It’s been a long two days, but the Minnesota Wild are back in action tonight as they continue their Canadian road trip and face the Ottawa Senators.
Wild at Senators
When: 6:00 p.m. CT
Where: Canadian Tire Centre
TV: BSN, BSWI, TSN5
Radio: KFAN 100.3 FM
Our Wild have not started out the season too hot, but they got their second win after comfortably beating the Montreal Canadiens earlier this week. It wasn’t the most electrifying game that was full of highlights and stars shining, but it was just a simple, clean victory that gave us a little bit more confidence about this team heading forward.
Unfortunately, that feel-good might be ending early as the Senators are on their own four-game win streak and decimating any opponent that stands in their way. They are on an ungodly tear offensively right now — beating the Boston Bruins with seven goals scored, scoring five against the Washington Capitals, six against the Arizona Coyotes, and then cleanly beating the Dallas Stars by a score of 4-2. It is this ability to score goals at whim, and over good opponents as well, that makes them a scary opponent.
Oh, and the Wild aren’t doing so well defensively, so this might just not work out. At least they somewhat figured out the lineup thing, for now.
Projected Wild lineup:
Kirill Kaprizov — Frederick Gaudreau — Mats Zuccarello
Matt Boldy — Marco Rossi — Marcus Foligno
Brandon Duhaime — Joel Eriksson Ek — Ryan Hartman
Tyson Jost — Sam Steel — Connor Dewar/Mason Shaw
Jake Middleton — Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin — Calen Addison
Jon Merrill — Matt Dumba
After a great performance in Montreal, we assume Marc-Andre Fleury will be in the crease once again and Filip Gustavsson will have to wait to play against his former team.
This lineup debuted and earned the win, so we are assuming again that this will be it going forward, until they suffer a disastrous defeat. Frederick Gaudreau had the time of his life on the top line with the two offensive stars. Marco Rossi and Matt Boldy worked perfectly together and could have scored a couple in Montreal. The grinding third line ran a punishing amount of offense as the fourth line sparked when they needed to spark. The forward make-up just seemed to have worked out, so hopefully this will just keep going.
On the blue line, nothing looked out of sorts. There’s not much to say about a quiet game offensively and just being able to hold back the Canadiens forwards in their debut, but Brodin and Addison looked able to transition the puck well and Merrill and Dumba looked solid.
But who will the Wild face? Well a lineup that just had to lose one of its key pieces.
Projected Senators lineup:
Brady Tkachuk — Tim Stutzle — Drake Batherson
Alex DeBrincat — Derick Brassard — Claude Giroux
Tyler Motte — Shane Pinto — Mathieu Joseph
Parker Kelly — Mark Kastelic — Austin Watson
Thomas Chabot — Artem Zub
Jake Sanderson — Travis Hamonic
Erik Brannstrom — Nick Holden
Anton Forsberg will most likely be in between the pipes for Ottawa tonight.
Josh Norris is out long-term with an injury and this will be the first game the Senators play since his long-term absence has been announced, but they did manage to beat the Stars without their top center. While it’s a drop-off in pure talent, Tim Stutzle should be able to be a more than adequate replacement on that top line, and Derick Brassard and the red-hot rookie Shane Pinto can provide enough stability down the middle for the very good wingers to go off.
That top-six forward group is dangerous, so it will be up to Wild head coach Dean Evason to try and get some matchups against the Joel Eriksson Ek line and suffocate their scoring chances as the other lines get better opportunities against the depth and not-so-good defensive players.
The Senators’ top pairing will approach 25 minutes tonight, but after that, the Wild should have their way offensively with those other four defensemen on the ice. Not saying that they are bad — and they are generally good offensively — but if they get worked with Minnesota’s cycle play, it can be their demise.
There is a certain way to go about this game, and be wary of the Senators’ firepower, but this should be a fun game no matter what. Puck drop is at 6:00 p.m.
Can we see some production from Matt and Marco?
Last game was great, seeing them scoot around the ice together and set up one another for scoring chances. All it was missing was a goal or two. So, let’s please see some of that tonight, just to stabilize this line and make sure that Evason can’t split these two young stars up.
Maybe this will give him a boost, but Marco Rossi will be returning to the city where he played junior hockey and broke a bunch of records.
Will the special teams’ performance continue?
Tuesday’s game against the Canadiens was the first time this season that the Wild did not score on the power play, but it was also the game with the least time on the man advantage. On the flip side, the Wild have allowed just five goals while shorthanded, making them not the worst penalty-killing team in the league, but just average. Can this decent performance from both sides of their special teams continue?
The defensive effort needs to continue against better opponents. Can the Wild keep it under three?
It would be a significant statement game if Minnesota can hold back Ottawa’s red-hot offense to under three goals, but that is the kind of defensive effort this team needs to get some confidence back in their signature style of play. It might be a far-fetched ask, but we just want it so bad.