Hockey

Bruce Boudreau – Not because he’s annoying, though he can be, but because of jealousy. The Wild aren’t going anywhere either, and have yet to win a playoff round under him. But you can’t argue that he doesn’t maximize whatever he has, at least in the regular season. Last year was the aberration, but he’s got this nothing squad three points out of a playoff spot at the moment and haven’t lost in 12. Wouldn’t that be nice? A coach who can take the pieces he’s given and fit a system to them to get them playing at least relevant hockey for a stretch?

Ryan Hartman – Leads the Wild in penalty minutes, which is seemingly all the Hawks ever wanted out of him. He may have been the last pick in a first round, but he’s yet another first round pick who ended up doing dick for the Hawks. And now that his NHL career is hanging by a thread, he’s upping the bullshit. Andrew Shaw’s line continues.

Jason Zucker – Here come more goals against the Hawks.

Everything Else

Maybe it’s just us, but we’re fairly sure we’re not alone in hearing Jason Zucker’s name and thinking, “Oh that guys just kills us.” There’s certainly a litany of names that conjure up the same thought. Vladimir Tarasenko is probably the leading one, though he tends to score against everyone (when he cares, which isn’t now). Cody Eakin seems to be another one with two teams. Andrew Cogliano was another. You probably have your own you identify that way.

The thing is, Zucker isn’t really. He has seven goals in 23 regular season games. Which isn’t a bad record, it’s just not what you think it is. Must be the playoffs, right? Nope, two goals over two series and nine games. The one where the Wild really gave the Hawks trouble, 2014, he was injured and didn’t play.

And yet it feels like he is, doesn’t it? Every time he scores against the Hawks you can’t help but feel, “That guy again?!” Maybe it’s because we used to get him confused with Erik Haula. Maybe it feels that way because every player on the Wild is basically indistinguishable from the next one so any goal scored by them feels like it’s scored by Zucker. Does it really matter if it’s Zucker or Granlund or Niderraiter? Same guy, right? Maybe we just thought this for so long we can’t get rid of it now, whether it’s true or not.

Maybe it’s that games against the Wild, even when the Hawks were good and the Wild were bad/nondescript, were still mightily annoying. They always were too hard and involved some late equalizer the Hawks should have never given up or Dubnyk makes 37 saves for no reason. And we just take it out on Zucker.

Or maybe it’s just he really is a hockey version of some go-go Twin that led them to a lot of regular season success than never meant anything. Jason Kubel or Nick Punto with skates (more the latter). Maybe it’s just Minnesota sports in general, where if Dante Culpepper got to play against the Bears every week he’d be in Canton. And yet they never do anything either.

Maybe that’s it. Minnesota sports don’t matter and spending any emotion on them is a waste of time. Yeah, that’s it.

Fuck the Vikings.

 

Game #40 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Hawks 2-0-1   Wild 0-1-1

PUCK DROP: 7pm Central

TV: WGN

SO THEY PHONED IT IN, END OF STORY: Hockey Wilderness

The current Circus Of The Western Conference rolls into St. Paul, Minnesota tonight, as the Hawks seek to continue their “points streak” against the Wild. That’s what it is, right? I mean, technically the Hawks have lost. But it was in the carnival game that the NHL calls overtime. So that doesn’t really count. Whatever. The Hawks have been fun, and they have an excellent chance of keeping it rolling tonight. And they’ll find the same thing they’ve found at the X for just about four seasons running.

Let’s start with the Westside Hockey Club. A couple changes look likely tonight. One, Alexandre Fortin, whom the Hawks have been trying to promote for about two seasons now, will make his NHL debut tonight. This is definitely in the can’t-hurt-could-help category. He’ll slot in next to Artem Anisimov and on the opposite side of Chris Kunitz, which has actually been a pretty effective line in highly-sheltered use.

