Category Archives: NHL

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: Week 3

This week's schedule:

Four home games this week, the Wild get another look at the Kings and then start a stretch of four in a row against the Avalanche.

Both of these teams are currently at .500 (Kings are 2-2-2, Avs are 3-3-0). That's surprising in both cases, although for different reasons.

Last week's results:

MIN 0 - ANA 1 - Highlights

The power play is bad (0 for 5 on this night, 0 for the season through three games). The Wild actually had the better control of play, but couldn't solve Gibson. Cam Talbot played a pretty good game in goal. Losing 1-0 is just so annoying. The team shooting percentage went from 11% (highest in the West) before the game to 7.7% (middle of the pack) after.

MIN 3 - ANA 2 - Highlights

The Wild were cruising, up 2-0, outshooting Anaheim 24-7 and then they just kind of lost it at the end of the second period and allowed the Ducks to tie the game. Then Kaprizov to Greenway to Eriksson Ek about 90 seconds into the third period and the Wild had their third win of the season.  And they got a power play goal! Their power play was now 1 for 20 (5%) on the season. Infinitely better than 0%, but still not great. On the other side the penalty kill was 12 for 13 on the year and added a short handed goal in this one.

MIN 4 - SJ 1 - Highlights

Hey! A game with a goal differential greater than one! Thanks to two empty net goals by the Wild, but at least Parise and Fiala got their first goals of the year here.

MIN 3 - SJ 5 - Highlights

WW

===================================================

Two splits with two not great teams is not ideal, and this week will be a bit more of a test.  We're over 10% of the way through the season, and now the Wild get to play some more of the top end of the division.  Series splits with Colorado / Vegas will feel a lot better.

TEAM CORSI% FEN% xGF/60xGA/60Sh%Sv%
Wild51.852.22.41.87.5%92.6%

Overall stats look OK - CORSI and Fenwick are above 50%, so the Wild are carrying the play at 5 on 5 versus their opponents. Their shooting percentage is a little low, and their save percentage is high.

Special teams is going to be the thing, I think. If the power play starts going well and they keep this up at 5 on 5, they'll do very well.

The Kirill Kaprizov Corner

Is he more of a playmaker than a goal-scorer? That could be interesting.

Players not Named Kirill

  • Eriksson Ek and Greenway are having a really good start to the season paired together on the third line. I really hope both of them continue to be productive
  • Cam Talbot - great game against Anaheim (the 1-0 loss) and then an injury.
  • Kappo Kahkonen - Seen more minutes right away in the season, seems to be OK as far as I can tell. Metrics through 2+ games seem to say he's a tick above average, so ... that's something.
Shots AgainstGoals AgainstFenwick AgainstSV%FenwickSV%Reb per 100SV
Talbot1068140.925.9454.2
Expected8.5.921.9393.7
Kahkonen766114.921.9462.0
Expected5.4.921.9533.4
  • Fiala and Parise both scored goals last week - empty net goals totally count - and it's nice to see them get some points. The Wild will need both of them to score as the competition gets better.

Leaderboards

PlayerGPlayerAPlayerPts
Eriksson Ek3Kaprizov5Kaprizov6
Dumba2Suter5Suter5
Parise2Greenway4Eriksson Ek5
Fiala2Eriksson Ek2Greenway5
9 players tied1Pateryn2Parise / Dumba3

Weekly Wild Whangdoodle: Week 2

This week's schedule:

More California teams, and the home opener on Friday.  Home games against the probable bottom half of the division are ones where the Wild need to get points and here are the first two in that category this season.

So far this season, Anaheim has lost two games to Vegas (one in OT) while San Jose split with Arizona.

Last week's results:

MIN 4 - LA 3 (OT) - Highlights

MIN 4 - LA 3 (OT) - Highlights

The Wild schedule has them playing in the pacific time zone for a pretty significant portion of their schedule, so naturally they wait until the absolute latest hour to make things interesting. Two games in a row the Kings had a two-goal lead (the most dangerous lead in hockey!) going into the third period, and two games in a row the Wild came back to tie, and then win in overtime. Requiring dramatic comebacks to beat Los Angeles isn't the most heartening thing, but also, hey they're 2-0 and adding points to their standings total, and you have to take the good with the bad.

