All posts by Daneekas Ghost

First Monday Book Day: Ghost Story

I actually had a long solo drive this past weekend for the first time in a long time. Took the opportunity to listen to the first 5 hours of the audio book of The Upstairs House by Julia Fine.

The narrator in the book has a new baby and an unfinished dissertation on children's literature. She is very ambivalent about both of those things. The result is that Margaret Wise Brown's ghost (author of Goodnight Moon and Runaway Bunny) has moved in upstairs.

There's just a touch of horror, and I'm not exactly sure where the story is going in the final third. I'm almost reminded of Victor LaValle's The Changeling, which is maybe my favorite horror fantasy novel, so that's a good sign.

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: 20 Games Remain

20 games remain. The end of the season approaches!

Minnesota went 2-1-1 last week, opened a wider lead on the bottom of the division and inched closer to second place in the standings. If they keep having weeks like that, it's going to be a low-stress end to the season.

This week the Wild get 2 games at home against Colorado (Monday & Wednesday)  and 2 on the road in St. Louis (Friday & Saturday).  The games against the Blues might be the more important ones.

Everyone (and by everyone, I mean internet commenters) loves to talk about measuring up against the best teams and getting blown out by the Avalanche caused a fair bit of consternation when it happened a couple weeks ago. But those two games, as disheartening as they were, had almost no effect on the Wild's position in the standings.

The Blues are currently in 5th place (tied with San Jose), so every win against them reduces the playoff magic number two-fold. I'd rather sew up a playoff spot early and rest players.  Winning games against St. Louis is the way to do that.

Kaprizov continues to be amazing. Tune in just to watch him. That's an order.

Current Standings:

  1. Colorado - 54 points (37G)
  2. Vegas - 50 points (36G)
  3. Minnesota - 48 points (36G)
  4. Arizona - 41 points (38G)
  5. St. Louis - 38 points (37G)
  6. San Jose - 38 points (37G)
  7. LosAngeles - 34 points (36G)
  8. Anaheim - 29 points (39G)

Wild Magic Number - 29 points (both St. Louis and San Jose)

Game 3: Twins @ Brewers

Michael Pineda v. Adrian Houser

It's been over 600 days since Michael Pineda took the loss in one of his starts (July 16, 2019 vs. the Mets). You can argue that number is inflated by the general lack of games over that time period, but that wouldn't be any fun.

But in a general sense, Pineda has been incredibly consistently good as a Twin.  In his last 20 starts here's the distribution of runs allowed:

  • 0 starts with 0 runs allowed
  • 8 starts with 1 run allowed
  • 5 starts with 2 runs allowed
  • 5 starts with 3 runs allowed
  • 1 start with 4 runs allowed
  • 1 start with 5 runs allowed

His record is 9-2 in those 20 starts and he's got a 3.17 ERA. Perhaps more importantly the Twins record in those games is 16-4.

Adrian Houser had trouble missing bats last season, and all the projection systems at FanGraphs seem to anticipate that he will be almost perfectly average (4.30 ERA/FIP, 8.0 K/9, 3.0 BB/9).

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: Playoffs?

The Wild have essentially made the playoffs (more on this below) and unless there are some really big surprises out there (like a goaltender injury or two for Las Vegas or Colorado), they aren't going to catch either of the top two teams in the division. So, with 24 games left in the season jammed into 6 weeks, head coach Dean Evason has to ask himself whether the team is playing for regular season success or a post-season run?

Will they make the playoffs?


St. Louis - 13-8
Arizona - 13-7-1
Los Angeles - 16-8
San Jose - 17-5
Anaheim - 18-2

  • To miss the playoffs, two of those teams would have to hit those marks, so it won't take much for the Wild to nail down at least the 4th spot in the division.

Will they catch Las Vegas or Colorado?

Colorado is three points ahead in the standings, while Vegas is four.

Head-to-head games remaining:

4 games between Minnesota and Las Vegas (2 this week)
2 games between Minnesota and Colorado
2 games between Las Vegas and Colorado

It's probably a little early to throw in the towel on the idea of catching one of these teams, but the games this week might go a long way to making the decision. A couple of wins this weekend might give those thoughts of home ice in the first round some more oxygen.