That will slot David Kampf to the fourth line, which it probably could use. Marcus Kruger moves back into the middle, in yet another victory for logic. Either SuckBag Johnson or John Hayden will sit, and I would guess the former. The fourth line could certainly use the injection of speed that Kampf has and certainly Kruger’s brain in the middle. Sure, SuckBag was fast but it doesn’t really matter if you’re fast if you have no idea where you’re going. You just get nowhere faster.

Still appears that Cam Ward will play, and Brandon Davidson will continue to enjoy the popcorn. They’re going to make this Brandon Manning thing work if it kills them. Or the Jan Rutta thing. And either or both could.

Things aren’t nearly as rosy in the Land Of 10,000 Lakes, where the Wild have basically gotten pummeled in two games so far. They were able to scratch out a point against the Knights Who Say Golden thanks to Devan Dubnyk making 41 saves. They didn’t even crack a 40% share of attempts in either game, nor have they been above that mark in expected-goals percentage for those two games. It’s a whole lot of not pretty so far.

The Wild have a few problems causing that. One, Ryan Suter is not Ryan Suter. The ankle injury he suffered that ended his last season early have not cleared up yet, or at least are hampering him. And Matt Dumba just hasn’t been able to pick up the slack. A 33% CF% against the Knights would be the opposite of picking up the slack. That would be taking the slack and trying to fashion a belt-tie combo while you’re climbing partner plummets to death or serious injury.

Normally, Jared Spurgeon does some heavy lifting from the second-pairing, but that hasn’t happened either. Compounding that is the fact the Wild haven’t really upgraded their forwards in any way in like four seasons. They brought Eric Staal back, but he was there last year. They re-signed Jason Zucker, who will assuredly score tonight against the Hawks because that’s a thing that he does, but he’s not someone you build a team around. He’s also not going to shoot 15% again, or at least likely isn’t to.

Mikko Koivu is old. Joel Eriksson Ek, while sounding like a rare disease, isn’t going to pull any Atlas act. Mikael Granlund is just enough to break your heart. Nino Neiderreiter is marauding on the third line for some reason. Jordan Greenway is still figuring out how to fit his gangly frame into an NHL game. It’s not that they lack firepower at all. It’s just that they don’t have advanced weaponry.

You could get away with these forwards if you had a stellar blue line. You could carry that blue line if you had a crew of fast, skilled forwards on lines one through four. The Wild don’t have the two things that need to made up for, not either of the things that do the making up.

So basically, once again, they’re good enough to let Devan Dubnyk carry them into the playoffs if he has another .920 season. He’s more than capable of that of course, but the Wild won’t go anywhere if he doesn’t. That’s not really enough in this division which is The Unblinking Eye.

For tonight, the Hawks just need to keep running n’ gunning. The Wild can’t really do it with them, and then you’re just up to the whims of Dubnyk. You can past this blue line. You can catch back up to these forwards. Let’s have some fun.

 

Game #4 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

In this strange world of hockey writing we are more and more forced to deal with the unhinged and downright strange. So today, we have a salvo from something called The Noogie. When you send these things out into the abyss, you can’t be made when the abyss sends something weird back. You can find it on Twitter @The_Noogie.

The Wild have pretty much brought back the same crew from last year. Why do you think this version will turn out better or worse?

It’s not so much that the Wild brought back the same crew as last season. It’s just that the biggest addition of the offseason happened in the front office when owner Craig Leipold released former GM Chuck Fletcher after nine seasons and brought in Paul Fenton who previously was the Assistant GM for the Nashville Predators. Fenton was brought in with the understanding that Leipold was not looking for a complete rebuild, but more a new set of eyes to look upon an old problem.

So, with one hand essentially tied behind his back, Fenton made few moves in the offseason, certainly nothing that was sending shockwaves across the NHL. Role players like defenseman Greg Pateryn and centers Eric Fehr and Matt Hendricks were brought in to provide depth and a little cushion for some of the younger guys coming up through the system. They are by no means game-changing additions for the Wild which has a lot of the fanbase feeling lethargic about this squad that despite making the playoffs the past six seasons, have not made it past the first round in their las three tries.

