- By Alex ThomasToday we conclude our look at trade targets for the Edmonton Oilers by looking at a few goalies that could help in between the pipes. While
- By Alex ThomasWell yesterday we talked about three forwards that would make quality trade targets for the Oilers this summer. Today, we will take a look at three
- By Alex ThomasIt’s May 18th, we’re about seven weeks from the start of the draft, free agency, and the 2013 summer transaction period. With a lowered salary cap
- By Kyle PalazziIn the late morning of July 24, 2013, upon the announcement of the acquisition of star winger Rick Nash, Rangers fans salivated at the possibilities.
- By Alex ThomasI know yesterday in my article I told you I would be back here talking about trade targets for the Oilers. We still have almost seven
MN WILD Gameday Versus Chicago Blackhawks at Excel Energy Center 1/30/2013
Good Afternoon, The Wild (3-2-1 7 points) plays host tonight to the Chicago Blackhawks (6-0-0 12 points) who arrived in town last night with the best record in hockey. Chicago has 4 road victories already in this lockout shortened NHL season to go with their 6 game winning streak and best start in franchise history. The Blackhawks can be arguably described as the most offensively talented team in the NHL because of superstar forwards Marian Hossa, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Jonathan Toews. In addition to the great players I just mentioned, Chicago runs 4 lines at opponents each capable of dominating play in the offensive zone and lighting the lamp. The challenge for Chicago GM Stan Bowman has been to fit four superstar forwards and their superstar caliber contracts under the salary cap while being able to maintain a roster of serviceable players to fill out 4 lines. The Blackhawks also have stars on the blue line in Duncan Keith and Brent Seabrook matched up with very good second and third pairing defensemen including former Wild draft pick Nick Leddy. The Blackhawks primary Achilles heal previous to this season had been their goaltending. With a team built like Chicago, their ability to score a ton of goals compensates for their lack of top tier net minder. This season the goaltending duties have been entrusted to Corey Crawford and Ray Emery. The Blackhawks named Crawford the starter and through 5 games this season he has 5 wins and 9 goals against.
For the Wild to be successful this evening they will have to be near perfect in all three zones. Coach Mike Yeo will have to indentify and implement a strategy to take the red hot Marian Hossa out of the game. Hossa’s talent almost dictates a one on one shadow in an attempt to put a stick on every shot and a body on him every time he enters the offensive zone. Unfortunately Chicago has many other extremely dangerous scoring options and appears to be in midseason form despite the rapid application that was the end of the lockout and beginning of the season. For the Wild to be successful this evening they will need to get on the board early and generate chances from extended offensive zone time which besides their top line, they have struggled to accomplish. For the Wild to come out victorious it needs scoring from its second line. Up to this point the second line has generated only two goals through six games. The second line of Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Mikael Granlund, and Devin Setogucci is fast and gifted but unless they begin to connect on the nifty passing or generate some solid of substance offensive zone time and chances it could mean a dramatic shake up. Michael Russo of the Star Tribune has mentioned if Granlund is unable to raise his play he could be a candidate for demotion. Before that takes place, I really wish Coach Yeo would redefine Granlund’s role and scale it back for him in regards to what he is responsible for. I truly envision Granlund as a second line center for the Wild but he has been physical taken out of games much like Wild fans have seen with Bouchard in previous season and especially in the playoffs. When you have a young player as gifted as Granlund who is struggle with his transition the simple solution is to simplify has responsibility. To me that makes putting Granlund on the wing right now a real solution and it requires giving him the primary responsibility to carry the puck into the offensive zone and SHOOT the puck.
The Wild’s blue line has been in flux dating back to the last two seasons. The Wild has lacked a true Top 2 pairing since Brent Burns and Nick Schultz. With the free agent signing of Ryan Suter the Wild had its Alpha Defensemen. The only problem with that ideology is that Suter is more finesse than brute and he is more complimentary than primary. That is not to say Suter isn’t a Top 10 in the NHL defensemen it just means his skill set needs to be complimented with a player that allows him to be comfortable extending his game into the offensive zone and pressing the opposing player to turn the puck over to him in the defensive zone. This includes as Wild fans have painfully realized someone else to move bodies from in front of the net. Enter newly promoted and recently drafted fresh faced 19 years old Jonas Brodin. Brodin is not a bone crusher physically imposing defender; instead he is an extremely intelligent defender capable of using positioning and extremely gifted skating ability to limit opposing players. Brodin uses his passing ability to move the puck and stifle momentum. Although Brodin has only played 3 NHL games, he has been inserted on the top pairing with Suter and made an immediate impact. Besides the positive impact to Suter, Brodin being in the Wild lineup has allowed Coach Yeo to better matchup skill sets on the other two pairings. In last night’s victory Tom Gilbert played maybe his best game in a Wild sweater and I have to believe that had a lot to do with the ability to abandon the defensive zone and jump into the play that was presented because of his pairing with Clayton Stoner. If Wild fans find themselves yelling at the television, “SHOOT THE PUCK” well that never is a problem for Gilbert. He unleashed blast after blast last night. The third pairing last night of Justin Falk and Marco Scandella was solid and while Scandella gets his NHL legs under him it is very smart to have paired him up with Falk who is hands down playing his best NHL hockey of his career. Falk has gone from the guy that let his goalie get disrespected to the guy that with every shift is making Nate Prosser’s roster spot disappear. If Falk continues to play as he has thus far I think he could survive two rounds of cuts and make Stoner expendable as well. I really hope Scandella is ready to settle and be the NHL defender he has flashed glimpses of.
In net this evening it will be Josh Harding for the Wild and in two outings this season he has been brilliant and had a stumble. To his defense Harding was better that the result alluded to in Detroit and the entire Wild team melted versus Detroit’s top line. That said tonight the Wild’s opponent is cannot be afforded opportunities to setup shop in the offensive zone at even strength. Chicago cannot be allowed power play time because the Wild will pay for it almost guaranteed. Harding needs to be comfortable in the crease and needs to be aggressive with Chicago’s snipers. Harding must identify where the shooters are and be very strong with his angles. I think this game is definitely a measuring stick for Harding and the Wild and for them to get a win tonight it will require an excellent game from Harding.
Wild 3 Chicago 1
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Just My Thoughts
Here are the lines for tonight’s Wild vs. Blackhawks Matchup:
Power Play Lines
power play lines