Sunday, January 15, 2017

The Game: This Week in the NHL 1/8/16-1/14/16

Standings Watch: The best division last week was the Atlantic, who went a collective 14-10-2. There were five games between the Atlantic and Central last week, with the Canadiens beating the Jets and losing to the Wild, and the Bruins beating the Blues and losing to the Predators, and the Wings beat the Stars and lost to the Hawks.

The Central was the second best division, at 12-10-1.

Then the Pacific, at 10-9-3. LA beat the Jets and Blues but lost to the Stars, and the Jets also lost to the Coyotes but beat the Flames. Anaheim beat Colorado (lol) and Dallas but lost to the Wild.

Oddly, last was the Metropolitan Division, who could be coming back to earth, at 13-12-2. Only one game took place between the Metro and Central last week, and that was the 6-0 thrashing that Washington gave Chicago.

The Big Drama of the week was Andrew Shaw, who decided the best way to celebrate his return after missing 14 games was to go for a blind side hit on Jesper Fast of the Rangers.

It was a blindside hit that was well after the play, and exactly what we don’t want in the game. Shaw is quickly turning into the new Matt Cooke. So expect the Wild to sign him in 6 years and talk about how he’s a changed man.

When the two hottest teams met, we knew one would have their streak ended. What’s fascinating is that since then, in 2017, the Wild are 4-0-1, while the Blue Jackets are 3-4-0. This really shows off Minnesota’s resiliency.

Something else that shows of Minnesota’s resiliency? The Wild are 10-5-1 when the opposition scores first. That’s a 0.625 winning percentage, the best in the NHL. This speaks to the Wild’s attitude when they’re down. I can’t remember a Wild team that could come back the way this one does.

Take those two facts together and you have a team that can be down in the micro sense and the macro, and either way they don’t let mood swings affect them as they did in the past. And considering the two big changes on the team are swapping Tomas Vanek for Eric Staal and swapping Mike Yeo/John Torchetti for Bruce Boudreau, I think it’s fair to put this on the coaching staff(s)

Even though the big streaks have ended, the Capitals now want in, and have won 8 in a row. They’re hot on the heels of the Jackets in the Metro, so that division is still in upheaval and likely will be through the buzzer. If this keeps up, the Penguins or Rangers could have to content themselves with a Wild Card spot.   

Colorado is willing to listen to offers? Even more interesting is that the Bruins are apparently eyeing Gabriel Landeskog. Enjoy that clown out east. But if that happens, I’d hate to play against a Backes-Landeskog line. Keep your head up.

Couple Wild on the leader boards around the league: Ryan Suter (+27), Jason Zucker (+25), and Jared Spurgeon (+24) top the +/- leaderboard, with Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund tied with Michael Grabner (Rangers) tied in 4th place (+22). Matt Dumba is just outside the top 10 at +19.

Want to guess who leads the team in Missed shots? It’s not Pominville, although he is up there with 32. Jason Zucker has missed the net 39 times in 41 games. By contrast, Chris Stewart has only missed 12 times, also in 41 games.

It’s great to think of Luke Kunin captaining USA to the WJC Gold. Know anyone else who captained team USA in the WJCs? How about Jason Zucker? After winning gold in 2010 (Derek Stepan) and silver in 2011 (John Ramage?), he captained team USA to 7th place in 2012. Zucker’s team also had John Gibson, Jacob Trouba, Jarred Tinordi, Nick Bjugstad, J.T. Miller, Kyle Rau, Brandon Saad, and Charlie Coyle.

Wild speculation of the week: Darcy Kuemper will be in someone else’s uniform next season.

Bits and Pieces Round:
  • The Wild have taken the 5th fewest penalty minutes in the League.  
  •  The Wild have taken 7 bench minors, 4th most in the NHL.
  •  One of the 4 teams to have taken fewer penalties than the Wild are the Blackhawks.
  •  The Wild have the fewest hits in the NHL.
  •  The Wild have the second best shooting percentage in the NHL (11.1% - Ranger at 11.6%)

Looking ahead:
  • Three Central Division games this week: Big one is Wild in Chicago tonight.
  •  Also: Blackhawks-Avs and Blues-Jets.
  •  Nerd fight of the week: Stars-Sabres on Monday.

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