All posts by Daneekas Ghost

Game 41 – Twins at Kansas City

We are participating in No Mow May this year,  and I've got to say it's really fun to have an actual ecosystem in our yard.  We've got a ton of different plants and flowers,  lots of birds and insects, a very Bailey Ober-sized bunch of dandelions and a few spots where you can tell small critters shelter at night.

We've also had neighbors inquire if everything is OK and if we need help,  but no one has called the HOA on us yet. I don't know if we will hold out to memorial day,  but it's been a very interesting experiment.

Bailey Ober makes his triumphant return today to face the Royals. I've haven't been impressed with KC. They kind of look like a mess, but not a fun mess that's good for bees and small wildlife.

Playoff Wild Whangdoodle: Game 1 – Minnesota v. St. Louis

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is tonight - 8:30 Central on ESPN.

We've got the best Wild team in history, coming in with a franchise record 53 wins and 113 points in the standings.  They have the second best record in the Western Conference and set a host of new franchise scoring records this year, both individual, and as a team. With all of that, they find themselves in the same division as 2 of the other top 4 teams in the West, and so we get a truly exciting first round series that pits two really good teams against each other and will send a really good team home after 4 to 7 games.


Short answer: They shoot the puck into the net really good.

Longer answer:
The Blues offensive system is based around the idea of creating only the highest quality chances as much as possible. Instead of dumping the puck in and trying to grind out a scoring chance, they prefer to carry the puck into the offensive zone. Instead of shooting and looking for a deflection or a rebound, they prefer to make a pass across the zone to force the opposing goalie to move and make a save at the same time. They are consistently among the top teams in the NHL in "high-danger passes" passes from the middle of the ice or that cross the middle of the ice in the offensive zone.  The Blues don't play for possession of the puck (they are below 50% on most possession metrics, while the Wild are above average).  But they make it not matter because they are constantly seeking those high danger passing plays. To further this, they have assembled a team that works within this system because they have a bunch of forwards with good finishing ability that have had high shooting percentages through their careers.

So, the Blues took a bunch of good shooters and put them in a system that gives them good looks and as a result, they have the highest team shooting percentage in the NHL this season.  They are 29th in the NHL in shots attempted, but 3rd in the NHL in goals scored.


Two questions then for the Wild.

  1. Can they disrupt those in-zone passes consistently? When the Wild really dominated Las Vegas last year in the playoffs it was because they completely shut down passing plays once Vegas crossed the red line and forced the Knights to grind out chances which is really hard to do against the Wild.

    This becomes magnified when the Blues get on the power play. More space for a team already adept at completing those high-danger passes is not a comfortable thing for penalty killers.  The Wild have not been a good penalty killing team this year, and if the Blues can ride a hot power play, this series gets a lot harder to win.

  2. Can they get the Blues to dump the puck in?  Spurgeon and Brodin are amazing defensemen when it comes to retrieving pucks and turning those dump-ins the other direction. This skill is largely negated by the Blues always carrying the puck over the blue line. If the backchecking forwards can force the Blues into close proximity to the Wild defensemen as they enter the zone, we might see some dump ins and that would play into the Wild's strength.


Yep.  The Wild are a really good offensive team. (You read that correctly) and the Blues haven't really shut them down in their three meetings this season. The Blues play a man-on-man strategy in their defensive zone, which is simple, but exploitable especially if the Wild defense can pull some Blues out of position by activating in from the blue line.  To do that with consistency and without creating opposition chances the other way, it will have to happen in tandem with long periods of Wild puck possession.  If the Wild have the puck  in the offensive zone for long stretches, we should see the Blues defensive system start to break down and create some open looks for the Wild goal scorers.

Dump and chase and grinding out possession in the corners is very much what the Wild want, especially with Ek/Greenway/Foligno on the ice. If that line can tilt the ice for Minnesota, then good things will follow.  The Boldy/Fiala/Gaudreau line is good at finding those soft spots in the zone, and Kaprizov/Zuccarello/Hartman can pull any defensive system out of alignment with skating and puck movement, so there's no shortage of weapons the Wild can bring to bear to counter the Blues shooters.

