It's nice to see Minnesota's goaltenders get goal support these days, am I right? You know what would also be nice? If Minnesota's skaters got some goaltending support. Saturday night's OT loss to the St. Louis Blues was, well, atrocious as far as netminding goes. David Backes had two biscuits that never should have got by Devan Dubnyk. Alexander Steen also managed to put one by Dubnyk, who failed to lock down the stick side post. Granted, the blame can also be placed on a ghastly turnover by Mikko Koivu to Steen in the high slot, but the play by Dubnyk so far this season has been equally bad. Still five of six possible points on the week certainly isn't something to be sneezed at.
Another day, another week - a fresh start. Let's take a look at the week ahead.
This Week's Schedule
Thursday, November 5th vs Nashville Predators 7:00 PM CT (FS-N, FS-WI)
Saturday, November 7th vs Tampa Bay Lightning 7:00 PM CT (FS-N)
Game of the Week
Six of the Central Division's seven teams are within six points of each other just 11 games into the season. We knew going in that it was going to be a battle, but it's turning into an all out war. With four days off and just two games to play this week, Minnesota desperately needs to find a way to beat Nashville. The Preds are currently tied with Minnesota at 16 points, having lost to the not so mighty Ducks of Anaheim on Sunday. If Minnesota wants to make the playoffs, it has to have success within the division, making Thursday night's game the game of the week, no question.
Key Player of the Week
The KapFinn has been on a roll to start the season. With three goals and 11 points in as many games, Mikko Koivu is on track for his best season yet by far. The man with the "C" has finally clicked with line mates not named Andrew Brunette or Antti Miettinen, providing head coach Mike Yeo with a very capable line to fill in for recent lapses from the "Grannyville, PA" line. Both Jason Zucker and Nino Niederreiter have benefited from playing with the Wild's all time leading scorer. Together, the trio has combined for 10 goals, 26 points, a plus-9 rating, four power play points and 70 shots on goal. When averaged out, that's 6.36 shots per game coming from the Captain's line - not spectacular, but certainly a respectable and productive 14.29% shooting percentage.
Nashville and Tampa Bay will be tough opponents. If the Wild are to pull ahead in the standings, they'll need Koivu and his wingers to keep producing. Could this be the start of a career year for the Finn?
Key Opponent of the Week
James Neal leads the Preds with seven goals and 10 points through 11 games played. He's a plus-5 and has managed to already put up three power play goals. Neal is an active shooter, notching 44 shots on goal so far, and he'll figure to be an active member of the Nashville attack along with Mike Ribiero and Filip Forsberg. The former 40-goal scorer is also on track for some of the best puck possession numbers of his career with a 56.5 CF% and 58.2 FF%. When the puck is on his tape, odds are good opposing defenders are in for a tough time.