But, if the Wild lose ground to Vegas, it might be time to spend the remainder of the season working to ensure that they are in the best position to make some noise in that first round matchup.

What to do?

To me, that means rest.  All of these teams are going to be put through a gauntlet here over the next 6 weeks. Lots of back-to-back games, lots of travel. When playoff time comes around, it's very possible that success will be determined by who can send out the most complete team.

I would start resting one or two regulars when there are back-to-back games. Maybe not this week, but going forward, let Dumba rest his ankle for a three day weekend every once in a while.  Have Kaprizov take a Monday or two off down the stretch so he's not dinged up.  Brodin, Spurgeon, Eriksson Ek, Fiala, Foligno (once he's back) - all these guys are going to be needed in a playoff series in a big way. They aren't needed to add more standings points in a game against San Jose in the middle of April.

The Wild need 10 or 11 wins to lock up a playoff spot. (Their magic number is currently 19, but it's safe to assume LA/Arizona/St. Louis will lose at least a few games).  They would need a lot of good results to catch Vegas or Colorado (their magic number for Colorado is 25, for Vegas is 26.5).

This isn't the year that the Wild are going to dominate the division and find the easiest road through the playoffs by playing low seeds.  The really good results of the first half have put them in a place where they can be pretty secure in what the playoff picture looks like.  Now Dean Evason should take advantage of that and focus on maximizing his team's chances in the NHL's second season (you know, the one that leads to the Cup).

This week's schedule:

Welcome back to late night hockey!

The Sharks remain on the very outside of the playoff picture, but they keep not winning, so their opportunities are dwindling.  San Jose has  a winning record against the other two California teams, but is 3-12-1 against MIN, COL, LV, ARI.

Las Vegas has withstood Colorado's latest charge and remains on top of the division for now. They are still a very good team getting some very good goaltending.

  1. Vegas - 47 points (32G)
  2. Colorado - 46 points (33G)
  3. Minnesota - 43 points (32G)
  4. St. Louis - 38 points (35G)
  5. Arizona - 37 points (35G)
  6. LosAngeles - 32 points (32G)
  7. San Jose - 30 points (33G)
  8. Anaheim - 28 points (36G)


The Kirill Kaprizov Corner

There's the point in this clip (right where it goes into slow motion) where you can see the defenseman has no idea what Kaprizov is going to do. Cut to the middle? Use him as a screen? Go wide?  So the Blues D-man decides to slow down and close the gap on Kaprizov to take away the middle of the ice.  He gets closer, but Kaprizov just steps on it and flies around him, gets off a quck shot that Binnington doesn't square up to and finds the net.

It's so good.

On the rookie leaderboards, Kaprizov's first in goals (11), first in assists (16), and first in points (27).

Kaprizov is tied for 10th in the NHL in even-strength points (25).


Eriksson Ek11Zuccarello16Zuccarello21Brodin6.0
Rask7Brodin10Eriksson Ek16Eriksson Ek5.6

I added GAR (Goals Above Replacement - from Evolving Hockey) to the leaderboards. It's a touch over 5 Goals / Win, so the Wild have seven 1+-win players so far this season.  Can you name the other two players above 5 GAR?

Spoiler SelectShow

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: Off Days

Well, that sucked.  The Wild were flying high (some people even crowned them as good at hockey) after beating up on Arizona and Las Vegas. And then they got steamrolled by Colorado. Two games and a combined score of 11-1 not in Minnesota's favor.


The problem, it turns out, was that Colorado's first line is full of really good players and the Wild just didn't have an answer.  So it felt like the Avalanche could score at will. The good news here is that those games are over and Minnesota only meets Colorado for 2 games of their remaining 27.  So there's some time to maybe figure out a better strategy.

Speaking of the remaining 27 games, the Wild schedule really settles into a pattern here after this week.  Minnesota gets a three day weekend with no games in the upcoming weekend, and that will be the last time this season they get two days off in a row.  There are 7 sets of back-to-back games in the last 7 weeks, so we're going to see a lot of hockey if we so desire (hopefully hockey that looks like two weeks ago more than this past weekend).

