Category Archives: NHL

NHL PLAYOFFS: Game 1 – Wild @ Vegas

The most successful team in Wild history (by points percentage) now begins the playoffs on the road in Las Vegas, a team that could easily be the best in the NHL this season. A lot of the predictions and previews out there has focused on the Wild's success against Vegas in the regular season, where the Wild won 5 out of 8 and only lost once in regulation. That's not nothing, and it's always better to line up against a team that doesn't feel like the overwhelming favorite (see: Avalanche, Colorado), but it's also pretty clear that the Golden Knights are an elite team, one of the best in the NHL and there will be no easy wins for the Wild in this series.

I have to be honest, I don't know how I'm expecting this series to go. All the games against Las Vegas were super exciting and fun to watch, so if we get a series full of more games like that with playoff intensity on top of it? That will be something. It's been such a fun regular season, and the road through the playoffs is soooo tough, that it's impossible to say that getting knocked out would be an unexpected disappointment. But disappointment is still the word.

I really loved this look at how each team has scored against each other in the regular season. Granger did a great job of illustrating what each team has done well, and what each team has been able to remove from the other team's playbook.

A quick summary of the Las Vegas offense/Minnesota defense:

  • Las Vegas doesn't score when they dump and chase the puck. 2 out of 20 goals came off of dump-ins.
  • Las Vegas scores by shooting, they had 0 deflection or rebound goals in 8 games against Minnesota.
  • One-timers were their bread and butter (9 of 20 goals).

Minnesota just doesn't allow teams to grind out goals against them.  Their defensemen are too good at retrieving dump-ins and clearing the puck and bodies from the front of the net. If Las Vegas can carry the puck into the zone and set up some passing plays, that's when they are dangerous offensively.

A quick summary of the Minnesota offense/Las Vegas defense:

  • 13 of 22 Wild goals were scored on rebounds or deflections
  • An even split between carry-ins (11) versus dump-ins and faceoffs (11) to set up goals.

The Wild have to control the front of the net in the offensive zone. 13 goals in 8 games off of rebounds and deflections is a remarkable number, and it shows the key to beating the best goaltending tandem in the NHL (Vegas allowed the fewest goals per game in the entire league, the Wild were the only team to score more than 2.4 goals/game against them).

Speaking of goaltending....

Well, it won't surprise anyone that the goalies will go a long way toward deciding the outcome of this series. I expect the Wild to roll with Cam Talbot pretty much exclusively until they are forced to change tactics. The good news is that I don't think they need Talbot to be superhuman and single-handedly steal the series. What they do need though is for him to be solid, probably even slightly above average.  That's what they saw from Talbot almost all year, and it's one of the biggest reasons why this has been such a successful year.  If one is prone to the pessimistic view of things, one might look at Talbot's last 10 games or so and wonder if maybe above average is asking too much.  On the other hand, the Wild haven't played too many high-pressure games this season and so the potential for everyone to elevate their game is there, and we'll soon see what playoff Cam Talbot looks like.

Kirill Kaprizov Corner:

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: The End

Games this week:

Tonight is the last game of the season between Colorado and Las Vegas, the two teams at the top of the West division.  Here's what's at stake:

  • Vegas wins the division with any type of win.
  • If Colorado wins in regulation, they control their own destiny for the division title, they would need two more wins (of any type) against LA to take the top spot.
  • If Colorado wins in OT/SO, Vegas wins the division with a win over San Jose on Wednesday (LV is 7-0-0 against SJ this year)

Of course, the team that doesn't win the division gets Minnesota in the first round.  Las Vegas has already clinched home ice in the first round, but Colorado needs 3 more points to ensure that they would start the first round in Denver.

Marcus Foligno

Building off my comment in last week's Whangdoodle, let's play a guessing game.  If i give you a graph that shows the Wild's xG% (all situations) in every game this season (depicted as a five-game rolling average), can you spot the point in the season where Foligno broke his ankle and missed  4 weeks? (click the image to see the answer)

If you guessed game 26, you are correct. He was out for 15 games, and when he came back the xG% quickly corrected itself to climb back over 50%.

