Minnesota became a victim of the dreaded six-day break last week, falling behind the Avs 4-1 two periods into the season before scoring four goals in a 5:07 span in the third behind a Zach Parise "Zach-trick" to pull off yet another Pepsi Center upset. Still, newly signed netminder Devan Dubnyk was less than thrilled with his play and vowed to be better in Saturday's home opener. He was - stopping 30 of 32 shots for a .938 save percentage as the team in front of him netted two second period goals in just 21 seconds due to Parise's fourth and a strong two-goal effort from ChAHlie "Chowdah" Coyle. St. Louis' Vladimir Tarasenko would shorten the Wild's lead to one in the third, but his team would leave St. Paul singing the Blues.
They weren't pretty, but four points in two games is, well, four points in two games and, with another four-day break upon us, every point is crucial in the brutal Central Division.
This Week's Schedule
Thursday, October 15th - Minnesota Wild @ Arizona Coyotes 9:00 PM CT (FS-N, FS-WI)
Friday, October 16th - Minnesota Wild @ Los Angeles Kings 9:30 PM CT (FS-N, FS-WI)
Sunday, October 18th - Minnesota Wild @ Anaheim Ducks 7:00 PM CT (FS-N, FS-WI, NHLN-US)
Game of the Week
The Kings will be highly motivated to prove last season's late season breakdown was just a fluke. Can they be the next franchise to win three Stanley Cups in five seasons? Arizona has already been written off as a mess by most, but goalie Mike Smith has shown signs of life, Oliver Ekman-Larsson is still a premier NHL defenseman (and he's not even in his prime yet) and rookie Max Domi looks like he'll be a player. However, let's face it, the three-time Pacific champs in Disney-town are the West's team to beat, at least as far as the regular season goes.
Ryan Getzlaf, Corey Perry, Ryan Kesler, Carl Hagelin and Chris Stewart up front, Cam Fowler, Sami Vatanen, Hampus Lindholm and Kevin Bieksa on the back end and Frederik Andersen in goal - this team is stacked and primed for another deep postseason run. Plus, they always seem to beat Minnesota by one goal. Oh yeah, it's on.
Key Player of the Week
The Wild have defense, goaltending and a pretty deep forward corps. Perhaps the only thing holding the team back from elite status is a scoring top line pivot. If any of the team's youngsters can rise to that level, it's Mikael Granlund.
A highly touted player for nearly all his playing life, Granlund has managed to survive and even do fairly well at the sport's highest level. However, he hasn't been great, and the reason for that is by no means his unearthly ability to distribute the puck - he struggles as a scorer. Through two games this season, "Grandalf" has three assists and a plus-3 rating while centering Jason Pominville and Parise, and playing top minutes on Andrew Brunette's No. 1 power play unit. It's not bad at all, but, for a guy that was supposedly working on his shot all off-season, he has just two shots on net and zero biscuits in the basket.
Granny can bless Parise and Pommer with brilliant feeds all he wants, but the latter whiffs a high percentage of the time and Captain America isn't going to score on every shot he takes. Even if he scored 50 assists, eight goals a season from Granlund still isn't going to cut mustard for head coach Mike Yeo and the Wild fan base. We need more. We need the overtime hero of Game Three of the 2014 Western Conference Quarterfinals. There's no question the supremely talented Finn can still elevate his game. Now is the time to prove it.
Key Opponent of the Week
After finishing his rookie season with 13 goals, 21 points and a negative-19 rating in 72 games in 2014-15, former Edmonton Oilers draft pick Tobias Rieder leads all Coyotes, Kings and Ducks with two goals, three points, a plus-3 rating and six shots in two games. He's still just a sophomore, but keep your eyes on the former 2011 fourth round pick when Minnesota takes on Arizona Thursday night.