Looking at some of the advanced stats (from Evolving Hockey), the Wild played better than the Kings across the two games, pretty handily winning at 5-on-5.

TEAM CORSI% FEN% xGF
Wild53.651.33.9
Kings46.448.72.1

Special teams was a little bit worse.  The Kings scored two goals in 4 on 4 situations and added a power play tally.  The Wild scored all 6 of their regulation goals during 5-on-5 play (they went 0 for 11 on the power play). So perhaps it mostly came down the Wild being the better team that couldn't find the net on special teams.  That feels a little better, right?

The weirdest thing from the small sample size of two games is how much of the Wild's scoring has come from the defense. Suter, Brodin, and Dumba all scored goals, and the Wild have four defensemen with multiple points.  Greenway is the only forward with more than a single point so far.

...

Oh yeah, and Kaprizov, who has 4 points (1G, 3A).

The Kirill Kaprizov Corner

We do love our alliteration here at the WWW.

Kaprizov really didn't waste any time grabbing every Wild internet commenter's attention in his first NHL season. Three points in his debut, including the overtime winner, then after a shaky couple periods in game 2, he dazzled again in overtime and set up Johansson's game winning goal. He's the thing that everyone who is talking about the Wild is talking about after 2 games and it's kind of out of character to see Wild fans be incredibly positive about ... well, anything.

Players not Named Kirill

  • All that said, it might be Joel Eriksson Ek who actually had the best first couple games.  He was second on the Wild in individual expected goals, drew the most opponent penalties, and played the most minutes of any forward on the penalty kill. JEE started only 3% of his shifts in the offensive zone, which is par for the course for the Wild's third line, but he made a pretty outsized impact on the games from that position.  Plus he scored a goal! (Which I totally believed he was capable of doing. Ask anyone.)
  • Cam Talbot was unlucky but OK in the first two games I think.  A save percentage of 91% isn't too exciting in either direction, but it seems like he gave up a lot of rebound goals where he just didn't find the puck after the initial shot. His expected save percentage is pretty much right on his actual for those two games, so in that small sample, it's an improvement over what the Wild have had in the past.
Shots AgainstGoals AgainstFenwick AgainstSV%FenwickSV%Reb per 100SV
Talbot67687.910.9317.2
Expected5.9.911.9323.8
  • Fiala had no points in two games (but took 13 shots, most on the team).
  • Parise had one assist.
  • I don't believe that Victor Rask will stick as the center between Parise and Kaprizov.

Leaderboards

PlayerGPlayerAPlayerPts
8 players tied 1Kaprizov3Kaprizov4
Suter2Suter3
Greenway2Greenway2
Pateryn2Pateryn2
Brodin2
Dumba2

A New NHL Season – Games 1 & 2 – Wild at Kings

My favorite part of the new NHL season is that the NHL is insisting on calling it the 2020-21 season even though all the games will be played in 2021.  Maybe if we keep pretending like things are normal, that will help?

The Wild kick off the 2021 season with two games against the LA Kings in LA, Thursday and Saturday.

Are the Wild any different from previous years?

Yes and no. Staal is gone, Koivu is gone, Dubnyk is gone.  That's a whole bunch of turnover up the middle of the ice.  In their place, the Wild have opted for a bunch of good to OK players (Bjugstad, Bonino, Johannson, Talbot) on short contracts to fill the gaps. They fit with the general idea of a Wild team is top-to-bottom OK, but never very spectacular.

If you're looking for spectacular, I think everyone is pinning their hopes on Kevin Fiala (whose 19-game stretch at the end of last year was that of an honest-to-goodness superstar) and Kirill Kaprizov (he's here! he's here! no longer just a source of Twitter highlight videos with Russian announcers!). Parise will probably still be a solidly productive player (that contract isn't horrible .... yet).

The defense is still the strength.  I've actually seen season previews that tout the 3rd line (Greenway/Eriksson Ek/Foligno) as the best defensive line in hockey (get excited!), and the defensive corps is still just really really good. Even if Dumba doesn't bounce back, the top 6 defensemen are all solidly above average or among the best in the NHL (Brodin/Spurgeon). Suter will probably still be a solidly productive player (that contract isn't horrible .... yet).

