Tag Archives: Kaprizov is Fun

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: 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: 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: 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: 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

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.

Leaderboards

PlayerGPlayerAPlayerPts
Eriksson Ek8Greenway13Kaprizov19
Fiala7Kaprizov13Greenway18
Foligno7Zuccarello9Foligno14
Kaprizov6Suter8Zuccarello13
Dumba/Rask/Greenway5Brodin8Eriksson Ek12

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)

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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).

Leaderboards

PlayerGPlayerAPlayerPts
Eriksson Ek8Greenway12Kaprizov17
Fiala6Kaprizov11Greenway14
Kaprizov6Suter8Eriksson Ek12
Rask5Zuccarello8Zuccarello11
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

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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)

Leaderboards

PlayerGPlayerAPlayerPts
Eriksson Ek6Greenway9Kaprizov11
Fiala6Kaprizov8Greenway11
Rask4Suter6Eriksson Ek10
Dumba3Brodin / Parise4Fiala7
Kaprizov3Eriksson Ek4Brodin / Parise / Suter6