To get some sense of the importance of xG% and its correlation to Minnesota's success, we can look at the Wild's record when they control scoring chances (xG% >55%) versus when they are significantly out-chanced (xG% <45%).

xG%Wild Record
xG% >55%17-3-1
45% < xG% < 55%12-5
xG% <45%6-6-4

Those four losses in the top category are all memorable, and with maybe one exception, could have easily gone the other way.

  1. Gibson shuts down the Wild (lost 0-1)
  2. Fleury steals a game, Talbot has off game (lost 1-5)
  3. Wild can't score against the Kings (lost 1-2)
  4. Heartbreaking loss in the last minute/OT against STL (lost 2-3, OT)

To pull the whole thing together, you notice that the three groups the games were sorted into are pretty close to equally populated.  When we factor in Marcus Foligno's presence, we get a different distribution

Foligno?Low xG%Middle xG%High xG%
Yes81118
No863
Total161721

The last fact in all of this is that the Wild managed to end up playing six of their eight games this season against the Avalanche without Marcus Foligno in the lineup. This seems particularly relevant given the playoff scenarios that are playing out this week and how likely it is that we'll be seeing another Colorado-Minnesota playoff series soon.

Current Standings:

RankTeamGPPtsPlayoff
1Vegas54803 (division)
2Colorado53763 (R1 home ice)
3Minnesota54750
4St. Louis5357#4 seed clinched
5Arizona5652eliminated
6Los Angeles5348eliminated
7San Jose5549eliminated
8Anaheim5643eliminated

I mentioned this before, but even if the Wild don't earn another standings point, they will finish the season with the highest points percentage of any Wild season in their 20-year history.

Kirill Kaprizov Corner

27 goals in 54 games.  He's 8th in the NHL in goals scored. One goal every other game hasn't been accomplished by a rookie in 15 years. (Ovechkin in '05-'06, 52G in 81GP, Svatos in '05-'06, 32G in 61GP)

51 points in 54 games.   Tied for 19th in the NHL in points.

We're getting down to the end of the season, so you would understand if I said I was running a little short on Kaprizov highlights... Oh wait, the folder is still full.

I'm leaving out the highlights of his assists, because he had some beautiful passes, but goodness, he scored so much this week.

Enjoy!

Leaderboards

PlayerGPlayerAPlayerPtsPlayerxGAR
Kaprizov27Greenway25Kaprizov51Kaprizov20.0
Fiala20Kaprizov24Fiala40Eriksson Ek14.6
Eriksson Ek19Zuccarello24Zuccarello35Spurgeon11.4
Zuccarello11Fiala20Greenway31Sturm9.8
Foligno/Sturm/Bonino10Spurgeon18Eriksson Ek30Fiala8.7

If Kaprizov doesn't score another goal this season, he'll finish on pace for 39.5 goals in an 82 game season.  So, I think we can round that to say this was a 40-goal season.

Kaprizov is closer to Connor McDavid in xGAR (25.3) than he is to Eriksson Ek.  He is 3rd in the NHL in xGAR. Anyone thinking about who will finish as the runners up to McDavid for the MVP will have to at least consider Kaprizov.

Also, raise your hand if you had Eriksson Ek down for a 20-goal season? It could happen!

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: Home Ice

Want to vote for some Minnesota Wild end-of-season awards?

Games this week:

The last four home games of the regular season.  The Wild have really dominated when at home (18-5-1, .771, +29 goal differential).  The only question now is whether these games will matter.

With the win over St. Louis on Saturday, the Wild have guaranteed that they will finish no lower than 3rd in the division.  Getting home ice in the playoffs would require the Wild to either...

  1. Pass Vegas (6 points back, two head to head games remaining) which means Minnesota has to win almost everything and get some help.
  2. Pass the Avalanche (2 points back, no head to head games, Colorado with a game in hand) which means Minnesota has to win almost everything and get some help.

