The last time the Minnesota Wild and the Philadelphia Flyers faced off, it was (sort of) the beginning of the end of the Wild’s long losing streak — Minnesota went on to lose a few more games before the win streak they’re currently on — but it was a much needed confidence booster after an ugly February. Hopefully, the Wild will keep up the momentum and beat them for their second meeting this season.
Speaking of momentum, Minnesota is on a pretty long, successful homestand with a 6-1-0 record, three of which have been consecutive overtime victories – if the game tonight gets taken to overtime as well the Wild will become the first team in NHL history to win four consecutive games in overtime. As exciting as all these wins have been — seriously, the Wild have been playing fun hockey and stacking the hockey-related trivia deck in my favor is a nice perk too — I’d rather they’d just win soundly in regulation. They’re also the only team to be on a third winning stretch of 6 games or more this season.
Philadelphia has not been quite as successful, having lost their last two. They’re in 7th place in the Metropolitan Division. They’re without franchise-legend Claude Giroux and seem to be more in building for next season mode rather than playing for playoff contention as they’re 31 points behind the Capitals who are in the Eastern Conference’s second wildcard slot. However, they still took the Wild to a high scoring game of 5-4 on March 3, and we shouldn’t just expect them to slack off. But let’s be real, the Wild are better and should win.
Other fun things to note: it’s Pride Night!!!! This is Minnesota’s first ever official Pride Night. Proceeds made tonight through their special ticket package and money made through auctioned off pride jerseys will go to Twin Cities Pride and Children’s Minnesota Gender Health Program. Pride Nights and other nights honoring folks from different backgrounds and identities are becoming more commonplace in the NHL. From my perspective, nights like these are a really great first step for teams and the league to acknowledge that they do have fans from a number of communities and they want to welcome them to a space that hasn’t historically felt at its face like it’s made for them. From Matt Dumba, “...We want (the rink) to be a safe environment for everyone...sex, race religion, gender. Hockey is such a great sport ...we don’t want to leave anyone out of that.” (I also think it’s important to note that tonight’s game is occurring at a time in the US when anti-LGBTQIA+ legislation is on the upswing. Any moment that reminds LGBT folks that we’re loved and welcome is massively important right now.)
Also: Alex Goligoski will be the odd-man out in the three-man rotating bottom pairing, this is his second scratch and means he won’t get to his 1,000th game this season in a Wild sweater.
Kaprizov - Hartman - Zuccarello
Boldy - Gaudreau - Fiala
Greenway - Eriksson Ek - Foligno
Duhaime - Jost - Deslauriers
Middleton - Spurgeon
Brodin - Dumba
Merrill - Kulikov
In net: Fleury
See you for puck drop at 7:00!
How’s the goalie tandem holding up? (GOALIE CONTROVERSY IN THE STATE OF MINNESOTA!!!!! ~*~NOT CLICKBAIT~*~)
I’m being a little facetious, obviously. While Cam Talbot has been red hot and received NHL’s first star of the week, he’s been receiving the lion’s share of starts. Tonight, however, we’ll get to see Marc-Andre Fleury get his second start in a Wild sweater after helping bring Minnesota to a victory Saturday against Columbus. This means we’ll likely see Talbot start on Thursday against Pittsburgh. Honestly, I’m alright with Dean and Co. riding Cam while he’s hot against the tougher teams. I don’t really think that indicates a lack of faith in Fleury, and I’ve said it once I’ll say it a hundred times, having a goalie tandem where both guys are playing great and one of which is the reigning Vezina winner is a very very good thing. Let’s see Fleury get a shut-out tonight or something. Bring your bouquets.
How’s the Middleton-Spurgeon chemistry lookin’?
We’ve already made the case for why Middleton is an obvious partner for Spurgeon. Middleton can sure seem to just pick guys up and move them out of the crease. And despite a not-great first outing against the Canucks, I think we’re beginning to see some developing chemistry between new defensive pairing Jake Middleton and Jared Spurgeon. There are ways in which it may take a tiny bit longer for defensive pairings to find their chemistry than a new addition on a forward line and I think they’re finding their footing together relatively quickly. I’d like to keep an eye on these two and see just how much more of a fit Midds is here than Goligoski had been before his demotion. (Sorry, Goose.)