Of course, this is a strategy that works better at 5 on 5 than it does on special teams, so the fewer penalties that are called, the better it plays into Minnesota's hand.

The Blues are one of the biggest teams in the playoffs size-wise, but they didn't play a particularly physical style during the regular season.  The Wild are smaller but hit a lot more.  I'm interested to see how much the physical part of the game changes the series. The narrative is always that the playoffs play "heavier", but it's a little unclear which team that would favor here.


It sure helps.  The Blues will start Ville Husso in his first postseason start tonight, but he's been good most of the year for them, while it sounds like the Wild will go with Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 1.

We all know what Fleury is capable of in the playoffs, so the best possible outcome is more of that this year.   Talbot has been awfully good as well down the stretch, so I would imagine it won't take much to switch goalies as the series progresses.

Game 3: Seattle @ Minnesota

Remember  how awesome this was?

Losing the first two games by one run each sure makes it easy to look for the little things that could have maybe gone the other way to flip the result. This was not a little thing, Buxton turned around that fastball and earned that flip of the bat and should have earned a flip of the outcome.

Just watch it again. He's so good.

Today's pitchers:

Ober vs. Marco Gonzalez

I'm very interested in what Bailey Ober's season will look like.  Repeating the good parts of a rookie year is sometimes a challenge. On the other hand, there were good parts about a Twins pitcher last year!



W(once in a while) Wild Whangdoodle – Trade Deadline

They've gone and done something haven't they?

Wild had a whole bunch of deals this week, and I think they pretty much all point to what Bill Guerin thinks the team needs to contend.

  • Nico Sturm for Tyson Jost

Well, so much for the Whangdoodle-crush on Nico Sturm.  Sturm was the kind of player that was easy to like, direct and fast and a very no-frills kind of game. The kind of player that has value on the fourth line, and scores just enough for you to wonder if maybe he could be good enough for second line minutes?  But no, he isn't.  And the Wild weren't going to resign him after this year when they have Dewar and Duhaime that play almost exactly this role. Getting something for Sturm before he walks is good business.

Sturm was third among Wild forwards in time-on-ice shorthanded this season, where he was slightly below replacement level according to Evolving Hockey's GAR model. This is a theme we'll come back to.

Tyson Jost is pretty similar to Sturm except he's got a longer track record and he's under contract through the next season.  Comparing their GAR defensive numbers over the past four years drives home that this trade was switching out players in the same role more or less.

PlayerMinutesEven Strength dGARSH MinutesShorthanded dGAR
Sturm 2018-2021638+3.165+1.9
Sturm 2021-2022627-0.990-0.4
Jost 2018-20212527+3.7128+0.2
Jost 2021-2022780-0.2112-3.5
  • 2023 3rd round pick for Nicolas Deslauriers

I mean, OK? Deslauriers isn't a great player as far as creating offense, but he's been a consistently adequate defensive forward who is willing to punch people when called upon. In the last four seasons he has contributed -0.4 defGAR and a -5.3 offGAR.

He's seen some penalty kill time on the Ducks this year, and been an adequate defender there.

  • Kaapo Kahkonen and a 5th round pick for Jacob Middleton

Minnesota had a surplus goalie (more on that in a minute) and Kahkonen was going to need a new contract after this season. I'm not a believer that Kahkonen was ever going to be a starting caliber goalie, but he has shown that he could fill in capably sometimes, and has actually outperformed Talbot this year in limited chances. Still, I think it's understandable that the Wild decided to move on from Kahkonen and look elsewhere for backup help next season.

Jacob Middleton is in his first year of consistent playing time and has acquitted himself pretty well. He has solid defensive numbers and the underlying numbers on offense look respectable (although the results so far haven't matched the analytics). He'll be an RFA next year, and should probably be a cheaper option than Goligoski if the Wild need to fill more spaces on the blue line.

I probably like Middleton the best of any of the skaters that the Wild acquired this week. Once again, he has played the penalty kill consistently, and has good numbers and results there.