The only way these remaining games matter is if the Wild knock out two regulation wins against Vegas. Anything else means the playoffs will start on the road.

Current Standings:

RankTeamGPPtsMagic Number
1Vegas53775 (division) - 2 (R1 home ice)
2Colorado52746 (R1 home ice)
3Minnesota53730
4St. Louis5257#4 seed clinched
5Arizona5552eliminated
6Los Angeles5248eliminated
7San Jose5448eliminated
8Anaheim5542eliminated

St. Louis will be the #4 seed and will start the playoffs against the division winner.

Kirill Kaprizov Corner

**screams**

Leaderboards

PlayerGPlayerAPlayerPtsPlayerxGAR
Kaprizov27Greenway25Kaprizov49Kaprizov15.2
Fiala20Kaprizov22Fiala39Eriksson Ek12.9
Eriksson Ek19Zuccarello22Zuccarello 33Spurgeon9.4
Zuccarello11Fiala19Greenway31Sturm8.9
Foligno/Sturm10Spurgeon18Eriksson Ek30Foligno8.8

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: What Now?

Games this week:

The first Wild-Blues games this year were postponed due to the outbreak of COVID in the Wild roster.  One later meeting ended up getting pushed back due to Minneapolis curfews during the Chauvin trial and the protests of other police killings of black men.  Finally, the Avalanche had a COVID outbreak and needed to reschedule some games against St. Louis, so the Wild-Blues games got pushed back one more time and consolidated at the end of the season schedule.  So here we are. The Wild now have 9 games remaining, and 5 of them are against St. Louis.

It's been a strange season.

If the Wild win any one of those remaining five games against St. Louis, they will ensure that they finish above the Blues in the final standings, and can finish no lower than third in the division.

Current Standings:

RankTeamGPPtsMagic Number
1Vegas50740
2Colorado49700
3Minnesota50680
4St. Louis49536
5Arizona5250-
6San Jose5145-
7Los Angeles4944-
8Anaheim5239eliminated

The three teams at the top have all clinched playoff spots and now are only playing for the opportunity not to have to face one of the other two good teams in the West.

(Quick reminder - the first two rounds of the Stanley Cup playoffs this year are series within the divisions. #1 in the West plays #4 in the West, while #2 plays #3 in the first round.  Once the four divisions each have a playoff champion, they will be seeded and continue with the semifinal and final round of the playoffs).

Given the huge disparity between teams 1-3 and teams 4-8 in this division, the #1 seed is a pretty enticing reward. However, Minnesota needs a lot of things to go right to be near the #1 seed when this all shakes out.

Relevant games remaining for the #1 seed:

COLORADO @ VEGAS (April 28)
VEGAS @ MINNESOTA (May 3)
VEGAS @ MINNESOTA (May 5)
COLORADO @ VEGAS (May 10)

Las Vegas - 5 other games (2 home, 3 away - 2 ARI, 2 STL, 1 SJ)
Colorado - 8 other games (4 home, 4 away - 4 SJ, 4 LA)
Minnesota - 7 other games (5 home, 2 away - 5 STL, 2 ANA)

Unless the Kings or Sharks get really hot really fast, I don't see how Minnesota catches both teams. Here's a scenario that puts the Wild in first place:

MIN -- 8-1 (81 points)
LV -- 5-4 (80 points)
COL -- 7-3 (80 points)

Las Vegas as a .500 team and Colorado dropping multiple games to San Jose and/or LA just doesn't seem likely. Not to mention a projected 8-1 record doesn't leave much room for error.

Kirill Kaprizov Corner

Scoring when he's the only Wild player in the offensive zone? Yep.

Doing horrible things to this Kings defenseman? Check

(Watch his hips on this goal.  Kaprizov convinces the D-man that he's going to try and cut to the middle by turning his hips without changing the direction he's moving. As soon as the defenseman slows to cut off that angle, it's a quick puck between the legs and turn on the jets to get to the net.  It's like the anti-Shakira move. It's so pretty.)

