Gameday Preview: Minnesota


EDMONTON, CANADA - OCTOBER 21: Eric Nystrom  of the Minnesota Wild skates against the Edmonton Oilers on October 21, 2010 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. (Photo by Dale MacMillan/Getty Images)

The Flames head to St. Paul this evening, with the faint echo of a displeased fan base likely still in their heads. Tonight, they face a club that has kept their head above water almost exclusively via their work when a man to the good.

The Wild have started the season 5-4-2 to this point, which is certainly an improvement from last year’s opening month. Minnesota was dead by the start of November in 09/10, with a staggering offense and shaky goaltending foreshadowing the struggles for the remainder of the year.

This season’s Wild aren’t great by any means, and whatever they’ve been able to muster on the scoresheet hasn’t been 5v5. They generate the fewest shots/60 in the league at 23.1, en route to scoring only 1.6G/60. That hasn’t escaped the attention of Todd Richards, as he advised the press yesterday that the club’s inability to generate offense 5v5 was concerning him.

Richards has made an interesting choice with his matchups thus far, sending Madden and Nystrom out for difficult ZoneStarts against top-sixers on a regular basis. They’re suffering through a few bad bounces, but the duo is still getting badly out-shot at evens as the Wild try to get Martin Havlat and Matt Cullen easier competition. Despite the nice words from Kent Youngblood in the Star-Tribune, any team that is leaning on Eric Nystrom to manage in a long term shut-down role is asking for trouble, IMO, but that’s the move that Minny has made for now.


ST PAUL, MN - OCTOBER 16: Andrew Brunette  of the Minnesota Wild is pursued by Rostislav Klesla  of the Columbus Blue Jackets for the puck during the third period at Xcel Energy Center on October 16, 2010 in St Paul, Minnesota. The Blue Jackets defeated the Wild 3-2. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Minnesota still leans pretty heavily on Mikko Koivu and Andrew Brunette, and Koivu is off to a good start, albeit one boosted by a 107ish PDO. His line still does all right for themselves, though, and at EV they and the Cullen/Havlat pair are the ones to watch, at least until Pierre-Marc Bouchard returns from his year long battle with post-concussion syndrome.

Of course, the main reason that Minnesota isn’t wallowing around with the Oilers at the bottom of the conference is the PP. The Wild have 13 goals at 5v5, and 13 goals when up a man. To be blunt, that won’t last very much longer. They’ve converted 26.9% of their opportunities, shooting over 20% along the way, and while the Wild have had a good PP for many years and I have plenty of time for Brunette, Koivu and a few other forwards on that team, they aren’t the Capitals. There’s good reason for Richards to want his team to pick up the pace 5v5, in other words.


ST PAUL, MN - OCTOBER 16: Goaltender Niklas Backstrom  of the Minnesota Wild lets the puck get by him on a goal by Derek MacKenzie (not pictured) of the Columbus Blue Jackets during the second period at Xcel Energy Center on October 16, 2010 in St Paul, Minnesota. The Blue Jackets defeated the Wild 3-2. (Photo by Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Niklas Backstrom’s good start has also kept the Wild afloat, as he’s currently batting .957 at EV. He’s good, and I expected him to rebound from his terrible 09/10, but that’s Hasek+ performance at evens, so again, the Wild will have to begin producing more chances 5v5 to mitigate Backstrom’s inevitable regression to normalcy.

Game-wise, the Wild are beat up, with Miettenen and Latendresse likely on the shelf, while Zidlicky and Kobesew are iffy. The Flames need to play as much of this game 5v5 as possible, not just to keep the Wild PP holstered, but to wear down a thin club. Oh, and Jarome Iginla and company are likely to face a line with Nystrom and Casey Wellman on it. If they can’t trounce that sort of competition, well…

Update: as per Millions, it looks like Zidlicky is a go for the Wild.

  • everton fc

    Brent seems to have issues with Glencross. In terms of consistency.

    Yet… other than the odd bad penalty, or two… he’s played pretty consistent, from this fan’s vantage-point.

    Staois?!? I still wish Brodie were here. As our #6 d-man. Heck, maybe he’d be up the chart if they kept him here?

  • BobB

    My two co-workers have decided to not even bother watching the Flames game tonight because they are “tired” of watching the team lose.

    My roommate KNOWS the Oilers will get crushed every night. Still… when I get home he is walking around in that damn Hall jersey getting ready to cheer.

    When I bug him and say his team sucks, he says, “yup… and I love ’em”. It pisses me off that him and his friends are SO loyal when they are expecting another first overall pick…

    What are our expectations for this team? Do you really think the Flames will win the cup? Is another first round loss ok with the City? Maybe it’s just time to re-think the whole strategy and make some trades while players have value. Iggy at 60 points and $7 million is a tough sell.

    • I was on the’s podcast recently. The hosts asked me what it was like being a Flames fan right now. I said it’s sort of like existing in a “nebulous purgatory” because we can’t reasonably expect them to be great or terrible nor that anything will be changing any time soon.

      • jbeach403

        I heard that podcast, you were good on that btw. As far as how I feel about the flames right now I think I’m beyond even hoping for a win- I’m hoping for a firing. I just cannot see the flames being a consistantly competitive team with the decisions the coach and gm are making, the siting glennie in favor of argueably the worst player on a long list of bad players darryl has ever aquired being a prime example. Will I still watch every game I can? Absolutely. I’ll even still pay for tickets, because I love the team. I just hope that Ken King, or even his bosses for that matter as I’m not exactly thrilled with Kings recod of late either, doesnt take that loyalty and similar loyalty from other fans as a sign of contentment.

    • So is this supposed to be a stinging endictment of the Flames, your coworkers, or your roomate?

      I understand your frustration but really? Who in these parts or any parts for that matter have predicted a Stanley Cup for the Flames? Things are looking up in Dumpsville but the last time I checked having 3 rookies wasn’t a guarantee for winning the Stanley cup either.

      Your trade comments don’t make sense. Stating Iggy at 60 points for $7 million is tough sell but calling for trades while people still have value? Bourque, Gio, Kipper, is that more in line with who you want to move. I’m sure a bunch of teams wouldn’t mind taking Glencross at his current ticket for what he is providing.

      • Maybe you’re right. We will never know if Edmonton will turn things around.

        One thing for sure if they are taking steps in the right direction. The Flames CAN’T even make changes with all the no movement/trade clauses.

        They are stuck with this team for another 2-3 year AND THEN they will have the three rookies and another 3-4 years out of the play offs.

        If they move glencross they are retarded. Yeah Bourque is playing well – what’s his salary? What’s kipper’s Salary? What’s Bowmeesters or Giordano’s?

        No one in their right mind, with the exception of Kevin Lowe, would take those TERRIBLE TERRIBLE salaries. Gio at $4M per year? Are you kidding me? He has a career high 30 points? Bourque had 60 points. No one will score more than 70 on the flames this year.

        Kind of sad when you have the contracts they do.