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ST. LOUIS… If you are a hockey fan of any note, you likely already know this; despite some hard-core effort at times, the Minnesota Wild are probably going to have their six-season playoff string broken this year. Nothing is in favor of them defying the realties staring them back in the face. On the calendar last week were games against nemesis COL, which prevailed against the Wild in a 3-1 decision. If you were to examine the box score from this tilt, it was an even game and the Av’s 3rd score came on an ENG. The club went out east to the Nations Capital and in a game where no one saw this coming (not even the Caps) the Wild prevailed in a 2-1 final. Sure, it was precarious at times, but that’s the Wild. They followed it up with a back to back in Raleigh the next night and held close for a couple of periods before the roof fell in for a 5-1 Carolina win. As has been the trend for a few weeks now, the team obtained 2 of a possible 6 points for the week and continue to lose ground in the playoff hunt.
This evening I was in the Gateway City for a STL Blues and Vegas Knights clash, and without giving you a full breakdown, it was an OK game, but it wasn’t a “barnburner” by any means. The VGK have four important players out and the Blues have some bottom six types out, and I don’t know if the boys know what’s around the corner or what, but this game lacked sizzle. The Blues emerged with a 3-1 win. Both teams are in certain positioning as far as the post season goes, so that would explain some of the game. I will continue on to Denver for a VGK-Av’s battle on Wednesday eve, and that game might have some juice, the Av’s are currently in the 2nd Wild Card spot, 3 points behind DAL, but 2 points ahead of both ARI and the Wild. They are 5 up on CHI, who seem intent to scrap it out until someone tells them the seasons over.
For the Wild on this eve, they were back in St. Paul to face NASH, and dropped a hard-fought game in a 1-0 final, the Pred’s tally coming on a shorthanded goal by Wild whipper Ryan Johansen. I went through a tape of the game and the Wild probably deserved better, but it turned out to be a goalie’s duel and Nashville’s Jussi Saros took this one. He was solid. He has had the Wild’s number lately as have the Pred’s this season as the State of Hockey crew has gone 0-3-1 this year versus them. The Wild are down to five games left on the schedule, and every one of them are against teams above them in the standings. In addition, I see two of these games, versus WINN and BOS as tilts against teams with real Stanley Cup aspirations. (I’ll expound on that in a minute) The Wild is 9-18 since the All-Star break, they are now losing consistently at home, which hasn’t been the recent history of the franchise, and nothing is pointing toward a playoff berth. So, I’m going to stop pounding on them. There will be quite a bit to assess when the season concludes and for me, one thing I will be doing is analyzing the moves made by team GM Paul Fenton. I do not believe that anyone thought the Wild were Cup worthy with the roster they had, but IMO they are now substantially worse then they were prior to the trade of Nino Neidereitter to Carolina, where he is now doing just fine by the way.
NOW, for some Stanley Cup pontificating. I check standings every day, sometimes twice. I examine the various rankings as I post on here weekly during the season. I’m not a stat geek, but I do my due diligence when considering some of the game’s finer points and who the best in the game might be. And right now, I see one team that I believe is the team to beat. The Cup is theirs to win… or to lose. I do not see any other club at their level as of right now. There is another smaller group right behind them, but this team, this is the team.
Please, what I am about to say shouldn’t be used as reference for any monetary wagering. I mean, if you want to bet a soda or candy bar with someone, have at it. Beyond that, I can only tell you you’re on your own brother. Who is going to take the Cup away from the Tampa Bay Lightning? No one, that’s who. There is no one in the West as good as they are, and the potential West Cup entrant is still a muddled matter in my view. In the East? I thought that perhaps the Bruins could knock the Bolts out of the tourney if and when they would meet up, but that was tempered this evening by an epic comeback by Tampa in a head to head matchup with the Bruins. Consider that these are the two best in the East right now and that Boston had a 4-2 lead after two periods. Tampa reeled off 3 in the 3rd and shut the Bruins down for a 5-4 win. Sure, each team has a couple of injuries, but this was mano e’ mano and the Bolts won. Yeah.
The NCAA Men’s D1 Frozen Four playoff begins on Friday and I think it will be outstanding. Let’s get to it; in the West Regional in Fargo, I’ll take The Cloud over American International. Give me Denver over Ohio State, and then The Cloud over Denver. In the Northeast regional at Manchester NH, Massachusetts over Harvard, and Notre Dame over Clarkson. I’ll take Notre Dame over UMass. In the East Regional at Providence; I have Minnesota State over Providence and Cornell over Northeastern. I have Cornell over Minnesota State. In the Midwest Region, in that “midwestern” town of Allentown PA, I have UMD over Bowling Green and Arizona State over Quinnipiac. I will take UMD over ASU, but I would caution that this team has a handful of players who like to play the “heavy” game, and not necessarily clean either. Just a personal observation. I’ll reset this for the Frozen Four Semi’s and Final and it’s going to be another outstanding weekend of hockey… PEACE
WILD DATA; the ATHLETIC, 21st, trending for 85 points, 19% chance at the playoffs, .1% chance of a Cup. The SAGARIN, (3/25AM) 19th on a 35-41 record, 14-10 vs T10, 17-23 vs T16, 17th rated difficulty of schedule. NHL Standings; 20th on 35 wins, T19th on 79 points, 21st on pct. pf points available @ .513%, 10th in the West on a 35-33-9 record, 15-17-7 @H, 20-16-2 @A, 3-6-1 in L10, on an L2 streak. 25th in GF/202, 13th in GA @ 220. 12th on the PP @ 20.5%, 11th on the PK @ 81.1% and 13th in PIM’s at 623. Currently out of a playoff position… Over & Out!