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SILVER CLIFF… Last week while opining about the Minnesota Wild’s upcoming schedule for the end of November and the month of December I inadvertently wrote that they would play the Vancouver Canucks in St. Paul on Tuesday evening. That was incorrect. They did play on Tuesday but that tilt was in the Emerald City. The Wild lost the game 5-4 after getting out to a 2-0 lead on two Jason Pominville tallies, but then gave up that lead on two Canucks scores to tie the contest. The Canucks then went up 4-2 in the 3rd period before the Wild responded with two of their own for a four all tie. The Canucks won the contest on a late goal at 17:25 by Sven Baertschi. The Wild’s frantic attempt for a tying goal went for naught and they lost and did not emerge with a single point.
The team then had an engagement with the Calgary Flames on Friday night and dropped that game 3-2 in a Shootout. This evening the team is in Edmonton and I am patiently waiting for the game to begin but I am not optimistic that they can win and think they would be fortunate to get away with a point in this game. Edmonton is trending upward at this point, but certainly has had some rough spots within this young season. They have the dynamic Connor McDavid and he has lifted that club up and placed them upon his back. They have frustrated Coach Todd McLellan at times and are still somewhat unsteady on the blueline. However, they can overcome that on some nights with a speed offense that is something to watch. Give them some time to round out their roster and experience and they will be on the way. You can make that same observation about the Toronto Maple Leafs. No Canadian clubs made the Stanley Cup tourney last year, and we most likely won’t be saying that for much longer.
In fact I wouldn’t be surprised to see Edmonton and the Leafs in the SC tourney this season, but there is a lot of puck to be played between then and now, so it’s a wait and see at this point. The Oiler-Wild game has concluded and lo and behold the Wild emerged with an OT win on a goal by Captain Mikko Koivu off of a brilliant pass from Charlie Coyle. Double C finished the game with a goal and an assist, his 1st period tally tied the contest at one each. The team will complete it’s Canadian road swing on Wednesday eve with a battle against the Leafs in Coach Bruce Boudreau’s hometown. After this game there will be 3 tilts in St. Paul (EDM, STL, FLA) before a single road contest and then back home for two.
A quick snapshot of the club shows them holding on to the 3rd position in the Central division, but in the general scheme of things their 28 points has them tied with three other teams in the West and slightly ahead of two more teams at 26 points. No separation in the standings has occurred as of yet, and we might not see that until mid January or even after. We could actually see 4 to 6 clubs bouncing between 2nd place, 3rd or a Wild Card position for the next few weeks. I think it is going to be extremely tight this year.
The Tale of the Tape has the team at 15th in Goals For with 66, 1st in Goals Against with 49, (thanks to Devan Dubnyk) 16th in PP at a mediocre 17.1% of chances, they have slipped to 13th in PK at 83.3% and are at 10th lowest in Penalty Minutes with 215. They are ranked 11th in the current Sagarin NHL rank on a 12-12 record and their Sagarin adjusted schedule strength is now at 23rd. They are 4-2 against the Sagarin Top Ten and 6-3 against it’s top 16. I’m not sold on this club being an SC contender and if they manage to get into the tourney, in my view they would likely be another 1st round casualty.
As much as I hate to say it, GM Chuck Fletcher, perhaps at the strong urging of owner Craig Leipold, has decided to buck the current trend of really stinking for 2 to 3 seasons, getting a number one entry draft pick and building around that player. Apparently Leipold wants a consistently sold out arena and prefers to bandaid the team each off-season over taking the current methodology that is in place. The Wild possess no Connor McDavid’s, Jack Eichels, Auston Matthews, Patrick Laine etc, etc. Not even close. Coyle is a keeper, but not one of those players, Eriksson Ek is going to be a real player, other then that we have a collection of aging Vets and some young players who we are still awaiting to show us something. They are better then quite a few organizations, but no cigar….
THE TEAM USA WORLD JUNIOR preliminary roster has been announced and it features 6 Minnesotans on it. Vying for a roster spot will be UMD player and USA U18 Medalist Joey Anderson from Roseville, Boston U forward Kieffer Bellows from Edina, U of M D-man Ryan Lindgren from Minneapolis, Boston U Goalie Jake Oettinger from Lakeville, U of NoDak forward Brock Boeser from Burnsville and St. Cloud State blue- liner Jack Ahcan from Savage. This years entry will be coached by St. Cloud State bench boss Bob Motzko, and one of his assistants will be U of M assistant Grant Potulny. The roster also features Minnesota Wild draft picks Luke Kunin from the U of Wisconsin and Jordan Greenway from Boston U. This should be another outstanding event and don’t forget that you can see much of the action on NHL Network TV. Oettinger is considered to be one of the top pro goalie prospects for the 2017 entry draft….
THE NHLPA HAS turned down the NHL offer to approve of 2018 Olympic Games participation in return for a 3 year extension of the current CBA deal. While no details of the refusal have really been made public I believe the PA is waiting for the next negotiation and wishes to rid themselves of the players escrow payments to the league. It’s a complex matter and perhaps I will tackle it in the near future, until then… PEACE