Did you take a look at the standings today? If not, take a look at the Northwest Division and let us know what you think. Yup, the Minnesota Wild are in first and if you can figure out how they’re doing it, we’ll try to spell it out.
Goaltending is the main thing making it happen for the Wild. Both Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding have been lights out this season. Backstrom’s been the “worst” of the two and that’s because he’s barely allowing more than two goals a game and stopping just 93% of the shots he’s facing. Harding has been incredible with his numbers in the goaltending stratosphere.
Offensively the Wild are average. Matt Cullen has been on a tear of late and leads the team in goals with eight. Dany Heatley is helping out all-around while Pierre-Marc Bouchard and Mikko Koivu are taking the playmaking thing literally as both guys have nine assists and just one goal. Devin Setoguchi and Kyle Brodziak are also doing their part chipping in goals as well. Nothing mind blowing, just enough.
If you thought there weren’t enough marquee names there, just check out the defense. Clayton Stoner, Justin Falk, Jared Spurgeon, Nick Schultz, Nate Prosser? The one name is Marek Zidlicky and he’s known more for his offense than defense and he might be out of action for a bit with a concussion. If ever there was a team able to steal the “No Name Defense” nickname from the 1970s Miami Dolphins, this is it.
Who are these guys?
Somehow it’s all working right for coach Mike Yeo. Sure, things may not stay this way all season for Minnesota, but for now the wins are coming and they’re enjoying the ride. If Yeo can get them to the playoffs though, he’ll become a hero in the Twin Cities.
This summer looks like it could be one of changes for the Detroit Red Wings, even beyond the most obvious storyline of Pavel Datsyuk‘s future.
One area where the Red Wings would like to make some tweaks is in net, namely in trading Jimmy Howard. The Detroit Free-Press points out that GM Ken Holland admitted that moving the former franchise netminder “might be good for the organization.”
It’s reasonable to wonder what kind of market there will be for Howard, whose deal ($5.29 million cap hit through 2018-19) looks pretty tough to stomach on paper.
Maybe it’s best to consider the Red Wings’ options if Howard starts the 2016-17 season off on a strong note, or something of that nature. Perhaps an expansion draft could “solve” that problem if Detroit cannot find any takers?
The Red Wings remain forward-thinking and patient, which likely explains why the Free-Press focuses on their confidence with prospect Jared Coreau.
“In the big scheme of things, he’ll play in Grand Rapids for another year, but now we know he can play a lot of minutes if needed,” Goalie coach Jeff Salajko said. “Jimmy Howard played four years in the minors. We’re not rushing Jared, but he is going to be an NHL goalie, there is no doubt in my mind about that.”
In other words, a pairing of Petr Mrazek and Coreau wouldn’t just be a cost-effective duo … it might just be the Red Wings’ ideal scenario in the not-too-distant future.
From the NHL:
Pretty veteran crew, including three returnees from last year’s final.
Per the NHL, O’Halloran and O’Rourke will call tonight’s series opener from Consol.
PITTSBURGH — When Pete DeBoer was hired to coach the San Jose Sharks, he wasn’t totally cognizant of how much heartbreak the fan base had experienced throughout the years.
Now he knows.
“First year in the community, I didn’t realize kind of the baggage that was carried around,” DeBoer said this morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. “Twenty-five-year season-ticket holders coming up to you with tears in their eyes and crying.”
The Sharks, of course, have never been this far in the playoffs. Prior to this year, they’d made it three times to the Western Conference Final, losing each time.
More painful were the first-round exits. Like in 2009 when they won the Presidents’ Trophy and got knocked out by the Ducks, and two years ago when they led the Kings 3-0 before dropping four straight.
It was only after the Sharks beat the Blues that DeBoer fully realized the “gravity of what they’ve been through” as fans in San Jose, and “how important this is to them.”
Not that he’s satisfied with getting this far.
“The business at hand now is to get off on the right foot, plant the right seeds for this series, impose our game,” he said. “Every series is the same — it’s whatever team can impose their game on the other team the quickest and for the longest. That’s our goal here tonight.”
Related: For Pete DeBoer, San Jose was the perfect landing spot
Los Angeles Kings center Anze Kopitar will spend part of his offseason trying to help Slovenia qualify for the Olympics.
RTV Slovenia has the story here.
The qualification games will be played September 1-4 in Minsk. Slovenia is in a group with Belarus, Denmark and Poland. The winner of the group will qualify for the Olympics.
The NHL reportedly has no issue with Kopitar’s participation, even though the league has yet to commit to sending its players to Pyeongchang.
Slovenia made its Olympic debut in ice hockey at the 2014 Games in Sochi.
Kopitar will also represent Team Europe at the 2016 World Cup later in September.
Related: Slovenia beats Slovakia for historic win