MINNESOTA WILD AT CHICAGO BLACKHAWKS
5:00PM Central, United Center, Chicago, Illinois
TV: NHL Network, Fox Sports-North Plus
Radio: KFAN 100.3 and affiliates
Streaming: Fox Sports Go app
Man, tough loss for the Wild on Saturday, who seemed to have a pretty good handle on the Buffalo Sabres through two periods, but conceded the tying goal with seven minutes left and the winning goal (TO JASON POMINVILLE!!!!!) with 90 seconds left. Despite having the better of the play almost all night and jumping out to a 2-0 lead early, the Wild just couldn’t seem to put the Sabres down, and eventually the lack of finish came back to haunt them.
If we’re looking for a positive spin, though, it may actually be a good thing that Minnesota plays again today. It gives the players the opportunity to hopefully put yesterday’s loss out of mind quickly and regain the positive vibes that have been so prevalent in the dressing room for the majority of this season.
That said, back-to-backs with travel are never easy on anybody, even the bloggers… I’m up early to write this, and I had a bit of a Saturday night, so the brain isn’t exactly firing on all cylinders. Don’t worry about me, though… I’ll fight through.
Anyway, back to hockey. Today’s contest marks the second of four matchups for the Wild with the hated ’Hawks, who gave Minnesota its first victory of the season back in October in a riveting game that ended with a dazzling Jason Zucker overtime winner. Wild versus Blackhawks is almost always entertaining, so like yesterday’s game (except for the outcome), it should be another fun one to watch.
It’s been a tough season in the Windy City so far. Obviously the biggest news for this squad has been the firing of Joel Quenneville, an 11-year veteran behind Chicago’s bench who brought three Stanley Cups to the organization. It was a fairly shocking move by GM Stan Bowman, who has obviously seen his humongous contract hand-outs to Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and especially Brent Seabrook come back to bite him. The result of the top-heavy salary structure is that the roster construction just isn’t anything close to what it once was. But as they say, it’s always easier to fire the coach than it is to fire the whole team, and I guess that even applies when the coach is one of the best of all time.
What was perhaps even more shocking than the firing was the decision to replace a beloved icon in Coach Q with Jeremy Colliton, the now youngest coach in the league, and one who entered with zero NHL coaching experience. Colliton is a legend in Sweden and did do a great job with the Rockford IceHogs in his one season there before being promoted to the big club, but man this is a tough hill for this guy to climb. So far, the change behind the bench hasn’t given the desired spark, as Chicago has gone 1-2-2 in Colliton’s first five games.
On the ice, the biggest problem for Chicago has become a pretty serious lack of depth. Outside of Toews, Kane, and Alex DeBrincat, there just aren’t many goals to be had for this club, which is 26th in the league in goals for per game. And on the backend, things haven’t been any better, as Chicago has fallen to 28th in goals against per game. One would have to think that now that Corey Crawford is finally healthy for the first time since December, 2017, the defensive woes will calm down a bit, but he predictably hasn’t been his dominant self just yet either.
Oh, how the mighty have fallen. The Blackhawks are in sixth place in the Central Division at 7-8-5.
Let’s talk about the Dumb-bomb for a moment, shall we? There are few things more enjoyable to watch on the Wild than when Matt Dumba fires his laser beam of a shot and it finds the top corner of the net. He did it yesterday, and it was beautiful.
Look at that! It’s like the puck is on a string from his stick blade to the top corner! With 8 markers on the year, Dumba is second in the NHL among defensemen for goals behind only Morgan Rielly. I’d like to see him blast away a lot today.
Alex Stalock is expected to get the start between the pipes, with the team on the second of back-to-backs for the fourth time this season. Surprisingly, the Wild are 3-0-0 in such games, having beaten Tampa Bay, Edmonton, and Anaheim after playing the previous night. Stalock had a huge hand in all three of those victories, so hopefully we’ll get a little more second of back-to-backs magic from him tonight.
The Wild should aim to keep Chicago off the power play today, just because I really can’t stand when the United Center PA announcer says “the result is another Blackhawks POWER PLAY” in a really weird deep voice. I would argue, in fact, that it’s close to being as bad as the “Xcel Energy POWER PLAY… POWER Play… Power Play… power play.” Oh, and I also really hate Chelsea Daggers, so if we could just go for no goals against and no penalties, that’d be swell. Ok, thanks!
The Wild remain healthy (knock on wood!).
For the Blackhawks, Connor Murphy is on IR with a back injury, and is still weeks away from returning, according to Rotoworld.
The Gamethread will post at 4:30PM Central. Here are the projected lineups, thanks to DailyFaceoff.com.