This week's schedule:

The Ducks are bad and getting worse.  Playing them at home should be the perfect palate-cleanser after that bitter pill in Colorado.  Anaheim has struggled to score all year, but have been pretty good at keeping the puck out of the net. If the Wild can score some goals, they should be good here.

Thursday is the first game against St. Louis all season. The Blues have been hurt by injuries and bad goaltending, but have capitalized on a soft schedule to maintain their place in the top 4 of the West. If the Wild have any thoughts of getting home ice in the playoffs, they will need to win a good number of the 8 remaining games against St. Louis.

  1. Vegas - 43 points (29G)
  2. Colorado - 40 points (29G)
  3. Minnesota - 37 points (29G)
  4. St. Louis - 37 points (31G)
  5. LosAngeles - 32 points (30G)
  6. Arizona - 31 points (31G)
  7. San Jose - 26 points (29G)
  8. Anaheim - 24 points (32G)


The Kirill Kaprizov Corner

It was a slow week for highlights in general. Colorado did a pretty good job of limiting Kaprizov and Zuccarello and everyone else.

On the rookie leaderboards, Kaprizov's first in goals (10), first in assists (15), and first in points (25).

Kaprizov is in the top 15 in the NHL in even-strength points (23).

Players not Named Kirill

The injury list has a couple important guys out for now.

  • Foligno is still out - the Wild miss the defensive winger, and that series against Colorado might be a strong argument for Foligno as team defensive MVP.
  • Dumba hurt his ankle(?) in game one and was missed as well. He's had a really solid season, which was nice to see.


Eriksson Ek11Kaprizov15Kaprizov25Eriksson Ek6.8
Rask7Brodin/Parise9Eriksson Ek16Soucy/Rask4.8

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: They’re Good, Actually

Are the Wild good?

This is the question that keeps getting asked. It's kind of hard to believe that the Wild might be anything other than a middle of the road team that people mention only to say "yeah, they're ... OK, I guess."  But here we are. They took 4 points off Vegas, and continue to dominate teams during 5 on 5 play and get pretty good goaltending to go along with it.  At some point, the question has to be taken seriously.

The Analytic Method

Dom Luszczyszyn at the Athletic has a model that bases predicted outcomes on his Game Score stat (calculated by counting stats like goals, assists, shots, penalties drawn, but also factoring in possession stats like xG, faceoffs, and CORSI) as well as factors like strength of remaining schedule, injuries, etc.  I like it because he continually updates how things have changed over the season, so you can see exactly where the model started to buy into the Wild as a legitimate contender in the West division along with Colorado and Las Vegas.

Evolving Hockey uses a team goal differential stat to compare team performance. The stat is broken down into four components:

  1. Shot Rates
  2. Shot Quality
  3. Shooting
  4. Goaltending.

In comparing the teams in the West across these four factors we see once again that the Wild are comfortably in the same statistical neighborhood as Vegas and Colorado.

The numbers in the table represent the team's rank out of 31 NHL teams.  Shot Rate and Shot Quality are a comparison between a team and their opponent.  The Wild have the largest differential in the NHL between the average quality of their offensive shots and the quality of shots they allow (they rank 5th in shot quality and their opponents rank 29th).

TeamGoal DifferentialShot RateShot QualityShooting%Save%
Las Vegas232291
Los Angeles172617156
St. Louis191920324
San Jose2522131829

The DG plays with Spreadsheets Method

Which teams in the division have winning records (taking more than 50% of the points) against other teams in the division? Point percentage in this case is percentage of the points awarded in a game. So a win in regulation gets a team 100%, a win in OT or shootout gets them 67%, OT/SO loss gets them 33% and regulation loss 0%.  Don’t be mad at me that this makes no sense, take it up with the NHL Standings Point Policy director.

TIER 1 - Las Vegas, Colorado, and Minnesota each have a points% greater than or equal to 50 against all but one team in the division.  Las Vegas is lower than 50% against Minnesota, Minnesota is lower than 50% against Colorado, and Colorado is lower than 50% against ... you guessed it - Anaheim.  (Colorado and Las Vegas have split their two games, so are each at 50% in their matchup).

TIER 2 - St. Louis, Arizona, and Los Angeles are each above a 50% points percentage against 3 other teams in the division. This seems like a natural second tier in the division so far this season. Dom's model would see this as a slight to St. Louis, but I think this matches the actual results pretty well.

TIER 3 - San Jose and Anaheim are certainly the low end of the West, generally not beating anyone consistently.

Now I can compare each teams result against those tiers so far this season:

TeamP% vs. Tier 1P% vs. Tier 2P% vs. Tier 3
Las Vegas47%75%74%
St. Louis42%40%70%
Los Angeles31%62%50%
San Jose24%44%75%

What stands out here?

  • The Wild and Las Vegas are above average against every tier.
    • They've been good and they've been good against everyone in the division.
  • Los Angeles and St. Louis against Tier 2.
    • The Kings power play caught fire and they steamrolled the Blues over a set of games (Kings went 4-1-1), which makes a big difference in a short season like we've got this year.
  • Colorado against Tier 3.
    • They've gone to overtime against the Ducks in three of their 4 meetings. That makes it hard to drive up their points% against the bottom of the division.

To quantify how much of each teams standings position came from games against each tier I calculated points earned above average using the numbers above.

Teamversus T1versus T2versus T3Pts Above Average

The Grand Conclusion

I think they're a good team, actually. Their point total isn't inflated by beating up on the bottom feeders and they've won some games against the best teams in the division. They have the statistical proof that they have played well, but that their success is not a fluke. Their scoring and expected scoring line up pretty well. (figure from MoneyPuck).

There is of course, a warning in this analysis. And that warning is the St. Louis Blues. The Blues have had a remarkably easy schedule in the first half of the season, playing 10 games against SJ and Anaheim (more than anyone in the division) and 5 games against Vegas, Colorado, and Minnesota (fewer than anyone in the division). But they ran up against a hot team in Los Angeles in February and dropped a bunch of points in games that they probably expected to win.  Now they have to make those points back in the second half of the season against teams at the top of the division, a much harder task. Those 8 games against the Wild have become a much more important set now that the Blues are looking up at the Wild in the standings.

The first half of the season has gone very well, the Wild have surprised a bunch of people by being legitimately good and exciting and fun. In the second half, the biggest danger becomes running into a cold streak or an opponent's hot streak that cuts into the advantage they've built by playing as one of the best teams in the division so far.

This week's schedule:

A whole bunch more words on the standings are up above, but here's how they look as everyone approaches the halfway point.

  1. Vegas - 37 points (25G)
  2. Minnesota - 35 points (26G)
  3. Colorado - 34 points (26G)
  4. St. Louis - 33 points (28G)
  5. LosAngeles - 28 points (27G)
  6. Arizona - 28 points (28G)
  7. San Jose - 25 points (25G)
  8. Anaheim - 22 points (29G)


The Kirill Kaprizov Corner

Hat trick! 3 goals in one period! Look at how he shoots this puck on his second goal. He's turning on one skate, with no momentum toward the goal and still scores. AH! It's so good.

And while you're looking at that remember the 10 seconds before that where he comes off the bench like he's been shot out of a cannon and just ... skates past everyone.

He's so much fun.

On the rookie leaderboards, he's first in goals (10), first in assists (14), and first in points (24).

Players not Named Kirill

Who's got the best two-way line in hockey? Your Minnesota Wild, that's who.

Barkov or Barzal will probably win the Selke trophy for best defensive forward, but there will be a whole bunch of stat nerds who will take to Twitter and write "well, actually..." posts in favor of Joel Eriksson Ek.

The bad news is that Foligno will be out for at least a couple of weeks.


Eriksson Ek11Kaprizov14Kaprizov24
Rask6Brodin/Parise9Eriksson Ek16

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: A Second Helping of Desert

The Whangdoodle switched media and joined the WGOMPHBP for  a chat last week.  Check it out!

