Noon Number (October 14th): 6

Hannah Foslien

Shake off those Monday blues with a Noon Number that features genuine optimism regarding your Minnesota Wild. A rare thing indeed.

Remember all that stuff about how the Wild were playing amazing hockey at even-strength and didn't need to change a thing because the wins would come once their percentages started to even-out? We saw some evidence of that on Saturday night when the floogates opened against the Stars and the Wild scored 5, improving their Sh% and bringing it a little bit closer to league average.

As I sit and write this on Sunday afternoon, the Wild are currently leading the league in Corsi and are second only to the Sharks in Fenwick. The Sharks also have ridiculously high shooting and save percentages at ES, totaling a PDO of 1101, that are surely unsustainable, even for a team with their level of talent. I would expect them to come crashing back to Earth sometime soon. After an unlucky start, the Wild's PDO has moved to 1017, mostly due to their incredibly high ES Sv% in the last few games. The team ES shooting percentage is still a bit low and should continue to improve.

So the Wild look like they mean business right now and are playing some phenomenal hockey, passing both the eye-test and the numbers test.

They are about to embark on a road trip with 4 games against teams from the Flortheast division. I'm really excited about this because: A) We haven't got a chance to see teams from the East in a long time, B) I've been following the situations in Florida and Toronto very closely this offseason and look forward to seeing how they stack-up against the Wild, and C) The Wild have a very good chance to come away with all of the spoils.

My Noon Number for today is "6", which is the minimum number of points I expect the Wild to come home with after these 4 games. I'll show you why I expect so much with some analysis of the upcoming opposition.

-The following chart shows how the Wild and each of their next 4 opponents have performed in terms of the league table, at home (on the road for the Wild), at 5v5, at 5v5 Close and on special teams. The chart shows their numbers and also where they rank league-wide:

WILD

SABRES

LEAFS

LIGHTNING

PANTHERS

LEAGUE POSITION

15th

30th

3rd

14th

24th

HOME RECORD

0-1-0 (Road)

0-2-1

2-1-0

1-1-0

1-1-0

PP%

30.4%

5th

9.5%

28th

29.2

6th

31.6%

3rd

11.1%

25th

PK%

66.7%

28th

90.0%

5th

90.9%

2nd

68.2%

26th

85.7%

7th

5v5

WILD

SABRES

LEAFS

LIGHTNING

PANTHERS

GF%

70.0%

5th

26.7%

29th

50.0%

16th

64.3%

7th

33.3%

27th

CF%

60.8%

1st

42.3%

29th

46.9%

23rd

48.9%

19th

44.2%

28th

FF%

61.7%

2nd

40.7%

29th

45.3%

26th

46.3%

24th

46.1%

24th

SF%

65.8%

1st

42.7%

27th

45.4%

25th

48.7%

18th

46.1

22nd

Sh%

5.8%

23rd

3.3%

29th

9.3%

9th

9.9%

5th

7.3%

15th

Sv%

95.2%

5th

93.6%

14th

92.3%

20th

94.8%

9th

87.5%

29th

PDO

101.0

13th

96.6

25th

101.6

9th

104.7

6th

94.8

28th

5v5 CLOSE

WILD

SABRES

LEAFS

LIGHTNING

PANTHERS

GF%

71.4%

5th

9.1%

30th

45.0%

19th

66.7%

9th

28.6%

26th

CF%

60.9%

1st

38.9%

30th

46.9%

25th

49.8%

15th

42.3%

27th

FF%

62.9%

2nd

39.55

29th

45.3%

26th

47.3%

19th

44.4%

25th

SF%

66.7%

2nd

41.5%

28th

45.4%

24th

51.2%

13th

43.2%

27th

Sh%

7.6%

18th

1.4%

30th

9.2%

12th

9.5%

8th

6.3%

22nd

Sv%

93.9%

9th

90.3%

22nd

90.7%

21st

95.0%

8th

88.0%

28th

PDO

101.5

12th

91.7

28th

99.9

15th

104.5

6th

94.3%

26th

  • As you can see from the chart above, the Wild have been an excellent puck possession team, but have had some bad luck in terms of Sh%. The PK has also been fairly lackluster. They have performed extremely well at 5v5 in Close situations.
  • The Sabres have been the exact opposite, getting creamed in all situations besides the PK. They are truly, truly awful and are in for a rough year. Their low PDO suggests they have experienced bad luck in terms of Sh% and Sv%, so they should improve a bit, but their lack of talent across all positions likely means that they will struggle to be league average in either category.
  • The Leafs are a strange one. They have been a pretty poor possession team, but have a low PDO and yet somehow have been winning. The most likely reason is their elite special teams, which are possibly overachieving at this early stage. They have gotten off to a great start in the league, but there's no way they can keep this up if they continue to be out-possessed by other teams.
  • The Lightning have been a bad puck possession team but have had a lot of luck, as you can see by their high PDO. Their ridiculously high Sh% will definitely regress, though will probably remain just above league average purely because of the elite shooters they possess on their roster. Their goaltending is fairly unproven so I suspect they will regress fairly hard. They have an excellent powerplay, which is unsurprising considering their offensive talent.
  • The Panthers are suffering from an extreme lack of talent and experience across all positions. They are much like the Sabres in that they are getting heavily outplayed in all aspects of the game besides the PK. Their low PDO suggests their percentages will progress back towards the mean, but I suspect they will stay below league average purely because their talent level is so far below most of the league.

So the Sabres and Panthers are downright awful, the Lightning are okay but overachieving and the Leafs probably aren't as good as their league position suggests. All 4 teams have been beaten in regulation at home at least once already this year. I know no game is a given and there are no easy wins in the NHL, but with the level of hockey the Wild are playing right now, this is the perfect chance to expel their road demons from previous years and send a message around the league that they are going to be a tough team to deal with.

As you may have noticed, I've been pretty belligerent about how good I think this Wild team is, and with good reason. For the first time in quite a while, the Wild are being talked about by other fans in a positive light and as a genuine contender rather than just some lucky underdog. A lot of fans need to see the results of all the good play in the standings before they accept the quality of the team, so this run of road games will be a good chance for the team to climb up the standings. If they can continue to put-up the strong underlying numbers that they have so far, then they have every chance to come away from this road trip with 6-8 points out of the 8 available. If they do that, then I'm all-in on this team and I think everyone else should be too because they could be on to something special.

I feel like 20 games is the point where I will completely stop worrying about the underlying numbers being unsustainable and just enjoy the ride, but success on this road test is gonna have me feeling a lot more comfortable. It begins tonight in Buffalo.

Follow me on Twitter for more hockey ramblings and don't forget to leave your own opinion in the comments section.

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