At the same time, injuries plagued the Wild last season. It didn’t matter the time of season, one of the Wild’s every-day starters was likely out of the lineup. With that in mind, one could make the argument that if this team can stay healthy, they have a great shot to make some noise. Then again, they’ve been healthy before, with much of the same core intact.

The Wild also bought out the remaining year of Tyler Ennis’ contract and shed the husk of Matt Cullen as well. But don’t worry, Nate Prosser is still floating around eating popcorn somewhere. Some things never change, and that notion very much applies to how this season will probably shake out for the Wild. Not noticeably better and not noticeably worse.

We watched Jordan Greenway crush fools in the WJC a couple years ago. He was one of the few younger players to make the Olympic squad last winter. What are the reasonable expectations for him in his first full NHL campaign?

Greenway certainly has been fun to watch as he came up through Boston University, made a few international tournaments along the way, and participating in the most recent Winter Olympic Games in PyeongChang as well. His performance in the WJC in 2016-17 was the bright spot. The gold medal winning USA squad also featured another Wild prospect in Luke Kunin, both players are worthy of your attention as their careers progress in the NHL.

Hockey Wilderness runs a series every fall where we rank the teams top 25 players under 25 years old. This year Greenway finished 4th in our rankings. We are mostly excited about this kids’ potential, but he is going to need some time to figure things out at the next level. It’s not underselling it to say this guy is a monster on the ice though. Standing at 6’6” and tipping the scales at 230 lbs. he’s a big body who will be hard to dislodge from the puck, and if he lines you up for a check, watch out!

Greenway made the team right out of camp this season and has been centering the 3rd line with a couple of utility wingers in Charlie Coyle and Joel Eriksson-Ek. Don’t count on him making his way into the NHL lexicon this season though. It’s early in the season and he is still adjusting to the speed of the game at this level. He has been successful at every level of hockey, so there is no reason to assume he won’t find a solid NHL game over the next couple seasons.

The Wild are once again up against the cap after re-signing Jason Zucker and Matt Dumba. What’s the plan to free themselves up a bit in the coming years?

The salary cap has been the rallying cry for some disgruntled Wild fans who want to see Ryan Suter and Zach Parise’s heads on a spike. Until those two contracts are off the books, the Wild are on the hook for their matching 13-year, $98 million contracts signed on July 4th, 2012. If one were to retire after the season, or be bought out… let’s just say it gets really gross looking in 2022-23, and worse in 2023-24 and 2024-25. If both contracts expire after this season, X2. YAY!!!

We don’t like to talk about the salary cap in Minnesota, but if we must. Zucker’s 5-year, $27.5 million and Dumba’s 5-year, $30 million contracts are hardly the albatrosses on the roster. Both players who signed extensions this past offseason showed significant growth over the previous season, and their contracts cap hits are right in line with what Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund signed in the summer of 2017. In these four players, you will find many admirers in Minnesota. This is the young core the Wild look to be building around.

With the cap, the plan is to wing it, because what else can you do? You have a pair of the last great old school bananas contracts which the 2013 CBA (that cost half a season) was designed to put a stop to and penalize. But who knows, that CBA expires after 2021-22, they could blow it all up again and the Wild could avoid a very painful future.

What are you expecting out of the Wild this year?

Same old Wild, and with how this season has started that old looks like it’s starting to show. Mikko Koivu, Devan Dubnyk, Eric Staal, Suter, Fehr, Hendricks, and Zach Parise will round out your over 30 crowd. Jared Spurgeon will be joining them in a years’ time as well. Entering this season on the active roster the Wild boasted a league-leading 9,637 combined games played. These guys have been around the sun a few times. Suter is also coming off a nasty ankle injury from late last season that caused him to miss the playoffs as well as the final few regular season games, so he’s looked an extra step off to start the season.  