  • Jack McBain for a 2022 second round pick (from Vancouver)

Vancouver should pick somewhere in the middle of the second round, and McBain said he wouldn't sign in Minnesota, so this is a good get for the front office.  I don't think that McBain is going to be a star in the NHL, but could become a third/fourth line player and contribute.

  • 2022 Conditional 1st-round pick for Marc-Andre Fleury (50% salary retained by Chicago)

Here's the big one. Fleury hasn't had a great year and even if you adjust for the defense in front of him, it doesn't look anything like his truly spectacular season last year.  Still, if the goal is to take a swing at a deep playoff run this year (which seems pretty reasonable for the Wild) then you absolutely add Fleury if you can get him.

How Talbot and Fleury share time is a question.  Whether Fleury can improve to anything close to what he did last year in Minnesota's system is a question.

What's not a question is whether Guerin is pushing in on success this year.  Adding Fleury is as much a signal as anything else.  This is a year where Minnesota is going for it.  Coming into the final 20 or so games of the season the team has been consistently good on the offensive side of the puck.

There have been a couple of swoons in their defense at 5 on 5, that you can see on the graph below that charts the team's even strength expected goals for and against.

But more recently, two problems have become obvious.

1. Penalty Killing

Woof, that got ugly right around game 30 and really hasn't gotten any better since then (the median penalty GA/60 in the NHL is 7.45).

2. Goaltending

The league median save percentage at 5 on 5 is .919, a number the Wild tandem hasn't topped in a five-game sample in the last month and a half.

And so Bill Guerin set out to address these two issues.  Deslauriers, Middleton, Jost all have some experience as penalty killers. (Jost's numbers this year are a little suspect, but has a better track record).  League-average goaltending doesn't seem like an unreasonable expectation from Fleury going forward. It will be pretty easy to assess these moves at the end of the year and see if they had the intended effect, because the intended effect is so clear.

Credit where it's due to the Wild front office, they identified the problem and tried to address it, now there's 20 games to see whether it worked.

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: All Hartman

Games this week:

This upcoming weekend will be packed with hockey.  A couple of back-to-backs for both the Whitecaps and Wild. The Whitecaps get another shot at the Pride, who swept the weekend series two weeks ago in Boston, but this time the games are on home ice. Meanwhile the Wild face the Panthers, who are very very good, and the defending Cup champion Lightning.  Not an easy weekend for anyone.

But first! The return of Ryan Suter! Thursday night the struggling Stars come to Minnesota and I'm sure there will be a whole bunch of pontificating about Suter and the buyouts and everything that went down this summer.

But even firster! The Sharks. Tonight.

Continue reading Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: All Hartman

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: Out West Again

Games this week:

On the road again. A trip to the west gets 3 games in 4 days. Don't expect a lot of power-play goals on this trip, it features four teams at the bottom of the league in power play goal rates.  Minnesota (24th), Arizona (29th), Vegas (31st), and Seattle (32nd).

Arizona is truly terrible, they just got their first win of the season last week.  Any points dropped to the Coyotes would be a missed opportunity.

Vegas is really banged up, playing without Marc Stone or Pacioretty or new acquisition Jack Eichel.  This is a good time to run into the Golden Knights.

Seattle has struggled ever since they dominated the Wild a couple weeks ago, but are probably the best 5-on-5 possession team of the three the Wild will face on this trip.

Continue reading Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: Out West Again

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: Not So Thrilling

Games this week:

A weird trip to Pittsburgh on Saturday, only to return to Minnesota to play the Islanders. I wonder if this wasn't meant to be a road trip that had to be changed because the Islanders new arena hasn't opened yet.

Three teams near the bottom of their divisions in the East (7th in the Atlantic, 8th and 7th in the Metro respectively), but the Wild can't really take any wins for granted at this point.

Also, we've got the start of PHF season and the Minnesota Whitecaps start with a rematch of the Isobel Cup final last spring as they play two games in Boston (both games stream on ESPN+).  Kind of annoyed that the Whitecaps and Wild play at exactly the same time on Saturday, but that's why multiple screens were invented I guess.

Continue reading Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: Not So Thrilling