Somehow finding a literal acre of space to set up and bury this Fiala pass?  Check.

Leaderboards

PlayerGPlayerAPlayerPtsPlayerxGAR
Kaprizov23Greenway24Kaprizov43Kaprizov15.3
Fiala19Kaprizov20Fiala37Eriksson Ek11.7
Eriksson Ek17Zuccarello20Zuccarello 31Spurgeon9.3
Zuccarello11Fiala18Greenway30Sturm8.3
Foligno10Suter/Soucy16Eriksson Ek27Fiala7.9

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: Hotel California

Trade Deadline News:

...

...

Games this week:

On the road to finish off the season series against all three of these teams. It doesn't look like any of these three are going to make the playoffs, so this is Minnesota's last trip to California until next year.

Current Standings:

RankTeamGPPtsMagic Number
1Vegas47700
2Colorado45660
3Minnesota47650
4Arizona484722
5St. Louis454618
6San Jose4741-
7Los Angeles4540-
8Anaheim4835-

5-2 win over the Coyotes

The power play was 3 for 3 in this one and is as good now as it was bad earlier in the year.  The power play shooting percentage has reached an inflection point and is moving toward the league average (the median NHL power play shooting percentage is 14%, the Wild season power play shooting percentage is 11%, and is 14% once you remove the first 10 games of the season).

Power play shooting percentage over the 5 games preceding this weekend - 31.3% (10 goals on 32 shots).

Two wins over the Sharks

The fourth line was the story here. Bonino-Sturm-Parise combined to score 6 of Minnesota's 13 goals this week.

Bonino had 6 points, Parise had 4, and Sturm got a goal and an assist.  It was amazing how much this line controlled play when they were on the ice.  Zach Parise had a really good couple of games, and immediately all the podcasts and Russo articles and everything rushed to recognize his fourth line contributions.

I'm interested to observe how Evason's doghouse works, because there are clearly players that he doesn't give the benefit of the doubt (Nico Sturm - who's been really good and still plays fourth line when he's not scratched).  Parise was in trouble with Evason earlier in the year and I wonder how long it will take to see Zach on the power play again.

Kirill Kaprizov Corner

Leaderboards

PlayerGPlayerAPlayerPtsPlayerxGAR
Kaprizov22Greenway22Kaprizov41Eriksson Ek11.5
Fiala17Kaprizov19Fiala32Kaprizov10.6
Eriksson Ek15Zuccarello19Zuccarello29Spurgeon7.7
Zuccarello10Suter16Greenway 28Brodin7.2
Foligno9Fiala/Soucy15Eriksson Ek25Sturm7.2

 

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: The Middle

Games this week:

With the two games just played against the Blues, the Wild have begun a three week stretch where they play only the middle part of the division. 5 more against St. Louis, 3 against San Jose, 3 against Arizona, and 1 against Los Angeles will take us into May.

This week all the games are at home (Wild have a 14-4 home record), so hopefully that bodes well.

Current Standings:

RankTeamGPPtsMagic Number
1Colorado43645
2Vegas42609
3Minnesota415316
4St. Louis424425
5Arizona4443-
6San Jose4240-
7Los Angeles4238-
8Anaheim4435-

Two-game split with the Avalanche

The season series with the Avalanche is all done.  The Wild went 3-5 with one of those wins coming in overtime.  I think that's a pretty reasonable outcome for Minnesota - hard to expect much more than that against a team that's as good as Colorado.  Goal differential across the season series was +6 for Colorado (31-25).  The Wild just weren't able to shut them down the way they do just about every other team.

OpponentGA/GGF/G
Colorado3.883.13
Rest of the Division2.382.91

The power play really took off in this two-game set (6 goals on 20 shots), and showed how a successful power play can really help a team be competitive.  The Wild scored 6 power play goals in two games, compared to the Avalanche's 3, which made the first game (a 5-4 loss) look better on the scoreboard than it was, and helped make the second game an 8-3 laugher instead of a much closer contest.