This week's schedule:

This schedule looks suspiciously like last week's schedule, except now all the games are in Minnesota.

Starting to see just a sliver of separation between the top half and the bottom half of the division. It would be good to add some points and really widen that split.

  1. Vegas - 33 points (21G)
  2. St. Louis - 31 points (25G)
  3. Colorado - 28 points (22G)
  4. Minnesota - 27 points (22G)
  5. LosAngeles - 25 points (23G)
  6. Arizona - 25 points (24G)
  7. Anaheim - 20 points (25G)
  8. San Jose - 19 points (22G)


The Kirill Kaprizov Corner

On the rookie leaderboards, he's first in assists (13), second in goals (6), and first in points (19).

Players not Named Kirill

Cam Talbot had a rough week, going 0-2-1 while giving up 13 goals on 96 shots (.865 save percentage - not what you want).  In the three games Talbot started this week, opponents outscored their xG by 5.7 goals.

    • Talbot currently ranks 36th out of 61 goalies in the NHL in save percentage above expected (-.007)
    • Kahkonen ranks 27th in the same category (-.003)
    • If we look at Goals Saved Above Average, Kahkonen (2.93) is 17th and Talbot (0.08) is 30th out of 61.

So either Kahkonen is the better goalie right now, or playing goalie against Las Vegas is harder than against other teams.  I guess both could be true.

The Wild power play is ridiculously bad. The went 0 for 9 last week, with no goals in 16:15 of power play time.  That calculates out as 0.00 goals/60 minutes, which would be a rate that would put them last in the NHL.

The season long power play numbers are just as bad.

      • 3.0 G/60 min. is last in the NHL
      • 5.8% shooting percentage is last in the NHL
      • 6.8 xG/60 is 18th in the NHL

That last number gives us some hope that maybe someday the Wild will progress toward having an average power play. I'm not holding my breath.

The Wild have not given up a shorthanded goal yet this year, so the power play is ranked #1 in the NHL defensively.


Eriksson Ek8Greenway13Kaprizov19
Dumba/Rask/Greenway5Brodin8Eriksson Ek12

March Books

I read A Swim in a Pond in the Rain by George Saunders this month.  Saunders is a professor at Syracuse and he reflects on the stories that he enjoys teaching the most and then goes through seven examples by four Russian authors (Chekhov, Tolstoy, Turgenev, and Gogol).  It does read like a class on fiction writing at times, but it was also really fun to watch someone who is undeniably good at something pick apart how other people do that thing.  I also enjoy people writing and discussing teaching, so this was right up my alley. I heard about this book because Saunders appeared on the So Many Damn Books podcast and he sold me on it.

All of that aside, I did get a little bit tired of the perspective of seven stories all told by old Russian dudes. So if you are looking for a read that has diversity of perspective ... this ain't that.

As is required whenever I mention George Saunders, I have linked to my favorite of his performances below.

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: Just Deserts

Six wins in a row! Hard to feel bad about that.

Thanks to a quirky California-heavy schedule and a COVID shutdown that skipped over some games against the division powerhouses, the Wild have fattened up their record to the point that they spent a couple of hours in first place in the division on Saturday night.

But that's probably selling this team short a little bit. They've played really well. The goalies have been really solid, the defense has been stingy, and they've gotten offensive contributions from several lines (who had Marco Nico Sturm down for a three-goal week?).

  • Zuccarello has a six-game point streak and is up to fourth on the team in points despite playing in less than half the games. He's been great on a line with Kaprizov, and his pass to Dumba in the waning seconds of overtime on Saturday was a really nice play.
  • Sturm-Bonino-Bjugstad has been a really great fourth line. It always feels like damning with faint praise to say things like that, but these three were consistently good last week.
  • Jordan Greenway continues to pile up assists. Last season, he had a career high in points and points per game (28 points, 0.42 P/G). In 18 games this year, he's halfway to that point total (2G-12A-14pts) and nearly doubling up his points per game pace (0.78 P/G).

This week's schedule:

Two teams that Minnesota hasn't seen yet this season will now be their only opponents for the next two weeks.

