There is really a lot to be happy about right now if you're a Minnesota Wild fan. Top two netminders Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper are both playing well, the power play is not nearly as abysmal as it could potentially be, and the vets are stepping up big time. Now it's up to the youngsters to do the same.
The Wild currently sit fourth in the Central Division, occupying the top wild card spot in the West with 17 wins and 40 points in 31 games. Nashville is just two points behind, followed by Colorado with 35. Winnipeg, Calgary and Vancouver are tied with 32 points, Edmonton has 30, while Anaheim occupies the cellar with 29 points. Still, the last place Ducks are just nine points out of a playoff spot with over half the season to go. A lot can happen.
This Week's Schedule
Monday, December 21st - Minnesota Wild vs Dallas Stars 7:00 PM CT (FS-N, FS-WI, TVAS, SNP)
Tuesday, December 22nd - Minnesota Wild vs Montreal Canadiens 7:00 PM CT (NBCSN)
Friday, December 25th - CHRISTMAS!!!!!1!1!1!1! Sorry, just a little bit excited...
Saturday, December 26th - Minnesota Wild vs Pittsburgh Penguins 7:00 PM (FS-N, FS-WI)
Game of the Week
Dallas sits at the top of the league heap with 24 wins and 50 points as of this Sunday afternoon writing, 10 points above Minnesota, but with two extra games played. The two teams have faced off twice already this season, with the Stars pulling out 3-2 and 4-3 OT victories, respectively. Top center Tyler Seguin and wiz kid blue liner John Klingberg have Dallas' OT game-winning goals.
This is "the old team", the franchise that never could win a Cup in Minnesota but quickly did so in Dallas, the team that has historically dominated the Wild, and a Central Division rival Minnesota would dearly love to put in its place. The unveiling of the new Wild/North Stars alumni sweaters will only be the icing on the cake in this classic cage match.
Key Player(s) of the Week
Minnesota's forward captains, team captain Mikko Koivu and assistant captain Zach Parise, are both on significant point streaks going into the week.
KapFinn Koivu has discovered an impressive chemistry with goal scorer Thomas Vanek, collecting four goals, nine points, a plus-5 rating and nine shots on goal in his current four-game streak. He has eight goals and 29 points in 31 games, putting him on pace for 21 goals and 77 points in a full 82-game season if he can keep it up. Spoiler Alert: he won't. Still, the fiery Finn is certainly a pleasure to watch at the moment.
Parise preserved his streak through last week, pushing it to seven games with four goals, 10 points, a plus-2 rating and 33 shots on goal. The Minnesota-born stud is a natural at creating offense for himself and his line mates, but it has also helped that Mikael Granlund has played a more consistent game and Jason Pominville's scoring woes are over.
Still, third line center Charlie Coyle may actually be the club's Star killer. "Chowdah" leads all Wild players with a goal, three points and a plus-2 rating in two games against Dallas this season.
Key Opponent(s) of the Week
I swear, when it comes to Dallas, all I need to do is cut, copy and paste. You know them, you loathe them - Jamie Benn, Seguin and Klingberg. Yeesh. That trio is enough to strike fear into the heart of the most stalwart NHL netminder. BennSegBerg combined for five goals, 13 points and a plus-10 rating in the previous two games between Minnesota and Dallas, and they're practically guaranteed to etch their way onto Monday night's score board, as well.
Benn, Seguin and Klingberg rank 2nd, 3rd and 15th in league point scoring, respectively, combining for 45 goals, 119 points, a plus-42 rating, 15 power play goals, 39 power play points, two shorthanded goals, four shorthanded points, eight game-winning goals, three overtime goals and 303 shots on goal (for a shooting percentage of 14.9 per cent) in 33 games. Got all that? Good. Yes, they are too - very good.
It's a tough match-up to begin with, made all the worse by three of the NHL's elite. Dubnyk, Koivu, Parise, Ryan Suter and Co. will be in for another tough night within the Central Division.