the lack of Jets fans at Xcel Energy Center, but that’s just me. And of course, tonight’s opponent is the team that refuses to play home games without any fans, which has only added to the absolute schedule mess.
I don’t know what it is about games against the Jets, but they rarely go well for the Minnesota Wild. I feel like they’re our new Chicago Blackhawks. However, the Blackhawks actually have a few Stanley Cups under their belts. Sadly, the Wild insist on playing the Jets like they’re playing the Blackhawks of old, and that is timidly. A sixth in the Central Division Winnipeg Jets should be an easy win, but the Wild make it anything but easy. And if you think back to last Tuesday’s 2-0 shutout loss in Winnipeg, I think you’ll understand why I feel this way.
So, what to the Wild need to do tonight? Firstly, they need to stay out of the penalty box. I know this is obvious, and I say it every game, but this is definitely an absolute must tonight. The Jets have a knack of getting under the skin of the Wild players, and proof of this was in the penalty taken by Marcus Foligno in the last meeting. That penalty was made worse by the fact that it ended up in a 2-game suspension to Foligno. I don’t know about you, but I have a feeling that Winnipeg’s Adam Lowry will look to agitate Foligno early in the game. They know that Foligno has muscle and offensive ability, and to get him out of the game would be to their benefit.
Secondly, the Wild need to figure out a way of giving up the first goal. Even against the lowly Detroit Red Wings, the Wild allowed them the first two games. While that was frustrating, we weren’t as worried being down by two, because the Wild were pushing hard. It was clear that it was only going to be a matter of time before the dam broke, and it broke with a 7-goal output. But the point is, while Minnesota has shown they can fight back, we really don’t need them to do so every game. However, the having to fight back creates a sense of urgency. I’d rather see that, than have them go up 3-0, and then take the foot off the gas. And sadly, we’ve all seen that from the Wild.
Thirdly, the Wild need to keep things simple. Don’t get me wrong, but I love the highlight reel goal as much as the next person, but they’re not required. What is required are goals, and I don’t care how they come about. During both the games against Detroit and Carolina, I’ve seen the bad habit of pass before shoot come back. One player who is definitely guilty of this is Matz Zuccarello. He’ll have a lane open with teammates in front of the net, but he’ll decide to look for a pass through traffic. Sometimes those passes will pay off, but I need him to be a bit more selfish. Also, let’s look for the simple pass over a complicated one. I can’t remember if it was Detroit or Carolina, but the prudent pass would have been to Dmitry Kulikov who was clear and open at the blueline, but instead it was sent deeper into the zone and into traffic. Which of course ended up in losing possession.
So let’s be Saint Urho a month early, and send the grasshoppers (or locusts) back to Winnipeg with their wings clipped. I’m tired of the Winnipeg Jets and everything about them.