You hate saying that a game in early January is a “must win” game for anyone, but that’s how it shapes up tonight for the Minnesota Wild.
Coming into tonight’s game against the Sharks (7:30 p.m. ET), the Wild have lost 11 of their last 12 games and have gone from being media darlings on top of the Western Conference to eighth in the conference and hanging on to a playoff spot by a thread. While defense and goaltending was keeping them on the winning side of things, things have cooled off considerably and the Wild’s poor offense is catching up to them.
Guys like Mikko Koivu, Dany Heatley, and Devin Setoguchi haven’t generated the sort of offense the Wild were hoping they would and Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding can only win so many 1-0 or 2-1 games on their own. Having to deal with the Sharks tonight won’t make life any easier.
San Jose comes in as the polar opposite of Minnesota winners of 8 out of their last 10 games. Antti Niemi is playing a special brand of goaltending that’s keeping opponents frustrated to no end all while the offense cruises. Patrick Marleau, Joe Thornton, Joe Pavelski, and Logan Couture are all at it again scoring goals and points in bunches bringing the Sharks to the top of the Pacific Division.
The Sharks might just be playing their best hockey of the year while the Wild are in in a horrible slide. That sounds like a recipe for bad things to happen to the Wild tonight. After a summer that saw these two teams entangled together thanks to three separate trades, their fortunes couldn’t be headed in more opposite directions.
If nothing else, the New Jersey Devils seem like they won’t be the sort of team a contender can essentially mark off as a “W” on their calendars.
The Montreal Canadiens may not be in a position to take opponents lightly with Carey Price on the shelf, but whatever the case may be, they saw their four-game winning streak end in frustrating fashion on Saturday.
After falling behind 2-0, the Devils scrapped their way back into it, eventually riding a John Moore overtime goal to a 3-2 OT win.
If Montreal needs an obvious bright side to look on considering this hiccup, Alex Galchenyuk‘s hot weekend may be a good thing to look at.
Tonight’s loss may smart a bit anyway, however.
If you want to summarize the Capitals – Maple Leafs game in one sentence, you could do worse than:
“Washington is hot as Jonathan Bernier is cold.”
The Caps reeled off a 4-2 win against Toronto on Saturday, giving them five straight wins. They also jumped into first place in the Metropolitan Division today, as they keep climbing while the New York Rangers are experiencing some growing pains.
Again, James Reimer can’t get healthy and back in Toronto’s net too soon:
With this win, Washington is now 17-5-1, leading the Metro by one point with 35 standings points. They also hold a game in hand against the Rangers, and no other Metro team even has 30 right now.
Measuring stick stretch begins
Tonight’s game began a “prove-it” month-and-change for Washington.
This contest began a three-game road trip, and they’ll also play six of seven away from Washington.
It’s pretty rough through the start of 2016, really. The Capitals will only enjoy three home games through Jan. 9.
In other words, the Capitals seem like a convincing East contender, but look out if they remain hot through the next 5-6 weeks.
Yes, there’s a lot of drama surrounding the Pittsburgh Penguins, whether it’s founded on serious problems or merely speculation.
It’s easy to get swept up in all of that and ignore the fact that, hey, they still have Evgeni Malkin and Sidney Crosby. Those two can really heal wounds with their on-ice play, and in Saturday’s case, Malkin is taking over against the Edmonton Oilers.
His spin-o-rama goal above was a real jaw-dropper. He also scored Pittsburgh’s second tally:
These highlights feel like Malkin’s way of saying “It’s going to be just fine.”
Update: It wasn’t enough for a win, however, as the Oilers beat the Penguins 3-2 via a shootout.
Fighting is down more or less across the board in the NHL, but the Tampa Bay Lightning might be the franchise least interested in dropping the gloves.
Ryan Callahan vs. Kyle Okposo already has some name recognition to it, yet it gets some bonus points for being the Bolts’ first fighting major of 2015-16.
It … probably loses those bonus points in being run-of-the-mill.
Hey, be fair; the Lightning are clearly out of practice.