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WINTON… Many analysts and fans are saying that this years Tampa Bay Lightning are a great team. Well, they have accumulated the most points in the league so far and have consistently been the league leader since the start of this campaign. They have experienced a little dip here and there but nothing significant. My personal take on the Bolts is that they aren’t a “great” team, but that they are a solidly consistent team. Whether they win the Stanley Cup or not I don’t see them being mentioned in the same breath as one of the best in the game’s history. So, what would the critics say about the Minnesota Wild? The Wild are having a better season then a lot of fans would give them credit for. If you ever read post-game commentary posted by fans on the various hockey sites available, you would think they are one of the lesser clubs in the NHL. I understand that a great deal of that is fan frustration coming through and I sure get that because I am one too. But if you are going to put pen to paper on this topic as the old saying goes, you must leave the emotions in the drawer.
So, how good or bad is this team? Let’s do this week’s hockey data at the start of this column; THE ATHLETIC; 10th with an 89% chance at getting into the playoffs. THE SAGARIN; 11th with a 37-29 record, 10-11 vs the top ten and 19-18 vs the top sixteen. NHL STANDINGS by percentage of points available; 8th on a .621-win pct., 3rd in the CENTRAL with 81 points and in a playoff position. Others vying for a spot in the West playoff battle and in close vicinity to the Wild are SJ, 66 games, 79 pts, 2nd in the Pacific. ANA, 66 games, 78 pts, 3rd in the Pacific. DAL, 66 games, 80 pts, 4th in the Central, in 1st WC spot. LAK, 66 games, 77 pts, 4th in the Pacific, and in the 2nd West WC spot. Close behind and still in contention are COL, 65 games/76 pts. STL, 65 games/75 pts. CAL, 67 games/74 pts. There is your line, in my book no team beneath this level has a chance to get in as the next team after that is CHI, 66 games/64 pts. I can’t see the Hawks making up 13 points with 16 games left.
TEAM STATS; Goals For; 10th/201. Goals Against; 13th/188. Power Play; 8th/21.1%. Penalty Kill; 15th/80.7%. Penalties in Minutes; 15th/576 mins. Relative to Enhanced Stats, the teams Corsi looks like this; in the Shot Attempts For versus Shot Attempts Against the club ranks 30th in the league based on 2726 SAT for versus 3090 Against for a -364 differential. The 3090 Against ranks them 10th in Attempts Against. In actual recorded shots for they are 25th with 2000. In shots per game average they are 26th at 30.3. I would caution that this stat could be misleading as the league leader is CHI at 34.7 per game, and we know where they are at this season. The team is 7th in shooting percentage at 10.1% of shots converting to goals. In SAT when the score is tied the club is dead last at 31st with a -211 differential. Their SAT when they are ahead isn’t great, they are 25th giving up 217 more shots to their opponents then they take, and when they are behind their SAT has them at 22nd with a plus 64 differential.
On the Individual side, offensively speaking, where would the team be without Eric Staal, Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund? Staal is 6th in goals scored with 34, Zucker is 16th with 28 but they are the only Wild players in the top 50. In assists, Ryan Suter comes in tied for 17th at 39A, while Granny is tied for 19th at 36A. They are the only Wild in the top 50 in this category. In total points you have Staal tied for 13th on 34G/31A for 65 pts, Granny tied for 23rd on 19G/36A for 55 pts, and Zucker tied for 25th on 28G/25A for 53 pts. In plus/minus the club featured several players in the top 50 last year with 3 being in the leagues top ten. Not this year. D-man Jonas Brodin is the lone Wild player ranked in the top 50 tied for 10th on a plus 22. Marcus Foligno is the only player in the top 50 in Hits at 25th on 149 hits. In the Faceoff percent stat, Mikko Koivu has been a consistent top performer in this area, not this year, and that leaves the club with no player in the top 50 here. For Goaltending, Devan Dubnyk sits tied for 6th in Wins with 28. In Goals Against Average he is 21st 2.61 per game and is tied for 13th in Save Percentage with a .917% in that ranking.
So, what’s the bottom line here? The team’s probability of making the playoffs this year has ranged from being in the low forties to a high of 95% last week in THE ATHLETIC. Then they went westward for a 2-game roadie last week and lost both games, playing quite poorly in the 2nd loss, (7-1) to COL. This got me to consider that this team’s playoff berth is anything but locked in. At 81 points with 16 tilts left, their margin of error is miniscule with SJ, ANA, DAL, LAK, COL, STL and CAL hovering right around them in a range of 74 to 80 points. They could end up 3rd in the Central, in a WC spot or get bounced out of a playoff spot altogether. Contemplating that I can point to 8 games where the team got blown out by an opponent, 2 games early in the year whereby they had the lead, couldn’t hold it and lost, and two losses to VAN and two to ARI, you are looking at a potential loss of up to 28 points. Now that’s perfect world of course but let’s say they obtain half of those points (14) and they would be challenging for the lead in the Central and for the West.
Of the 16 games left, I see this; I see 4 “should win”, 6 “could” win and 6 “won’t” win. That is a potential of 20 out of 32 available points for a possible 101-point season. The most challenging part is the finish to the season that is a 3-game road trip for the Cali trifecta. They haven’t had a great road record this year, with mixed results against these 3 Pacific foes. I can see them “in” and I can see them “out”. How bout’ you? PEACE