The Wild have looked a step behind out of the gate losing 4-1 to a speedy Colorado Avalanche squad and dropping their home-opener after giving up a late-game lead and losing in a shootout to the Vegas Golden Knights. If the Wild get their possession game going, they’re as dangerous as anyone. And it’s not as if the Wild are just a bunch of potted plants out there. Zucker can be elusive and is very speedy, Granlund and Nino are pretty quick as well, and Staal has been sneaky in his ability to get behind the defense.

So where might the Wild finish? I’m inclined to believe this team will do well in the regular season and make the playoffs once again as either a 3rd seed in the central or fighting for a wildcard spot. Unless we see some significant growth from the younger guys, especially players like Charlie Coyle who really need a good bounce back year, it’s tough to believe this team is worth much more than what their recent history has shown with them bowing out of the playoffs early. One hopes for the best, but this is Minnesota sports. Good things don’t tend to happen here. (Don’t worry, Khalil is coming to help with that for the next five years. -ED)

 

Game #4 Preview Suite

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

It used to be tradition that playoff exits were complimented by eulogies on Puck Daddy. But with Wysh off in the Connecticut hinterlands and those who remain at Yahoo! being a bunch of Canadian giblets who take things far too seriously (and Lambert being angry and definitely not a Bruins fan), we don’t need them to do what we do best. So fuck it. We’ll eulogize all 15 teams that will eventually fall. Now, a rite of spring…

Actually, that picture should probably portray Zach Parise as Death, because today he turned a new trick by expanding on getting his coaches fired by getting his GM fired, and a big reason is the contract Parise signed. Good stuff, that.

Whereas there was joy in kicking dirt all over the bloated corpses of the Ducks and Kings, sending the Wild out with a quiet word is really just a reflex of the spring. About the only thing they provided was quality #BoudreauFace during these playoffs, as it quickly became obvious to him and everyone else his team was just ridiculously overmatched. If any player turned around on the bench and saw the expression of their coach it would have been an upset if they hopped over the boards ever again.

But this is what you sign up for when you have Boudreau behind the bench. Since he left the Capitals, his Ducks and Wild teams have these great seasons that take place almost entirely in the dark. You check the standings every few weeks and your reaction is always, “Huh, how’d they get there?” Because you wouldn’t ever choose to watch them. And then you go on about your life only to repeat the process a few weeks later. Then, when the playoffs start and you really pay attention, you really wonder how they hell they finished where they did, at least you do for the six minutes the Wild are around in the playoffs.

Once again, Devan Dubnyk was the second-best goalie in a series, just as he was in ’15, and ’16, and last year. And you have to hand it to him, because he’s been the second-best goalie in a series to a wild variety of other goalies, from one of the league’s best (Crawford) to genuinely terrible goalies (Niemi and Lehtonen) to absolute basketcases (Jake Allen) and now a young one in his first playoff series (Hellebuyck). He is wonderful talent enhancement.

It was another year of writers marveling at what a defensive wizard Mikko Koivu is in the dregs of February, and then watching him get turned into dog food in the playoffs. A 41% Corsi for the series, reminding us once again he’s a million years old and the Wild have yet to produce a center that’s really any better than him. The State of Hockey is one of paralysis. If Beckett had been around now he would have written a sequel to Godot about the Wild and waiting for anything or anyone of consequence to happen.

It’s really hard to stress just how much the Wild, a 100-point team somehow, got their ass handed to them in five games. No player achieved a positive possession rating over five games, and this was to a franchise that had never won a playoff series before. This might not even count, considering the cannon fodder the Wild were. It’s like counting something in the Home Run Derby as your first major league hit.

And the thing is, the Wild aren’t going to change. They can’t. They have to find the money to pay Dumba and Zucker, and that will be that. They won’t have any flexibility to do anything else, and they’ll roll out the exact same team next year that will amass around 100 points thanks to Gabby’s “Go get ’em, scouts!” system that sees them play really hard when no one cares. And we’ll get more and more articles of “Boudreau does it again! What a magician!”

