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HIBBING… The Minnesota Wild are not officially eliminated from an opportunity at a Stanley Cup playoff berth as of this writing, but by the end of this evening, at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul after they face the Central Division leading Winnipeg Jets, they will probably be put out of their misery and ours too. The odds, the realities, and just plain old mathematics do not favor the boys in Green any longer. Sundays 4-0 loss at ARI in a must-win game put the final Sleeper Hold on this year. There are too many impossible things that would have to occur on behalf of the Wild and of some other clubs for the team to still get in. I envision this as a hockey version of a game I had when I was a kid called “Mousetrap”. It was a game on a board that featured a haphazard looking obstacle course and if you built it just right at the end you could put a big “steely” marble in a bathtub at the top of it, and then the weight of the ball took over and made it’s way to the end of the course after going through a maze of madness. It was a favorite for sure.
That’s kind of how the Wild season has gone. A maze of madness would be an apt description of the club’s fortunes. Injuries, serious ones at that, trades, young players still developing and so on have led us to where the merciful conclusion of this season awaits. But before I go into a full-scale post-mortem on this season’s edition, (which I’ll save for the post-season) lets look at the hockey here and now. The Western Conference entrants are mostly set. CAL has won the Conference and the Pacific Division. WINN leads the Central right now, but it’s not settled yet. And this eve STL edged NASH back to 3rd place adding more lore to their remarkable turn around in the post Mike Yeo era. Here is how the West sits at this moment, in the Central; WINN/96pts/3GR. STL/94pts/3GR. NASH/94pts/3GR. (STL is in 2nd by virtue of their ROW) In the Pacific; CAL/107pts/2GR. SJS/97pts/3GR. VGK/93pts/2GR.
The only spots not set are the two Wild Card positions. Currently in the 1st WC is DAL/89pts/3GR and in the 2nd position is COL/86pts/3GR. Next up is ARI/84pts/3GR and then the WILD/81pts/3GR. I believe that the Stars will get in and this is how it breaks down for the AV’s and Coyotes, COL, who played @ STL on Monday eve (3-2 SO loss) will play in Denver vs EDM who will also be on a back to back having lost (3-1) to the VGK in Vegas on Monday. The Av’s will also host WINN and finish up with a tilt @SJS. They are 1-1 vs EDM this season, they are 2-2 vs WINN and 0-2 vs the Sharks. For the Coyotes, they will host the LAK, who will be on the tail end of a back to back. The frontend for the Kings was a very unkind posterior whupping at the hands of the Flames, 7-2. And this on a night when the Flames sat out 6 of their upper level players for rest. Then the Yotes’ will be @ VGK before hosting WINN in their regular season finale. The Yotes’ are 2-1 vs the LAK this year, 1-1-0-1 vs the VGK and 1-1 vs the Jets.
The final countdown for the Wild will be challenging to say the least. This evening they host the Jets, who are on the end of a back to back after besting the Hawks in OT (4-3) in CHI on Monday. The club then hosts BOS on Thursday night before finishing at DAL on Saturday night. If this looks a little bit daunting given the recent trending of the Wild, that’s because it is. It would be hard even if the Wild WERE playing well right now, which they aren’t. So. In a wonder of all wonder’s scenario, the Wild are 4-0 vs the Jets this year, 0-1 vs the Bruins and 1-2-0-1 vs the Stars. There are many unknowns available here. Can the Wild beat the Jets once more? The Bruins are the better team this year but are 5-5 in their L10 and on a 2-game loss streak. The Stars are 5-3-2 in their L10 and have an OTL in their last game at DET. Can the Wild obtain any points from these 3 contests?
My most educated guess says the Wild likely only get a single point this week and eliminate themselves. For ARI and COL, I see them each taking 3 of 6 points which leaves the Yotes’ on the outside looking in. COL will finish with the 2nd WC spot with 89 points to the Yotes 87. The Wild finish at 82, 18 shy of my 100-point outlook for them back in October. And if the playoffs were to start tomorrow the West bracket would have CAL vs COL, WINN vs DAL, STL vs NASH and the VGK vs the SJS. Who takes those 1st round battles? I have not yet contemplated that. Not even for a second…
I HAD A GREAT hockey time last week taking in a couple of VGK games. As I previously mentioned the VGK-STL game was a bit of a non-exciting tilt. But out in Denver two nights later, that game had some juice! The entire game experience was good, the Xcel center is a nicer arena then the Pepsi Center, but I would give the Av’s an edge for the “in-game” experience. Their ice sheet wasn’t the best, but they do share their building with the NBA Nuggets. In the NHLPA 2018-19 Player poll the ice at the ‘X’ was ranked 4th in the league. COL won 4-2 despite the number of “whammies” I put on them…
I returned home in time to catch the Regionals of the NCAA Men’s D1 hockey playoffs. Suffice it to say, my published picks from last week were shot to Hades in short order. With the State of Hockey holding down 3 number one seeds, two were eliminated right away with the UMD Bulldogs emerging as the sole survivor. They beat Bowling Green 2-1 in OT in the quarters and then withstood a 3rd period charge from Quinnipiac to gain a 3-1 victory and a 3rd consecutive berth in the Frozen Four. I’ll share my thoughts and picks on the Finals next week… PEACE FOR LAST WEEK the Wild got 2 of 6 points.
WILD DATA; The ATHLETIC, 21st, less then 1% chance at the playoffs and/or a Cup. The SAGARIN, 21st on a 36-43 record, 13-13 vs T10, 17-25 vs T16, with a sched difficulty of 8th. NHL STATS, 21st w/36 wins, 21st with 81 points, 21st on pct. of points available @ .513. 6th in the Central on a 36-34-9 record, 15-17-7 @ Home, 21-17-2 @ Away. 3-6-1 in L10 on a 1 game loss streak. 27th/GF/205, 12th/GA/226, 11th/PP/20.8%, 8th/PK/81.5% and 13th/PIM’s/633… OVER & OUT!