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GRINDSTONE LAKE… Don’t look now but the “new” Minnesota Wild are on a bit of a roll. With the trade deadline in the past the team faced down a challenging week and came out of it in good fashion. Coming off a 3-1 week, capping that off with the stunning OT win over STL, the team sent longtime favorite Mikael Granlund to Nashville on Monday in exchange for Kevin Fiala. I like what I see of him so far, good movement and hands, but he has been challenged to finish thus far, creating more scoring frustration for the team. The team continued to roll though going 2-0-1 with wins over WINN, 3-2, and CAL, 4-2 both on the road, before settling for a 3-2 OT/SO loss in St. Paul last night versus NASH. 5 of 6 points for the week is very strong and the Wild will have to continue to perform because their schedule isn’t getting any easier, and there are still 7 teams in the Western Wild Card race separated by a mere 8 points.
The final five weeks of this campaign might be unlike any we’ve seen recently. For the Wild, they are on the road due to the greatest High School sports tournament globally with the Boys State Hockey Tourney beginning Wednesday at the XCEL Center. They are @ NASH Tuesday, then @ TBAY on Thursday then a back to back @ FLA on Friday night. They’ll be back home and off for the weekend before beginning a 5-game home stand the following week. I’d say the boys will be ready for a break after these past few days, including the Sat/Sun B2B that saw them literally play two tilts within 18 hours of each other, traveling from CAL to MSP in between. The “new” additions to the team in Hunt, Bitetto, Aberg, Donato and Fiala are still trying to fully meld into the club while Victor Rask is still out injured. No word on his return yet. Of the newcomers, fan opinion feels that Rask and Aberg really haven’t been a fit yet, while the others are finding their way and contributing.
One of the big reasons for the turnaround would be netminder Devan Dubnyk, in his last 3 games he is sporting a 1.66 GAA with a .948 SP. That’s a major improvement over the numbers for the month of February prior to the recent team trend. Alex Stalock took the net last night against the Preds and performed very well with 41 saves on 43 shots for a .954 SP. The boys are anything but out of the water yet though. With 16 games left for a possible 32 points available they might need 20 to 24 of those points just to get a Wild Card spot. They would have to go at least 10-6 in that stretch. In reviewing their remaining games 12 of those are against teams above them in the overall league standings. 7 of the 16 are against clubs above them in the West. Coming up from behind are ARI/8-2 L10, COL/6-3-1 in L10, EDM/5-3-2 in L10, CHI/4-6 in L10 and VAN/2-6-2 in L10. ARI is on a 6W streak, COL has cooled to a L2 run, EDM is on a 3W run, CHI has cooled and has dropped 2 straight, and VAN is on an L2 run and about to drop off without a sudden change that I do not see in them. So, buckle up your seatbelts because this is going to be a finish like no other!
IN THE EAST, the upper 5 playoff positions are settled, but 3 are still up for grabs. It isn’t as jammed up as the West, but you have 2 clubs scrapping for one third place finish and then two Wild Card spots are still up for grabs, with two other clubs still having a legitimate chance at getting in. After that it falls off. In the Metro CARO holds the 3rd spot with 78 points and in the two WC spots are PITT and MON both with 77 points. PITT and CARO could interchange. Challenging them are the CBJ at 75 points and the unlikely PHI Flyers at 72.
BUF is at 68 points but are also 2-7-1 in their L10 and after a promising start, it appears that they will not get in for an 8th consecutive season. The CBJ and MON are 4-6 in their L10 while PHI is one of the hottest teams in the East at 7-2-1 in their L10. With PITT trending upward again, 6-2-2 in their L10, I would say that the Habs playoff spot is the one that might be endangered. But, who knows, and they have perhaps the best goalie in the game these days. The remainder of the regular season will be of interest, but likely not as contested as the West. Either way, it is going to be an awesome rest of the month! NHL, State Tourney, NCAA playoffs both Men’s and Women’s and the Minnesota Whitecaps will go into the NWHL playoffs as the regular season Champs! Congrats to the Caps! Hockey, Hockey, and more Hockey.
THIS PAST SUNDAY the iconic former Detroit Red Wing and HHOF member Ted Lindsay passed away at the age of 93. On the ice he is most remembered for his smaller stature but tough, fiery demeanor. One of his most well-known quotes over the years was “there are no friends on the ice”. That’s how he played but he sure had many, many friends off the ice from all over the hockey world. He was a 4-time Stanley Cup winner and was a .796 PPG regular season performer and played at a .721 PPG pace in the playoffs. His penalty minutes exceeded all his other numbers in the game! For me he will forever be known as the man who had the courage to organize the players into a labor group and was the forebearer for what is now the NHLPA. This wasn’t easy for him to take a stand on. Detroit took his Captains spot away from him and then traded him away. To be honest here, I don’t have enough space to adequately review the greatness of this man. I promise that soon I will correct that. His story is most worthy, RIP Ted… PEACE
WILD DATA; The ATHLETIC, 3/4 am, 18th, pacing to 87.7 points with a 48% chance at the playoffs and a ½% chance for a Cup. The SAGARIN, 3/4 am, 17th on a 32-34 record, 8-12 vs T10, 13-20 vs T16, with a schedule difficulty of 23rd.
NHL DATA; T17th with 32 wins, T17th with 71 points, 18th on pct. of points available @ .538, T4th in the Central @ 71 points and in the 2nd WC position behind DAL due to ROW rank. 32-27-7, 14-13-6 @ H, 18-14-1 @ A, 5-3-2 in L10, streak of 1OTL, 25th/GF @ 181, 20th/GA @ 188, 13th/PP @ 21.1%, T14th/PK @ 80.4% and 14th in PIM’s @ 546, OVER & OUT!