The Minnesota Wild hadn't seen the Chicago Blackhawks since the 2019-20 season. Tonight they take on Montreal Canadiens, yet another squad they haven't seen since Mikko Koivu was the captain on this team. It's only a couple of seasons, but it feels like a lifetime ago for both squads.
We've seen the emergence of a new team and a new regime here in Minnesota, while the Canadiens have seen a Cinderella trip to the Stanley Cup Finals, only to turn back into a pumpkin this season.
Scratch that. What's worse than a pumpkin? A decorative gourd? One of those little mini-pumpkins that exist around Halloween?
Whatever the lowest denomination of squash is, that's the Montreal Canadiens—ranked dead last in offense averaging 2.18 GF/GP, more than a goal and a half behind the Wild at 3.70 GF/GP. The defense is 31st in the league with 3.65 GA/GP, while they concede shot attempts with the worst of them at a 46.7 CF%. Their 44.41 xGF% is third-worst, ahead of only the Arizona Coyotes and the Buffalo Sabres. Their powerplay is 31st in the league at 13.3%, and their penalty kill is 30th, clicking at 73%.
Give me one more moment to keep piling on, as personnel-wise; things are a trash-fire as well.
Their prized draft pick, Cole Caulfield, was considered a shoo-in for the Calder Trophy after a strong showing in the playoffs. Instead, he's got eight points in 29 games and has shuffled between the NHL and the AHL all season. Marc Bergevin — hoisted upon his own petard after drafting Logan Mailloux (a player who justifiably asked not to be) — is no longer with the team.
The team is dead last with an 8-25-7 record, and their third-leading goal scorer is Wild legend Rem Pitlick.
The Wild are punching down tonight.
Kirill Kaprizov, Mats Zuccarello and Kevin Fiala will all look to continue their eight-game point streaks tonight. Zuccarello is especially on fire of late, with ten points in the last five games.
There is no word on who will be between the pipes for the Wild yet, but maybe we will get a Cam Talbot sighting? Kaapo Kähkönen has been red-hot in January — 5-0-1 with a .938 Sv% and 2.19 GAA — but deserves a night off after his stellar performances in the wins over Chicago. Ultimately, it doesn't matter who's in net. If the Wild were to pull a now ancient Manny Fernandez out of retirement and strap the ol' Itech goalie pads on him, he'd likely have a good night against this offense.
Puck drops at a reasonable 7:00 p.m. tonight.
See you in the comments.
Kevin, Kirill, Mats. Can they keep it going?
They keep rolling. In January, Zuccarello leads the NHL in points per game. Kaprizov has five goals and 11 points in his last six games. Fiala has shown amazing chemistry with Matt Boldy and is piling up points. This is a weak opponent, ripe for the picking.
Will we get a Matt Boldy breakout game?
Not to besmirch his already strong start — two goals and two assists in six games — but we haven't seen the flashes of dominance we think he has in him. Can Fiala, Frederick Gaudreau and Boldy be the best line on the ice for the Wild? That's what we want to see.
Can the Wild special teams excel against this inept squad?
We are all very used to the powerplay struggles for the Wild. But the penalty-kill is only mediocre; ranked 16th in the league at 79.7%. Montreal's special teams are fragile. Can they take advantage of that?