Las Vegas is good - they've beat up on everyone in the division except Colorado (10-2-1 record against non-Colorado opponents this year). Their goalie has been red-hot, they've dominated 5-on-5 (only the Wild have better even strength numbers in the West division).  Their power play hasn't been amazing (18th in the NHL in goals/60), but they've been unlucky (7th in the NHL in xG/60), so I'd be OK not giving them too many chances.

Arizona has had a truly strange schedule, with more than half of their games coming against two teams (STL and ANA). But they've been a pretty middle of the road team (as evidenced by their 1.00 points/game place in the standings). They've lost when they've played COL and Vegas (1-5 record against those two), but also lost as many games as they've won against the California teams (4-2-2 record).  Most of the stats favor the Wild in these games, but this is probably the team most likely to challenge the Wild for a playoff spot as the season goes on.

Updating the standings reveals that everyone except San Jose and Anaheim are very close. It will be interesting to see how long LA and Arizona remain in the mix, and if St. Louis can keep up with the top teams.

  1. Vegas - 25 points (17G)
  2. Minnesota - 24 points (18G)
  3. St. Louis - 24 points (21G)
  4. Colorado - 23 points (18G)
  5. LosAngeles - 22 points (20G)
  6. Arizona - 21 points (21G)
  7. Anaheim - 17 points (21G)
  8. San Jose - 16 points (18G)


The Kirill Kaprizov Corner

I love this kid. He's so good. He tries passes that other people wouldn't think of and then pulls them off. He's so strong on the puck and always seems to have somewhere to go with it. There's no other word for it other than that he's fun to watch. Since being paired with Zuccarello, he's started to get more scoring chances as well.

On the rookie leaderboards, he's first in assists (11), second in goals (6), and first in points (17).  He's well on his way to the Calder, and if this pace continues, it won't be close.

Players not Named Kirill

  • Eriksson Ek's next goal will set a new career high for goals in a season for him.
  • Notably missing from the leaderboards below is Zach Parise.
  • 18 games into the season, and the team leader in points on the power play is ... Zach Parise, with 2 assists. Kevin Fiala is tied for the lead with 2 goals.
  • Ryan Hartman has played really well in a new role (center).


Eriksson Ek8Greenway12Kaprizov17
Kaprizov6Suter8Eriksson Ek12
Dumba/Foligno4Hartman6Fiala / Rask / Hartman9

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: The Quarter Post

A Monday night game threw off my schedule. Here's a whangdoodle.

14 games represents 25% of the scheduled season, so we're now into the second half of the first half. Other than Eriksson Ek still leading the team in goals scored, I think this team has been pretty much as expected.

This week's schedule:

We have to be almost done with the Kings at this point, right?

LA won three in a row last week to vault to the top of the bottom of the West standings - Minnesota's sweep of Anaheim puts them with the best points percentage, but the fewest games played.  Separation remains difficult for this group.

LA - 17 points in 16 games
Arizona - 17 points in 17 games
Minnesota - 16 points in 14 games
San Jose - 16 points in 16 games
Anaheim - 15 points in 18 games


The Kirill Kaprizov Corner

Kaprizov continues to lead all NHL rookies in assists and is tied for first in total points. (3G - 8A - 11Pts)

He is indeed - fun.

Players not Named Kirill

  • Eriksson Ek continues to have a spectacular year.  I'm not even questioning it any more.
  • Fiala is scoring. This is a very good thing.
  • Rask continues to score when Kaprizov feeds him the puck. I guess we let it ride?  (special shout out to Rask winning 12 of 13 faceoffs against the Ducks on Saturday - I'm as confused as any of you)
  • The Wild continue to be saturated with good defensemen. Dakota Mermis and Calen Addison sound like they acquitted themselves well in short stints on the COVID-decimated roster.
  • Zuccarello is back! (three points in three games? Yeah, he gets an exclamation point for that)


Eriksson Ek6Greenway9Kaprizov11
Rask4Suter6Eriksson Ek10
Dumba3Brodin / Parise4Fiala7
Kaprizov3Eriksson Ek4Brodin / Parise / Suter6