And then April rolls around, they’ll face a good team that cares again and they’ll get walloped. We’ll get shots of Boudreau behind the bench, the definition of “out of answers,” and he’ll basically be the same shade as Grimace (and shape) by Game 4. His career playoff winning percentage is .478. But hey, he talks to the media and is kind of adorable, so let’s just ignore the fact that he’s almost certainly a moron.

There’s a lesson to the Wild. Constancy. Some teams just have to fill out the numbers, to perform the same cycle over and over to make the ones who change stand out. They’re the backup singers doing the same dance routine every night while Jagger is out front. They help hit the harmonies for the rest of the league, and then fade into the background when the important notes are sung. They are water carriers. Good things there’s a lot of it in Minnesota.

Everything Else

Giles Ferrell writes for ZoneCoverage.com and hosts the weekly Giles and The Goalie podcast. Follow him on Twitter @gilesferrell. 

The Wild find themselves kind of in the same predicament as the Hawks. Can’t seem to get off the ground for more than a game or two in a row but also don’t lose enough to fall out of it. What’s the biggest problem of late?
Finding their identity. Minnesota has none and we are over halfway in the season. They have been hurt for a large chunk of the season and now they have a full roster so there is hope they will find their stride. Now with that said, they looked to be hitting the mark last week before they went into Colorado and had the crap absolutely kicked out of them. 

Why is Zach Parise skating on what appears to be a third line? Or is Eriksson Ek the best center for him and that’s just how it goes?
More of that has to do with the fact Parise missed half the season with a back injury. Once he gets back up to full speed, it would not surprise me in the slightest to see him get bumped up to the top six. But for now, the hope is he can ignite Eriksson Ek – Minnesota’s 2015 first round pick who is on pace for two goals this year. 

Devan Dubnyk had a .940 in December. Despite getting blasted in Colorado last Saturday, do you feel like he’s rounding back into what you’re used to seeing?
No doubt Dubnyk is coming back into form that Minnesota has known him to be. He has been inconsistent most of the year, but right before he went down with an injury he started to right the ship. Since his return he has picked up right where he left off – sans the Colorado game – and perhaps that has to do with his backup Alex Stalock pushing for more game time with his good play this year. 

Is Jason Zucker or Matt Dumba pricing themselves out of a return to Minnesota this summer? Or can they shift some things around and make it ok?
A month ago I would have said Zucker might be a guy the Wild move because he might simply cost too much, but now a month long drought has brought his next contract back down to earth. After a torrid October, Dumba has been lighting it up and will probably be a very expensive signing for the Wild this offseason, being he can score and is a right shot. Dumba’s trade value come summer might be sky high, but it would be a crippling blow to the Wild blue line if they moved him.What will the Wild be looking to do before the deadline?

Wild fans cringe at the fact that GM Chuck Fletcher has a first round pick at his disposal to use, and he is reportedly in the final year of his contract. He did so last year, and that yielded one lousy playoff win for his team. I’m not sure the Wild will do much of anything before the deadline. The prospect cupboard is getting bare, they are right on the cap, and they might have a few internal options in the AHL they would try instead of making a move. Maybe they will get a bottom six player at the deadline, but otherwise Minnesota might be more inclined to stand pat.

Everything Else

 vs. 

Game Time: 6:00PM CST
TV/Radio: NBC Sports Chicago, WGN-AM 720
Paisley Park: Hockey Wilderness

After a brief and suprisingly victorious jaunt to Manitoba on Thursday, the Hawks return home tonight having now had a couple days worth of rest, and will face of against the Wild, with whom they are tied, who played last night, and are beat the hell up by injuries.

