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  • What We Can Expect Thursday Out of The Wild


    Last season, I didn’t have a lot of confidence whenever I looked at the Wild’s upcoming schedule. From their infamous midseason slump that cost Mike Yeo his job to their 5-25-6 record when giving up the first goal, the Wild seemed to deflate easily and often. Thus, seeing that the Wild play the Penguins next, who outscored the wild 7-4 over two wins last season, would have been groan inducing last season. However, the Wild have felt like a much different team so far this season, and I think we can expect a fun, driven game Thursday because of their record, roster, and coaches.

    I don’t know what other teams’ records were like after giving up the first goal, but since there were 17 teams with fewer losses than the Wild last season, one has to assume that there were quite a few teams with better records in that situation. This season, the Wild have a 3-3 record after giving up the first goal, and before the Wild’s last two games, it was 3-1. A big reason this Wild team feels so different is because they have been able to get back into the game after initial setbacks, which helps build confidence (at least in me if not them) in the idea that the Wild can win any of their upcoming games. Pair this confidence with a two game losing streak and we can expect a fully motivated team going into Thursday’s game.

    Another, more obvious way this Wild team is different is their roster. The fourth line was awful last season. None of the fourth line regulars, which included Ryan Carter, Jarret Stoll, and Chris Porter, were effective depth scorers. The only one of the three to score more than 7 points was Carter with 12. Things weren’t much better for them on the penalty kill, where Porter was one of the Wild’s best shot supressors for the team on the PK, but Carter was midling, and Stoll was the worst. At even strenghth, the trio had the worst Corsi For percentages on the team and were among the very bottom of players in the whole league. Depending on which beat writer you listen to more, the Wild’s current 4th is either Nino Niederreiter - Tyler Graovac - Christoph Bertschy or Jordan Schroeder - Joel Eriksson Ek - Chris Stewart. Ultimately, the Wild are better off than last year with either line as the 4th line. That might not be the ideal bottom 6 lineup going against the most recent Stanley Cup Champions, but we’ve seen all of them play solid offensively and defensively this year. With Dubnyk abiding in net and solid performances from everyone, there’s little reason this lineup, as injured as it may be, can’t get a win this Thursday.

    Perhaps the biggest reasons the Wild haven’t been deflating this season are the teams new coaches. Scott Stevens has been managing and teaching the defenders well so far, and in fact, Ryan Suter’s average time on ice is 26:57, his lowest since signing with the Wild. Matt Dumba has been learning to reign it in under Stevens, which shows as he’s been trusted with much more ice time and the spot next to Suter, and Brodin seems much more willing to jump in offensively than years past. John Anderson has been running the power play, and while it hasn’t scored much yet, the process is clearly better than last year. The coaches haven’t afraid to switch things up or start different units, and at times, the Wild have started to get to the net more on the power play, often thanks to Staal. Then there’s Boudreau. Not only has he been able to help the Wild get back on track during games, but his post-game analysis always seems realistic and insightful. After the game against the Avalanche, Boudreau mentioned that it was the first game where the Wild played a full 60 minutes. With Thursday’s game a few days away, it’s likely that Boudreau is going to further drill into the players’ heads that a full 60 minute effort is needed.

    The Penguins have pretty much started where they left off last season, and while they’ve had a few injuries at the start of the season, they’re pretty healthy right now. They’re second in the Metropolitan Division behind only the Rangers and their crazy goal differential. It won’t be an easy game for the Wild, but as we can see from their record, roster, and coaches, it should be a fun game to watch with a full effort from the Wild.

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