I'm trying not to draw too many conclusions from that super-fun explosion of goals on Wednesday night, but I will note this: Colorado's goaltending is almost completely dependent on Grubauer. They just traded to add Devan Dubnyk, which changes very little in this regard. If Grubauer is bad or unavailable, the Avalanche are a much easier team to play against. Keep that in mind if Minnesota-Colorado happens in the post-season.

Two losses to the Blues

The Wild have not been as good on the road (10-9-3 road record). And considering how badly they got blown out in Friday's game (losing 9-1), they really shouldn't be able to complain about missing out on points.  But ... giving up the tying goal in the final minute, and the game-winner in the final seconds of OT hurts quite a  bit.

Kirill Kaprizov Corner

If you wanted to, at the :03 second mark of this video, you could get really mad at the NHL for deciding that cross checks to the back away from the play are never ever penalties. Or you could admire Kaprizov's ability to find space (both Colorado defenders skated by him while he was down and apparently forgot about him?)

Or both. I can't tell you what to do.

Here he is again, sneaking behind an Avalanche defenseman to find just a touch of space and score.

Even when they notice him, he still manages to find a way to make it work.

He's going to win the Calder trophy as rookie of the year.  He remains first in rookie goals and points. He's got the most ice-time of any rookie forward, he's third in power-play points by rookies even though the Wild power play wasn't allowed to score for the first half of the season.

He's great. Tune in just to watch him. I'm telling you what to do, because I can.

Leaderboards

PlayerGPlayerAPlayerPtsPlayerGAR
Kaprizov16Greenway19Kaprizov35Foligno7.3
Fiala14Kaprizov19Fiala26Kaprizov7
Eriksson Ek13Zuccarello16Greenway24Rask6.7
Zuccarello8Suter14Zuccarello24Eriksson Ek6.6
Rask / Foligno7Soucy / Fiala12Eriksson Ek20Soucy6.3

 

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)

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?

Yes.

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).

Leaderboards

PlayerGPlayerAPlayerPtsPlayerGAR
Kaprizov11Kaprizov16Kaprizov27Foligno6.9
Eriksson Ek11Zuccarello16Zuccarello21Brodin6.0
Fiala9Greenway15Greenway20Rask5.8
Foligno7Suter11Foligno16Kaprizov5.7
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.

Ouch.

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.

Leaderboards

PlayerGPlayerAPlayerPtsPlayerGAR
Eriksson Ek11Kaprizov15Kaprizov25Eriksson Ek6.8
Kaprizov10Greenway15Greenway20Foligno6.6
Fiala9Zuccarello15Zuccarello20Brodin6.1
Foligno7Foligno/Suter9Foligno16Kaprizov5.4
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
Minnesota5911712
Colorado61181916
Los Angeles172617156
St. Louis191920324
Arizona233116237
San Jose2522131829
Anaheim2823253123

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%
Minnesota50%64%71%
Colorado53%67%58%
St. Louis42%40%70%
Los Angeles31%62%50%
Arizona28%52%64%
San Jose24%44%75%
Anaheim39%29%25%
AVERAGE38%53%62%

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
VGK1.74.42.28.3
MIN2.22.81.05.9
COL2.72.8-0.84.7
L.A-2.01.9-1.4-1.5
STL0.4-3.91.6-1.9
ARI-2.2-0.20.3-2.1
S.J-2.8-2.21.6-3.4
ANA0.0-5.7-4.4-10.1

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.

Leaderboards

PlayerGPlayerAPlayerPts
Eriksson Ek11Kaprizov14Kaprizov24
Kaprizov10Greenway14Greenway19
Fiala9Zuccarello14Zuccarello18
Foligno7Foligno9Foligno16
Rask6Brodin/Parise9Eriksson Ek16