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Game #21 – Wild vs. Hawks Q&A: Giles Ferrell

Giles Ferrell covers the Wild for ZoneCoverage.com. He’s also a Red, which means he’s thoroughly charming and smart. Follow him @GilesFerrell.

The Wild are currently splitting the Preds and Jets in the standings. They’ve won six of seven. Are they really this good or just on a hot streak and will settle in?

Given how badly the Wild were waxed last season by Winnipeg, I still think the Jets will make up ground and jump the Wild in the standings. But it is unreal how well the Wild are playing right now and the pessimist in me tends to think at some point these guys will come down back to life a bit. Mikko Koivu is defying his age — 35 — and is averaging nearly a point per game this season. Zach Parise is also almost at a point per game pace and we were openly wondering just how much hockey this guy had left in him a year ago because of his crippling injury. Mikael Granlund is shooting an unsustainable 27% right now because everyone is respecting the [redacted] out of his pass-first tendencies. If these guys were to cool off or miss time with injury, it is very possible — because Charlie Coyle and Nino Niederreiter have struggled just about all season — the Wild will come back down to earth.

The underlying numbers suggest the Wild don’t generate more attempts than their opponents, but they do generate more good chances. Is that what you see?
This is very true. Chances have been few and far between for the Wild early on this season, but they have made the most of those chances. Something besides Granlund realizing his stick was also for shooting in addition to passing is that the Wild have done really well at getting into the dirty areas this season and creating more garbage goals, with Parise leading the charge on that. The guy has returned to a form that not even has been seen in a Wild uniform. But they are also getting ridiculous contributions from their bottom six, as they really do outwork their opponents to draw penalties and/or create scoring opportunities.
Our dear boy Nino Niederreiter only has one goal. Something amiss here or just rotten luck with his 3% shooting percentage?
It has been most painful to watch Nino Niederreiter this season as you can hear him on the television grind his stick into sawdust every freaking shift. He just needs a goal or two to come out of this — and he got one Thursday night on a redirection — but good lord this is not the kind of start he needed with a new boss looking on to make “tweaks” to this roster. So many missed empty nets/golden chances on his part this season. If I had a dollar for every time he has looked up into the rafters after missing a glorious chance I could afford to buy the Timberwolves and fire Tom Thibodeau into the sun. For Nino’s sake, and for Wild fans’ sake, he needs to get it together real soon.
Devan Dubnyk has played in 14 of the Wild’s 18 games. Any fear it may be too heavy of a workload for a goalie in his 30s now?
As the most noted listeners of the Giles and the Goalie podcast would point out, I have been banging this drum for a few years now. The Wild have been so crunched to the cap year after year they can not afford a decent backup goalie to give Dubnyk some extra nights off. Alex Stalock has been alright this year, but I don’t think his body of work inspires Boudreau to give him any extra nights in goal as of yet. Credit to Dubnyk is that he continues to perform at a high caliber level despite the heavy work load. But at some point, this too will be catching up with the Wild. Paul Fenton better hope it is not this year.

 

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