After the Nyquil-On-Ice Experience that was Monday night’s game against the Anaheim Ducks, the Minnesota Wild will be back at it again tonight looking for a way to put some pucks, any pucks, past John Gibson.
After putting up eight goals in two games against the LA Kings, Gibson and the Ducks managed to keep to the Wild off the board entirely in their matchup. This sort of performance is exactly what we expected out of the Ducks — as noted in the in our Division Preview — they’re a flawed team with all-world goalie in net.
No official word yet, but with Cam Talbot starting the first 3 games of the season and coming off of a loss, we can expect to see Kaapo Kähkönen get his first start of the season in net. There’s a good chance he won’t be the only fresh face on the ice either, as Greg Pateryn was shipped off to Colorado yesterday for Ian Cole, in a swap of depth defensemen.
While he isn’t expected to be a huge difference-maker in the lineup, Cole appears to be a clear upgrade over Pateryn with a little digging;
1. Can Head Coach Dean Evason fix the powerplay?
We asked in the preview for Monday night’s match-up against the Ducks if the Wild could finally score their first powerplay goal of the young season. The Wild answered that question handily by going 0-5 in 9:49 of powerplay time. This puts them at a league-worst 0-16 on the powerplay, although still somehow one of six teams to not dent the twine on the man-advantage.
Evason tried some wacky things to get the PP going the other night, including having Dumba, Suter and Brodin on the second unit. Nothing seemed to generate good opportunities, so what’s the next step?
2. Where does Ian Cole fit in on the blueline?
We are expecting Cole to immediately step in on the third pair on either the left or right side. But will he make a big impact to solidify an everyday spot in the lineup? He isn’t exactly filling the biggest shoes, as Pateryn was never really more than a 6th/7th defenceman. But can he make an impact that makes him more than just an afterthought?
3. Can Kähkönen make the case for more starts?
The Cam Talbot experience has been an up and down one so far, even if the season is still in it’s infancy. His .926 SV%/2.27 GAA is impressive, but as seen in the shot chart below from ChartingHockey.ca, Talbot hasn’t faced many high-danger shots from the slot and is actually under-performing by the Goals saved vs xG (expected goals) metric.
Kähkönen was expected to challenge Talbot for more starts at some point and the Wild defense has largely made Talbot’s job an easy one. Perhaps Kähkönen, the reigning AHL Goaltender of the Year, can make enough of an impression to warrant another start.
Puck drops at the Honda Center, Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. CT.