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SAWBILL LAKE…. Last week I was getting kind of emotional about the Minnesota Wild. First off, I love hockey like crazy and I’m a Minnesota guy, so there. Having an NHL club back in Minny has meant the world to me. Sure, it’s been 11 seasons of frustration, with one huge highlight in the 2003 Conference Finals, but my hopes for an eventual championship for the club are undiminished. This week, let’s look at some of the hard data from the season just concluded. With a mix of established veterans of varying degrees of success and some up-and-coming young talent, here are some important stats.
In Goals For (GF) the team finished dead last in the league with a 1.98 per game average. In Goals Against (GA) the team was 14th with a 2.59 average. When it came to wins, the team was tied for 23rd in the league with 35 victories. They had the 8th most losses at 47, which is a combo number of outright losses combined with OT or shootout losses. It’s still a loss, eh? They ranked 27th with their Power Play with a 15.1% success rate, and their Penalty Kill was 15th with an 82.1% success rate.
They scored 5 shorthanded goals (SHG) while allowing only 4. They had a face-offs won success rate of 51.2%. They finished in 12th place in the Western Conference and 24th when compared to all clubs. They finished 16th in overall attendance and played to a 98.4% capacity at the “X.” In individual stats, the Wild had no leaders or top-ten finishers in any category. In goaltending, Niklas Backstrom posted the 11th best saves percentage.
This is not unusual when a team’s overall performance is down. But in assessing that, it is also my feeling that in getting away from the club’s own depth chart, where do the team’s players stand against other top players in the NHL? If the top six teams in the league are PITT, NYR, PHIL, VAN, STL and NASH, do the Wild have any players at any position who would be a number-one depth chart player on any one of those teams? My quick answer would be no. Dany Heatly would have been earlier in his career, and maybe Mikko Koivu and Nik Backstrom. After that, the roster is full of guys who never were or could be. Out of the up-and-comers, my thoughts are maybe, maybe one or two players. So, is the team positioned for the future or not quite there?
NEXT WEEK: The Wild final wrap for 2001-2012, Part 3, the Future….
THE STANLEY CUP TOURNEY fights on (literally), and right now I am watching the Pengwah and the Flyers in Game 6 of their series. Since my last writing, the Pengwah
came alive to win two straight with an astounding 10-3 victory in Game 4 and a tight 3-2 win in Game 5. They find themselves down 2-0 after the first in Game 6. If the Pengwah prevail there will be a seven heaven in the Steel City on Tuesday eve.
The St. Louis Blues have earned a trip to round two. After dropping Game 1 to the SJ Sharks in OT, the Blues tightened up and rattled off 4 straight wins. For the Sharks, did the Brent Burns syndrome overtake the team? What does upper management do with this team now? It was supposed to be built to win now. Nashville also advances after ousting the Detroit Red Wings by a 4-1 series win. I think the Wings were banged up and showing their age against a team with superior net-minding and toughness. Does Nick Lidstrom come back? Yes, he still has game, but is this the beginning of a transition phase for the winged wheel?
Phoenix and Chicago have played 5 OT games, with the Hawks staying alive last night with a 2-1 OT winner in the desert. The Yo-tays have a 3-2 lead going back to the Windy City. Tonight in the Terminal City, the Canucks and Kings will hook it up again with the Kings holding a 3-1 advantage. Who will prevail in these two series? I’m not sayin’….
The NY Rangers have run into a club that might be a bit tougher than they are, that has a goalie who is matching or exceeding the play of their own, and that just might be a bit hungrier, too. The Ottawa Sens also have a 3-2 series lead. The Rangers’ Marian Gaborik has 1G and 2A in 5 games. The enigmatic Capitals are on the verge of possibly eliminating the Boston Bruin, holding a 3-2 series lead. The Caps are being led by upstart net minder Braden Holtby, who up until now has mostly been an injury fill-in. He is definitely outplaying the Bruins’ Timmy Thom. The Florida Panthers are leading the NJ Devils 3-2 in their series. I picked the Devs based upon their roster, its star power, and playoff experience. Someone forgot to tell the Panthers about that. But all of the Blackhawk Cup castoffs that the Cats’ GM Dale Tallon picked up have made them a team that can sneak up on you. Don’t be surprised if they advance, not the Devs… PEACE
THE MASKED FAN STANLEY CUP POWER RANK, THE M5:
1. PHILADELPHIA FLYERS: have exposed the Pengwah, on verge of advancing…
2. LOS ANGELES KINGS: great on ’D’, scoring now, too….
3. ST. LOUIS BLUES: G Elliott playing lights out, club scoring, too—look out….
4. NASHVILLE PREDATORS: Pekka Rinne, Barry Trotz, and Carrie Underwood!
5. OTTAWA SENATORS: not a Cup winner since 1927, probably not 2012 either!
OVER & OUT!
Marc Elliott is a freelance sports opinion writer who splits time between his hometown in Illinois and Minnesota. Elliott grew up in the Twin Cities with many of his childhood neighbors working or playing for the Vikings and Twins. He participated in baseball, football and hockey before settling on hockey as his own number one sport. Elliott recently wrote “The Masked Fan Speaks” column for the Lake County News Chronicle for the past ten years and was a prominent guest on the former “All Sports” WDSM 710AM in Duluth.