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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: 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