We are kind of stuck and all we can do is hope. The Minnesota Wild — stop me if you’ve heard this before — have given up 14 goals in their first two games of the season and everything appears to be worst case scenario in St. Paul. Besides the stars actually producing, having a wonderful start to the season from Joel Eriksson Ek, Kirill Kaprizov, and Matt Boldy, everything else is in Nightmare Mode.
The defense is (obviously) in shambles, the goaltending is approaching some terrible level of bad, top prospect Marco Rossi is getting just a few minutes of opportunity so far, and oh yeah, they’re facing the reigning Stanley Cup champions, the Colorado Avalanche, tonight.
While the season is certainly still young and there are loads of opportunities to get upset at what the Wild are doing with their roster and who is playing with who, it still all feels a little funky and starting off with two disastrous losses isn’t great.
Well, at least we have an idea that Minnesota is deciding to switch it up a little bit.
Projected Wild lineup
Kirill Kaprizov — Tyson Jost — Mats Zuccarello
Ryan Hartman — Joel Eriksson Ek — Marcus Foligno
Matt Boldy — Sam Steel — Frederick Gaudreau
Mason Shaw — Connor Dewar — Brandon Duhaime
Jake Middleton — Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin — Matt Dumba
Alex Goligoski — Calen Addison
We wrote this lineup down according to this Michael Russo tweet, but during practice this morning, Zuccarello apparently suffered a slight knock, so we truly have no idea who is playing tonight. If Zuccarello is out, Rossi will come back in after being reported as a healthy scratch earlier today, but if he can play, the Wild’s top prospect will remain out of the lineup.
Either way, we will be seeing Tyson Jost take an opportunity with the top line, and Ryan Hartman demoted down to the hard-checking two-way trio.
On the blueline, stuff remains the same and in between the pipes, Filip Gustavsson is getting the start against the Avalanche after Marc-Andre Fleury looked like an entire mess.
We won’t know until closer to puck drop exactly who the Wild will be dressing tonight, but we at least have some clarity when it comes to the opposition.
Projected Avalanche lineup
Artturi Lehkonen — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen
Evan Rodrigues — Alex Newhook — Valeri Nichushkin
Andrew Cogliano — J.T. Compher — Logan O’Connor
Kurtis MacDermid — Lukas Sedlak — Ben Meyers
Devon Toews — Cale Makar
Samuel Girard — Josh Manson
Bowen Byram — Erik Johnson
While the Avalanche had to shed some top-tier talent after winning the Cup, they still look extremely dangerous on paper. Even without captain Gabriel Landeskog, that top-six can score in bunches and the blue line is still led by the best defenseman in the game and his very good friends.
Just overall a really good team that has been finally rewarded for their efforts — and they’re facing a Minnesota team that is not playing with the most confidence right now.
Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m.
Will the third line produce more?
The combination of Sam Steel, Matt Boldy, and Frederick Gaudreau has certainly worked. They boast insane underlying numbers that show them getting the vast majority of scoring chances when they are on the ice and have looked good. Now, will they produce as some depth offense against a fairly top-heavy Avalanche lineup? Will be interesting to see.
Can the Wild stay out of the box?
The Wild enter tonight ranking ninth in shorthanded time played in the league, and tied for sixth in shorthanded goals allowed. Not a whole lot to be happy about when it comes to the defensive special team, but plainly, if they get into the same pattern of taking penalties too much tonight, they will most likely lose the game. Colorado’s power play is not one to take lightly and with that firepower it can punish Minnesota for slipping up just one little bit.
How will Tyson Jost look at the top of the lineup?
Jost is getting even more of an opportunity than originally thought. After Kevin Fiala’s departure, we penciled-in Jost to be the player that first gets that chance to potentially replace him in that spot, but after just two games playing with Eriksson Ek and Foligno, he’s taking over Hartman’s spot as the top-line center. But how will he handle that? Can he be that teritary offensive contributor like Hartman usually is before Kaprizov has his will with the opposition’s defense? Will be interesting.