Everything Else

If you’re sick of Jason Zucker, we wouldn’t blame you. First of all, he needs to decide how he wants people to pronounce his name, because it’s run the gamut. More to the point, if it feels like he kind of murders the Hawks, you wouldn’t be wrong there either. The stats say in the regular season, it’s only been eight points (five goals) in 20 games. Feels like more, right? Part of that is the Hawks were finally able to keep him quiet last year, with no points in four games. Still, he’s been a nuisance.

Zucker is on pace to have his career-best season this campaign. He already has 14 goals, his career-high is 22. He has 25 points already, his career-high is 47. Yes, he’s been awfully hot this season, and a 20% shooting-percentage isn’t going to stick around forever you wouldn’t think.

More to the point, Zucker isn’t getting the same number of attempts he has in the past few years, averaging just 11 when the past three years he’s averaged between 14-16 attempts per game. His individual expected goals are down as well per game, so he’s riding the percentages a bit. What Zucker has been able to do is maintain his possession numbers while the team’s around him has collapsed. Zucker’s relative numbers have sky-rocketed, case in point being that Zucker’s relative expected goals-percentage is +12.1 over the team-rate, fifth best in the whole league.

And if you’re GM Chuck Fletcher, you’re kind of hoping Zucker’s agent doesn’t point that out this summer.

Zucker is a restricted free agent after the season, which pretty much blows for him. Should he be able to keep grinding down the railing of high-percentages, he’d find himself a 30-goal scorer and 55+-point man at the age of 26. On the open market, that’s a $5 million-a-year player. But Zucker isn’t going to be on the open market.

And he’s on a team that’s going to have no space at all. The Wild are already up against the cap right now, thanks to their Monty Python-foot-like deals to Parise and Suter. They don’t get much relief after the year either, as only Chris Steward, Matt Cullen, and Daniel Winnik’s deals come off the roster. That’s only about $3 million to play with. Rumors of the cap going up must have Fletcher with some kind of Jobu-like shrine in his office, praying to whatever god can make that true. Because the Wild also have to re-up Matthew Dumba, and seeing as how they punted Marco Scandella away to elevate his role, you’d best believe they’re not going to give up on him.

If the cap went up $3 million or so, with the three they have coming off the books, the Wild might be able to play hardball and get both Dumba and Zucker in for $3 million each. It’d be a slight raise for each, but you’d have to think that both want more than just a mere percentage-point raise.

And this is where if the NHL didn’t have an unspoken, collusion-lite system of no offer sheets things would get awfully interesting. Part of the reason there are no offer sheets is that the compensation system for them is utterly insane. As stated above, Zucker might prove to be a $5 million player. But if you were to offer him that, it would cost you four first round picks. In any kind of vacuum, you’re not trading four first rounders for what is at best a second line winger. If you were to offer Zucker $4 million a year, an amount the Wild might simply not be able to match, that still costs you a 1st, 2nd, and 3rd. Again, for a second-line winger. You’d have to think this is something the NHLPA will revisit in a new CBA. That is, if they had a clue.

Look for some contentious negotiations this summer between the Wild and Zucker. They simply can’t give him more than $3 million, and he’s earned more than that. Would the Wild allow Zucker to bet on himself for a one-year deal and then go UFA in the summer of ’19? The Wild system is actually stocked. Jordan Greenway looks to be eying that spot as soon as next year.

Wonder if the Wild might think about a trade this season? Stay tuned.

Game #33 Preview

Preview

Spotlight

Q&A

Douchebag Du Jour

I Make A Lot Of Graphs

Lineups & How Teams Were Built

Everything Else

Once again we dig out Ben Remington of ZoneCoverage.com from under the usual mountain of snow in Minnesota to inform us about the Wild. Follow him on Twitter @BenRemington. 

