The final matchup with the Vegas Golden Knights is here for the Minnesota Wild. The finale of such a heated eight-game regular-season series will have heavy implications on the Wild’s postseason outlook. These final five games will dictate home-ice advantage and possibly — if everything goes according to plan — if the Wild can win the division. But first, the Golden Knights.
Outside of the absolutely thrilling 6-5 comeback win for the Wild on Monday night, the Knights have had been rolling. Mark Stone has been his typical self with six points in the last four games. Jonathan Marchessault, Max Pacioretty, and William Karlsson are all at a point per game or above in that same span. This is the fourth-best offense in the NHL with 3.37 G/GP, and are looking the part. On paper, a track meet wouldn’t look like a path to success against them, but the Wild have had their number most of the year with a 5-2 record. Three of those wins have seen more than seven goals combined scored. When the offenses go toe-to-toe, the Wild have the edge; ask Robin Lehner.
In net, the Knights are likely to trot out Marc-Andre Fleury, this years’ surprising Vezina candidate. He’s rocking a .932 Sv% over his last five starts, a very stingy 1.98 GAA, and a 1.02 GSAA (Goals Saved Above Average). With two key points on the line, look for Dean Evason to put Cam Talbot between the pipes for his 31st start of the season. He was sharp in the game on Monday and will be steady as he has been all season.
There are a few members who are on an absolute tear right now. Kevin Fiala has nine points in his last five(!) games, including four goals. Jared Spurgeon, Nick Bonino, Jonas Brodin, and Our Lord and Savior Kirill Kaprizov —hallowed be thy name — all have a point per game or more in the same span. This offense is looking deadlier than a fully operational Death Star.
Whatever happens tonight, it should be a fun one.
Did we mention these two teams aren’t all unicorns and daisies when they meet?
Puck drops at 7 pm.
Can Kevin Fiala continue his torrid pace?
Leading the Wild with nine points in the last five games, Fiala has more than made up for the games he’s missed. He’s currently sitting at 39 points in 47 games and theoretically could touch a point-per-game by the end of the season if he keeps his current trajectory. When he is going, the Wild offense is a lot more dynamic and threatening, giving them three competent units between his line, the Kaprizov/Mats Zuccarello pair, and the Jordan Greenway/Joel Eriksson Ek/Marcus Foligno trio.
Another no-show by the refs?
Monday’s game was thrilling, which was good news for the referees. If it had been a ho-hum 5-3 loss, there would be countless ink spilled on the surprising amount of calls missed in a spicy 60 minutes. It wasn't good.
The “let the boys play” mentality is well and good, but in a week already marred with controversy for the NHL, maybe the referees can focus less on “game management” and more on just calling the penalties. For both teams.
Can they tighten up that defense?
It was a parade of odd-man rushes for the Vegas Golden Knights on Monday, and thanks to that, they found themselves into a traditionally safe lead going into the final frame (against most hockey teams anyway).
The Wild defense can’t always be playing Russian roulette against opponents, and the simplest route would be to limit the 2-on-1 rushes going against them. Kirill & Co. erased their mistakes, but if they are looking to close out the season series against the Knights on high, the blue line can’t be a free pass for the Knight forwards.
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