All of that is to say the Wild improved their defense/goaltending which was already a strength.  They added Kaprizov and a few solid but unspectacular centers while losing a few solid but unspectacular centers.  So, everything put together, they should be right around the playoff bubble, probably getting in, but not expected to do a whole lot if they get in.

Are the Kings any good?

Probably not. They were almost at the bottom of the league last year, and aren't projected to improve a whole lot this year. They are adding prospects like crazy, but don't have a whole lot to be optimistic about this year.

How will this season be kind of weird?

The Wild are in the Honda West Division, playing these other seven teams over and over for the next 56 games. Ending up in the West was a little bit of a nightmare for travel and reasonable start times, but it's kind of nice for the Wild's playoff chances.

I think everyone pretty much agrees that Minnesota is the fourth-best team in the division and that they aren't particularly close to either third or fifth.  Colorado and Las Vegas are really good, and the Blues are also a good team.  Those will be the top three teams unless somehow hockey turns out to be inherently unpredictable.

Anaheim, San Jose, Los Angeles, and Arizona all have a lot of improvement to do to make it to playoff-caliber.  There's always a surprise team that clicks and puts it together (I'd guess Anaheim is most likely to do that - but that's just a guess), but most of these teams are still a few years away.

Are the Wild rebuilding?

Kind of? They are accumulating draft picks (they have two first-rounders this year) and have a whole bunch of forwards on short contracts (only Parise, Zuccarello are signed for more than two years - ETA - and now Foligno).  There could be a bunch of wheeling and dealing at the deadline if the season looks unpromising.

Should I watch this team?

It's not going to be a dominant season, but I think if the Wild find a line (or two?) that can score they will be passably good. Given the California teams they will be playing they should get some wins, and if they play Colorado, Vegas, or St. Louis tough it will be fun. Of course, if they end up relying on Cam Talbot to save games for them, it could be a low-scoring, frustrating year.  Realistically, we'll get flashes of both and be working out playoff-clinching scenarios right down to the last day of the season.  So if that sounds like your thing (and if you're a Wild fan, it must be) then yeah, you should watch this team.

Games 15-18 – Wild on the West Coast

The Wild are on the road again!  Because of course they are.  After this road trip, the Wild will have played 13 of their first 18 games on the road. But relief is coming? They have to play 7 of their next 12 away from home, which feels at least a little bit more even.

As always, we need to point out how terrible the Wild have been on the road (Tuesday's game in Anaheim notwithstanding).

Before this road trip:

  • The Wild had been outscored 17-4 in the third period on the road.
  • They had held the lead in 5 road games at some point and were 1-4 in those games.
  • THEY GAVE UP 5 F****N' GOALS TO DALLAS IN THE THIRD PERIOD!
  • None of this is good.

So, naturally, they got behind against Anaheim and then calmly ripped off three third period goals to come from behind and win 4-2.

  • This team can play good hockey.
  • This team is not a good team.

The story of this season so far is just how true both of those statements can be at the same time.

The remainder of this road trip includes the only two teams in the conference with worse records than Minnesota (San Jose and Los Angeles).  Minnesota's record against teams currently below them in the standings sits at 2-0 (wins over Ottawa and Los Angeles).

Will this translate into wins? See the two bulleted points above and remember that they are both true and we'll never know which will be more true on any given night with this team.

Game 13 – Wild vs. Blues

Game 12 Recap:


Assuming the Wild only quit playing hockey for that 1 period last night and not forever... Their road trip continues tonight as they face the defending Cup champion Blues.

The Blues (6-3-3) are winning half their games and losing half of their losses in overtime or the shootout, so they've racked up some points.

It's kind of odd that the Wild haven't had an overtime game yet. I'm calling it to happen tonight.

Here's a fun game -- look at the NHL leaderboard and calculate how many Wild players you'd have to add together to lead the league in offensive categories....

Points Leader Points Wild Players
Pastrnak 24 Staal (8)
Zucker (7)
Hunt (7)
Zuccarello (2)
Goals Leader Goals Wild Players
Pastrnak 12 Staal (4)
Zucker (4)
Hunt (4)
Zuccarello (0)
Assists Leader Assists Wild Players
McDavid 16 Dumba (5)
Greenway (5)
Staal (4)
Zuccarello (2)

 

Yeah - offense is not a strong point.

This game is on NBCSN, if you don't have anything else to watch tonight...

Game 12 – Wild vs. Stars

Minnesota vs. Dallas in the battle of two teams trying to recover from really bad starts.

The Wild are back on the road again. They still only have one uninspiring win away from home. They've scored only 10 goals in 7 road games and have been shut out in both of their last two on the road.

Dallas started 1-7-1, then have won 3 of their last 4. They've really struggled to score at home (8 goals in 6 games), so don't expect firewagon hockey tonight. A divisional opponent without a dangerous offense? Sounds like a good one to win.

Game 10 – Wild v. Predators

They won some games at home and looked pretty good doing it.

Their reward? A road game against Nashville.

Gross.

Injury update?

 

Nashville is 4-1-1 at home, and the Wild are not great so far on the road (1-5). So the deck seems stacked against Minnesota.

Brad Hunt continues to lead the Wild in scoring. Which is fine and normal and expected.

Apologies for brevity. The day got away from me.

GAMES 8 & 9 – Minnesota Wild v. More of Canada (at home this time)

Two home games in a row!  Maybe this will be what the Wild need to start playing better hockey?  One certainly hopes so.

The Canadiens are fresh off a thoroughly dominating performance against the Wild in Montreal where they won 4-0 and crushed the Wild on scoring chances, shots on goal, and just hockey in general.  Boudreau started Stalock in that one, but I'm very doubtful that he's going to be the answer.

If we learned anything over the 3-game Canada trip, it's that the Wild are maybe a little better than the worst teams in the league (Ottawa), but really just can't hang with the good teams (at least for now).

I said in my first Whangdoodle of the year that the Wild need to weather the first 30 games where they will spend so much time on the road:

The schedule is brutal, but if the Wild are around 12-15 wins after that first 30 game stretch, they get a ton of home games over December, January and February (23 home games compared to 9 road games) and they may be able to make some hay there.

So far they are 1-5 on the road and 0-1 at home.  In order to truly say they "weathered" this first bit, they need to start winning some of these home games and figure out a way to steal some on the road.

I'm getting skeptical that this is a reasonable hope.  The HockeyStats that started the year maybe suggesting that the Wild were unlucky have started to stabilize around a different story (from MoneyPuck).

Welcome to the bad and boring quadrant.  If you choose expected goals instead of CORSI, the picture looks pretty much the same. The Wild haven't been lucky, but they also haven't been good.

 

 

 

Games 5-7: Minnesota Wild vs. Entire Nation of Canada

Oh  hey, just what the Wild needed, another road trip.

This time we get three games in four days against the Eastern Conference Canadian Contingent.

You read that right - 12 noon start time today.  Happy Canadian Thanksgiving!

Ottawa might be the best chance on this road trip to catch that elusive first win.  But you'll excuse me if I'm less than optimistic.  All the HockeyStats in the world can't cover up the fact that the Wild are mixing in some atrociously bad stretches that are costing them games.  When those awful 5-minute breakdowns go away, then we'll get to see some wins.  Does it happen this week?  Part of me wants to see them go 0-10, just to see what Russo writes about at that point.

The Maple Leafs are really good.  A road game against Toronto isn't fun for anyone, let alone a team that is allowing more than 5 goals a game.  Be sure to tune in for that one, because that'll be the one that the Wild inexplicably pull together and dominate (see last season's decimation of the Lightning in the midst of a truly lackluster second half).

The Canadiens are ... good, I think?  I don't know, it's the Eastern Conference, I don't pay attention to these teams.  Let's assume that they have been playing better hockey than the Wild.  Fair?


GAME 4 RECAP - PITTSBURGH 7, MINNESOTA 4

Four Wild goals!

Yay.

The Wild continued their highly amusing streak of allowing an empty net goal in every game this season.  These are the little details that can drive a goal differential past "sad" and into "ludicrous".