The Wild have won four in a row, and five of six, though four of those have come after the 60 minutes. Any big changes during this streak or just a bounce or two in overtime?
Little bit of both. They were having a hard time putting things together before that, and Kyle Quincey was somehow tanking this team singlehandedly, which is a fitting tribute to just how bad he really was. Since he was jettisoned they’ve been winning, and I don’t think it’s a coincidence. Part of the overtime success is a change in philosophy, directly from the analytics department, the former War on Ice folks. I was at the Devils-Wild game when they got destroyed with a slow lineup on the ice in the first minute of overtime, after that, Boudreau has prioritized putting the young faster players on the ice in OT more, and it’s paid huge dividends. They were 5-17 in 3-on-3 overtime games all time before the change and 4-0 since. So I guess you could say things are getting pretty serious.
How has the Matt Dumba thing going lately?
Pretty good. Two of those OT winners came from Mr. Dumba. He’s a classic risk/reward player, like a Burns Lite, so if he can get someone to cover his tuchus, he excels. Well, Boudreau has finally paired him with the painfully responsible Suter after Spurgeon’s groin injury, and it’s worked like gangbusters. He’s still going to have some frustrating moments in the neutral zone and his own end, but he can make up for it on the other end. After being the favorite whipping boy of Wild fans to start the season, his loudest critics have promptly STFU.
Jason Zucker is well on his way to a career-high in points and goals. Anything different about his game this year, other than his impending new contract?
There’s been a few analytic articles on him this year locally that have highlighted his improved playmaking ability, so that’s definitely a thing. Before he was more of a pure scorer, but he’s used his speed to set up some beauties this season now that he’s garnering a little more attention. As far as his contract situation goes, it’s a little bit of a worst-case for Chuck Fletcher that he’s really tearing it up this year as a pending RFA, and it might be yet another Fletcher failure from this summer that he didn’t give him an extension before the season started.
What’s been Devan Dubnyk’s problem?
Well, he’s dinged up with a knee issue right now, but otherwise he’s just been inconsistent, which is kind of his M.O. He strung together three straight shutouts in between some pretty bad stretches, but hasn’t looked terrible lately, and I think he was just as much of a victim of Kyle Quincey as the team on the whole was. Dubnyk usually heats up pretty good in December, .937 sv% in seasons past with the Wild, so he really got hurt at the worst time. Luckily, the Wild have a semblance of a back up this season in Alex Stalock, who’s playing well, so you’ll probably see the former Duluth Bulldog Sunday night.
What do the Wild need to add to get out of the muck in the Central?
The Wild have been as inconsistent as Dubnyk in years past, not coincidentally, so they need a hot streak something fierce. It’s easy to forget that this team won 12 games straight last December because of how horribly the season ended, but they’re capable of that kind of stretch if they get decent goaltending. Also, pin cushion Parise may return soon, which should help the overall depth of this team, and get some guys who should be playing in Iowa off the big sheet of ice. All of that and a sniper at the next Perds-Blyeos game might get us somewhere.
Everything Else

 vs. 

RECORDS: Wild 27-9-5  Hawks 27-13-5

PUCK DROP: 6pm

TV: NBCSN

ANIMALS STRIKING CURIOUS POSES: Hockey Wilderness, Gone Puck Wild

PROJECTED LINEUPS

ADJUSTED TEAM CORSI %: Wild – 49.8 (18th)  Hawks – 49.8 (17th)

ADJUSTED TEAM xGF%: Wild – 54.2 (2nd)  Hawks – 47.2 (26th)

POWER PLAY %: Wild – 19.5 (13th)  Hawks – 18.8 (14th)

PENALTY KILL %: Wild – 84.6 (6th)  Hawks – 76.3 (28th)

Repeat this to yourself, because it’s important: There are no big games in January.

We’re sure the Wild are using this as some sort of exam. The Hawks have been doing this contender thing long enough to know that it doesn’t matter. However, after getting their ass rubbed in the moonshine by the Capitals, the Hawks probably don’t want that to snowball into anything worrisome. So they won’t be completely disinterested tonight, or at least you’d hope not.