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!

To Sign or Not to Sign

For you Wild fans out there, this one is dedicated to you and my topic of focus is Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk. Dubnyk had a stellar year for the Wild last season as he put up a 36-14 record and helped Minnesota secure a spot in the post-season. He was traded to the Wild from Arizona halfway through last season and he made a bang in his debut with both a win and a shutout. He was the first goalie in Wild history to record a shutout and win in their debut. He had a great rest of the season and was often the anchor in net that Minnesota needed to win games when the defense was off or the offense just couldn’t put up big numbers. Dubnyk helped push the Wild past the Blues in the first round of the 2015 playoffs, 4 games to 2.

Many people thought the Wild didn’t deserve to be in the playoffs let alone get past one of the best teams in the league for 2014-2015; the St. Louis Blues who finished the season with a 51-24 record and 109 points taking first place in the Central division and easily landing them a spot in playoffs. Minnesota, on the other hand, finished the season with a 46-28 record for 100 points and a Wild-card place in playoffs, meaning they had to win to get in. So, you can see where the skeptics would well, be skeptical of the Wild making it any farther than the first four games of the playoff race.

Man, were they wrong! The Wild took out the Blues in six games and didn’t look back as they went on to face the Chicago Blackhawks, who well were even tougher than the Blues were supposed to be, despite finishing third to the Blues in the division. Granted, that skill showed when the Hawks took out the Wild in four games straight, but hey, they also went on to win their 3rd Stanley Cup in just 5 years… meaning only two other teams have won the Cup in the last 5 years! Think about that a little and you’ll realize how there’s nothing to be ashamed about in losing to the Hawks.

Anyway, this post is focusing on Dubnyk, so after the playoffs, there was a long off-season in which many questions were raised about whether the Wild should keep Devan or not, if he was worth it or not. In my personal opinion, he was and is worth it, I’m a huge fan of him both on and off the ice, I like what he does for people, and how he can lift the team even when behind. He’s the type of goalie that doesn’t give up and the Wild need that (no I’m not bashing any other Wild goalies, most of them have been great in that area especially the goalies we currently have). Well, the Wild decided to keep Devan and they signed him to a six-year contract extension worth… $26 million, averaging about $4.33 million a year according to NHL.com, ironically on the same day they signed stars Zach Parise and Ryan Suter 3 years earlier, July 4th. Must be something about that day, I mean other than the U.S.’s Independence Day haha.

Now before all of you go fuming about how much he’s getting paid, keep in mind that Zach Parise is making about $11 million a year but that will decrease as his contract gets higher in years according to yahoo.sports.com Also, Henrik Lundqvist led all NHL goalies for the 2014-15 season, making a whopping $11 million based on an article from the hockeywriters.com.. yes you read that right, a goalie making $11 million, but hey he’s “King Henrik” so who’s going to argue that right? Are you starting to rethink your opinion on the Wild signing Dubnyk for a mere $4 million a year? I mean, he did get them to the playoffs in just a half-season playing with them. When he got to the Wild they had a record of 18-19-5, sitting 12th in the conference of 14 teams.. yeah not good, but as soon as he started, things turned around and he went 27-9-2 plus his stats were through the roof! Oh did I fail to mention he was also a finalist for the Vezina trophy (NHL’s top goalie) and he won the Bill Masterton trophy which goes to “the player that best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey” (http://wild.nhl.com/club/news.htm?id=772119) … um yeah big awards!

Now I know some of you out there still think this was a mistake by the Wild or that it was a fluke and he won’t continue to be that good but let me ask you… What other choice did the Wild have? Let go of a goalie who pulled them out of a huge slump and sent them into playoffs? Ha, I don’t think so, you’d be crazy to even think of that. Yes, I know he’s a little older at 29, but you have to remember, most goalies do peak when they are older compared to other player’s in other positions. Dubnyk happened to be the key the Wild needed and I’m glad they kept him. I love Niklas Backstrom as a goaliel, but with recent injuries and his age (37), no offense to his stellar career but it’s coming close to an end. Now, that doesn’t mean the Wild get rid of him, he’s a very capable goalie, it’s just time to start the transition of becoming a back-up and let someone else take the reins, just as Josh Harding had to do when he got hurt in training camp his first year (I believe) and Niklas Backstrom swooped in out of nowhere, taking the starting spot and had a number of phenomenal years for the Wild. He’s still a great goalie, just not an all the time starter.

I’m sorry but to those of you still wondering after reading this, Dubnyk had a 1.78 GAA which means he allowed about 1 goal per game and for goalies to be under 2… that’s pretty amazing. He also had a.936 save percentage and that means he was 93% in saves.. that is extremely well done for goalies in the NHL. It’s rare to see goalies who get that high of a save percentage.. Henrik Lundqvist finished with a .922%.. yes that is less than Dubnyk, but Lundqvist is considered one of the best goalies in the League, so where does that leave Dubnyk since he had the higher number? As you can tell I’m on the bandwagon for keeping Dubnyk around for quite some time and as long as he doesn’t get hurt, the Wild should be hopefully, golden!

Well, I’ll let you take all of that info in and hopefully you’ll like Dubnyk if you hadn’t already and the Wild will also hopefully have a great season ahead of them! Just 36 days to regular season play and training camp starts this month! The season fast approaches and I can’t wait! Thanks for reading!

HOCKEY ROCKS!

Apr 4, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk (40) makes a save during the first period against the Detroit Red Wings at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Apr 4, 2015; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk (40) makes a save during the first period against the Detroit Red Wings at Xcel Energy Center. Mandatory Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports