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MORGAN PARK… I had recently looked into the Minnesota Wild’s hockey crystal ball to see what kind of message or feeling I’d get from it for the remainder of the season. At first it was a bit cloudy, but in due time it became dark. And I’m not at all happy to say that over the past few days and games it is getting darker. The club has returned all of it’s regular rostered players from the injury list, (only Mason Shaw remains) including forward Jason Zucker and D-man Greg Pateryn but it hasn’t had the desired effect as the club has posted only 4 wins in it’s last 10 tilts. A mere 3 weeks past the team was challenging for a playoff spot and have now fallen off the pace and it is unclear based upon the recent play of the team if they will be in a like position before the end of the 2019-20 campaign. They are 7 points out of the last Wild Card spot in the West at this writing. Thats 3 wins and a tie the team has to make up and they aren’t showing any signs of an ability to go on another run at the moment.
But, stranger things have happened, and if the team is going through a bit of lethargy at this time, it will hit their foes in the West as well before the season concludes. I’m not writing an obit here but the team isn’t inspiring me right now either. For the calendar week prior the team went 0-2, losing a 2-1 game to CAL and a 4-1 contest versus VAN. The game against the Flames was a great contest with the Wild outshooting the Flames 43-37, the penalty minutes were low for both teams, and the faceoffs and blocks were fairly close with CAL having an edge in hits. The Wild had a distinct edge and push going in the 3rd but could not capitalize. Al Stalock took the loss in goal. Yesterday’s loss to the Canucks in St. Paul was a groaner of a game to say the least. The Wild were outshot in the first two periods, were beaten decisively in the faceoff circle and in blocked shots but outhit the Canucks. And oops, they took 8 minor penalties as well. VAN only capitalized on one of those chances, but if you are spending about 25% of the game fighting off player shortages of one variety or another, your victory opportunities go down accordingly. It just throws your game off, period.
Oddly enough VAN was assessed 5 minors but the Wild came up empty for their troubles. The boys had some prime opportunities though, and missed on all of them save for a Marcus Foligno goal in the 2nd frame. This left me wondering if after battling through their first half of the season schedule from Hades, if the boys were now getting too much rest at home and if that rest was turning to rust. If the team cashed in on even half of the Grade A chances this game presented to them, they likely win and bag two points. So, another calendar week scratched off, and zero points gained. The remainder of the month has; @ PIT, vs TB, vs DAL, vs FLA and vs DET. The team will then have a 9 day break due to the NHL ASG and then their Bye. Does this help the Wild or hurt them? Is it better for teams with veteran cores to stay in the rhythm and flow of playing games? Personally, I say yes. And on February 1st? BOS comes to town.
We are also getting closer to that time of the season where some separation is starting to occur in the standings. Nothing major yet, but in the East the 8 spot WC team (PHI) has 54 pts. They are closely followed by FLA/53 and the CBJ/52, then it drops to the NYR at 48. With a 5-5 record in their L10 I’m not certain they can make a move back up. So, I would drop them from contention in the East along with BUF/47, MON/47, NJD/41, OTT/39 and DET/27. That leaves 10 clubs after 8 spots there. In the West EDM is in the 8 spot with 53 pts, followed by WIN at 52 and NASH with 49. I can’t see Nashville coming up with a consistent enough push to contend. After that it drops to the Wild with 46 pts, then CHI with 46 pts too, but one more loss, then SJS with 46 pts, but more losses then CHI and MIN, then LAK/40 pts and ANA/39pts. It is my belief that in the West you now have 9 teams battling for 8 spots.
I’ll stand corrected if the Wild can construct enough of a push to get back in contention for a playoff spot. And if they can, how much will be left in the tank to actually win a round or two? My Wild Rubik’s hockey cube isn’t spinning or twisting in their favor. And when the dust settles after the Cup tourney is over, and after the Entry Draft and Free Agent day have occurred, I believe that the roster and the coaching staff are going to have a whole different look. I can only hope that GM Billy Guerin thinks this through long and hard. It’s way past time for this franchise to get on a new course… PEACE
TONIGHT WAS THE Collegiate D1 football National Championship, or as it is known, the “College Football Playoff”. (CFP) With no Golden Gophers appearing in this and a 5 game slate of NHL games going, I didn’t watch any of it. But I certainly gave it some thought throughout the day. Once again it was dominated by the SEC. And once again, out of 130 D1 schools in the FBS (Football Bowl Subdivision) there are mostly the same 4-6 teams with a realistic shot at the National title. So, is this a compelling watch year after year? Not in my view. On top of it, the 4 teams that will actually appear are chosen by computer rank, meaning there is still no real tournament held. There should be at least 8, even better would be 16. The arguments against this are without merit. We’ve put men and women in space, can transplant body organs successfully, yet, still can’t figure this out and have a REAL Champion…
WILD DATA; The ATHLETIC, 24th, trend for 88 pts with a 29% chance at the playoffs, 0% Cup win. The SAGARIN, 27th on a 20-25 record, 5-10 vs top ten, 9-17 vs top 16 with a 5th ranked difficulty of schedule. NHL STANDINGS; 6th in the West Central on a 20-19-6 record, 11-5-4 @ H, 9-14-2 @ A. 1-2 in SO, 4-5-1 in L10, streak of 2L. 5th in WC race. 19th/GF/134, 25th/GA/148, 22nd/PP/17.5%, 25th/PK/76.5% and 13th in PIM’s @ 363. OVER & OUT!