Minnesota Wild faces NHL’s best Nashville Predators
Happy Thursday everyone, and its another Wild game-day as the team travels to Bridgestone Arena to take on the National Hockey League’s best Nashville Predators.
It is a building where only three teams have beaten the Predators in regulation, and has only lost in the extra sessions once for a 26-3-1 record.
Needless to say Minnesota has it’s work cut out for them.
After a disappointing loss to the Oilers on Tuesday night, the Wild must not repeat the same mistake they made and come out flat footed against a team that has four players over 40 points on the year and five players with a plus +20 or better.
This is attributed by Nashville’s ability to control the play and dominate the 5-on-5 game. The Predators are a plus +37 in 5-on-5 goal differential, lead by rookie sensation Filip Forsberg who is currently tied for the team lead of 21 goals on the season with James Neal.
It also helps when you get some scoring from your defenseman. Shea Weber, former defensive partner to Wild defender Ryan Suter has 42 points (14-28=42) on the season and is a plus +22. Compare that to Ryan Suter’s numbers of 30 points (2-28=30) and is a minus -1 on the season.
You can look at almost every statistic in the book and it doesn’t matter whether you score first against the Predators or out-shoot them, this team can beat you in so many ways and they are never out of a game.
One area of opportunity for the Wild is to get special teams involved.
Nashville hasn’t had to rely to heavily on special teams this season, but it could be a chink in the armor that Minnesota can expose. Nashville’s penalty killing isn’t great, but not terrible either. It sits in the middle of the pack of the NHL at 83%, tied for 14th on home ice this season.
Why is this important, you ask? Sure, we all know Minnesota’s power-play is abysmal, especially on the road but its how you get to the power-play that becomes the recipe to beat the best team in the league.
Move your feet, get pucks deep and battle. That’s what Minnesota must do. It cannot afford another slow start like it had on Tuesday, they will get buried badly. However, if you use your speed, be physical, make smart plays and get shots on net you just might force Nashville to take penalties.
This is where the trade to Sean Bergenheim is ultimately shown, he’s a guy that is going to skate hard, is going to battle and is going to go to the dirty areas like in Pekka Rinne’s kitchen.
Speaking of Pekka Rinne, what a season he is having and it sure looks like it is between him and Carey Price of Montreal for the Vezina trophy this year. in 46 appearances, he is 35-8-3, with three shutouts. He has a killer .930 save percentage and a water droplet 2.01 goals against.
Yeah, he’s pretty good but he can be beat.
In year’s past he seems to have the most trouble with traffic in front of the net, so there should be some emphasis on that tonight from Minnesota tonight.
Also look for the Wild to throw pucks on net from just about anywhere, and they should. Minnesota when it has ran up the scoreboard has not necessarily had the flashy tic-tac-toe passing plays, but it has simply thrown pucks towards the crease and had second and third man support around the net to get rebounds or deflections.
Nashville is a fast skating team like the Wild, the key areas tonight will be both blue lines. Efficient breakouts, and limiting turnovers to shut down transition hockey will be crucial.
Did I mention we were in Smashville? Look for a physical game from the Predators to slow down the Wild, and Minnesota must be ready to fire right back and not get pushed around especially in the defensive zone. The Predators are very good at using their physicality to win puck battles and let there dynamic forecheck go to work offensively. Then they throw the puck to many of their hard shooting defenseman and let them rip with screens, and tips out front.
Minnesota can win this game, but it must play to win, and not to lose.
Either way points are priority. Since Tuesday Minnesota has fallen back to ninth, a whole point behind Calgary but remember the Wild have a game in hand. Even if the team loses, if it can come in overtime or a shootout, at least it’s a productive loss. A point is a point.
Bergenheim In, Veilleux out
Despite arriving into Nashville this morning because of flight cancellations, It appears newly acquired forward Sean Bergenheim will make his first appearance and it wont be in a spot you would expect.
Here are the lines that were skating this morning:
It is interesting to think a guy who hasn’t played much is ushered into the top line, so I wouldn’t be surprised if those weren’t adjusted at some point during the night, but conditioning will surly be a factor here.