The Formidable Rival

Now some of you may disagree with me calling the Chicago Blackhawks formidable but with the longstanding rivalry between Minnesota and Chicago, yes including the North Stars days, it seemed fitting. As much as I would like to say I hate the Blackhawks, I actually don’t. I have a respect for Chicago that any true sports fan would have to agree with and when you look at their record, it demands respect because it is hard to deny that they are a very talented team.

Chicago is one of the few teams that Minnesota has always been pretty evenly matched with. The Blackhawks play quite similar and don’t rely on just one name to win games. The fact that they have quite a few “superstars” doesn’t hurt either but it can be a hindrance when everyone knows who those players are and teams focus all their efforts on shutting those players down. Players such as Patrick Kane, Jonathan Toews, Marian Hossa and even their defensemen like Duncan Keith, Niklas Hjalmarsson and Brent Seabrook

With that being said even those guys couldn’t put a stop to the Minnesota Wild this evening. Despite having an early two goal lead before the halfway point of the game, Chicago wasn’t safe and the saying “a two goal lead is the hardest to keep” came true. The Wild were able to answer back with two goals of their own and end the second tied.

Going into the third it was a whole new game and a clean slate until Minnesota’s Jason Pominville found the perfect opening on the side of the net for a pass from Marco Scandella that Pominville was able to slide right past Chicago goaltender Scott Darling and capture the lead for the Wild. Minnesota kept the lead for the last 15 or so minutes left in the game and took both the game and FIRST PLACE in both the Division and the Conference from the Blackhawks. Yep, the Wild are officially in sole possession of the conference! Now they just have to keep winning and not look back, there’s still 41 games left of the season and anything can happen.

The Wild have been playing some damn good hockey this season and in this game alone they held Toews to zero shots on goal which rarely happens and Devan Dubnyk stopped 33 of 35 shots with a .943 save percentage. Kane had two goals and 12 shots but hardly any team can keep him at bay no matter how good they are and the Wild were still able to come out on top. Kane isn’t always scoring goals either, he nearly had a giveaway in front of his own net that the Wild’s Mikeal Granlund almost capitalized on.

Minnesota was out-shot but their defense made sure to play the box and keep the puck to the outside or not let Chicago control it for long meaning they forced the Blackhawks to take shots. Dubnyk had full support from his team and there weren’t very many Chicago players that ended up alone in front of the net. The Wild were also good at making Chicago panic with the puck and make blind passes that wouldn’t connect.

One thing the Wild need to focus on is staying out of the box in the last-minute of the game. I know this doesn’t happy all the time but Ryan Suter received a penalty in the last 40 seconds or so and at that time in the game with a one goal lead we need all of our players on the ice. It wasn’t an intentional penalty by any means but the Wild really need to keep an eye on that. Overall they only had six penalty minutes while Chicago had four and that is quite low for these two teams when they play each other.

The Wild now get to head for home and earned a day off before they face off against Zach Parise’s former team the New Jersey Devils who currently sit 12th in their conference and are 500. on the season. Former Edmonton Oiler Taylor Hall is now with the Devils and Parise’s former teammate from both the Devils and his time with the University of North Dakota Fighting Sioux, Travis Zajac is still skating with the DEvils as well (Yes, I had to throw UND in there of course!). So it will be an interesting match-up as always whenever a a Wild player’s former team shows up.

The game will start at 7pm at Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul on Tuesday evening. The Wild will be looking to defend their first place standing and continue to grab all those points necessary for playoffs. Thanks for reading!

Hockey rocks!

The Former North Stars

Tonight the Wild will face the Dallas Stars, or as most Minnesota fans know them as… the former North Stars. There are still quite a few people who are upset over that whole deal that went down right before/during the time I was born. I think I was about three months old when the Stars moved south to Texas.

But now the Wild are here and have established a home in the short 16-17 years they’ve been playing in the beautiful Xcel Energy Center located just off the Mississippi River in downtown St. Paul. The Wild won’t have that hometown feel tonight as they visit Dallas.

Both teams are coming off victories and it will also prove to be a big game points-wise. The Wild could tie for first place in the division with a victory and could take over first place tomorrow when they face the Chicago Blackhawks who currently sit atop the division and conference.

This is a big game for the Stars because they could climb closer to getting into a Wild Card position for the playoffs. They would also need Nashville to lose and the Predators are playing Colorado, so who knows with that one.

The Stars season has been a bit more difficult than the Wild with the team’s stats just floating above .500. This struggle may be in part due to Ales Hemsky’s hip injury that happened back in October and has caused him to miss 37 games thus far. He has already missed almost three of the expected 5-7 months, more than likely the rest of the season will be without him playing. He has played one total game this season and that was the game he was injured in. Last season he had 39 points with 13 goals and 26 assists so Dallas could really use his presence but it may not be until next season.

The Wild’s line-up will be the same as the Habs game and it is as follows:

Parise-Staal-Coyle

Zucker-Koivu-Granlund

Neiderreiter-Haula-Pominville

Schroeder-Graovac-Stewart

This line-up seems to have been working well for Minnesota and we’ll see if it continues especially with Staal who has truly thrived this season with Parise and Coyle as his line-mates. Apparently Kuemper will start tonight because of the Wild’s back-to-back so Dubnyk can start tomorrow against Chicago. Hopefully Kuemper is ready and on top of his game.

The game will be at 7 pm central time and it sounds like it could be a very good game being both teams are vying for every point they can get. There’s also the heated rivalry of the former Minnesota team and the current that will most likely never go away. Thanks for reading!

Hockey rocks!

 

Two Points

The Minnesota Wild have been playing some outstanding hockey as of late and have secured themselves a second place spot in both the Division and the Western Conference with just 40 games played. The Wild are just two points out of first place, trailing the Chicago Blackhawks who have played four more games than Minnesota, which means the Wild could have a chance to tie or get ahead of Chicago when the time comes for the games to even out.

Minnesota is coming off a recent 7-1 defeat of the Montreal Canadians last evening in St. Paul at the Xcel Energy Center. Six different Wild players had goals in the fury of scoring including Nino Niederreiter who contributed two goals.

Eric Staal and Matt Dumba also had great games, they both had three points each. Staal had one goal and two assists while Dumba had three assists. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk had a pretty good game also as he stopped 20 shots out of 21 and he had a .952 save percentage.

The Wild’s next opponent will be the Dallas Stars in Dallas, yes the Wild will be on another road trip after recently getting back from California where they played three games and went 2-1. Dallas isn’t having such a great season, the Stars are just above .500 and are fifth in the division. They are coming off a recent victory over the Detroit Red Wings so the Wild better be on top of their game to stay in front of Dallas no matter what the records are.

The game will start at 7 pm in Dallas tomorrow evening. Thanks for reading!

Hockey Rocks!