Darren, if I had your finishing abilities, the fans would hate me even more than they already do.
Every year, the stats guys take aim at a team that gets hot at the start of the season but whose numbers don't "show" the whole story. Colorado and Dallas have both felt the sting of the math nerds' stare in the past, magnified by those very thick glasses.
This year, the Minnesota Wild find themselves with the concentric circle on their chests. They raced out to a fantastic start in October and November, rocketing up to first overall through the first few months of the season. "Not so fast", the numbers guys (and let's face it, they're all guys, right ladies?) said as they theorized that the Wild really weren't as good as their record indicated and they had the stats to prove it.
3 months and 11 dropped spots in the standings later, Wild fans are hearing a lot of "I told you so" comments being directed their way. They're taking it with good humour, but one can only imagine the disappointment at seeing a team that looked almost unbeatable suddenly be so bad. Injuries have certainly taken their toll, but like Toronto, it could be that the Wild really just aren't that good and their place in the standings is a reflection of the talent level on their roster.
However, the Wings hadn't faced this version of the Wild before tonight. The only 3 meetings between these clubs took place back when Minnesota was tearing a juggernaut, but the team taking the ice against Detroit was a shell of that team, and the Wings wasted no time taking advantage of a tired team by destroying them 6-0.
This was one of those games where the final score absolutely told the tale of the game. We talked a lot about the WIld in the intro, but the Wings did stuff tonight, too. Follow the jump for more.
- First, because Jeff would kill me if I didn't say anything, a very huge congratulations to Brendan Smith on scoring his first NHL goal tonight. It wasn't as pretty as Jan Mursak's from last game or even Jakub Kindl's from last year, but nevertheless, he's officially an NHL goal scorer now. 262 more and he'll catch up to Nicklas Lidstrom.
- After suffering a slump for about 10-15 games, Valtteri Filppula has gotten scorching hot, and we're not talking about that fantastic hair. 3 points tonight gives him 7 in his last 3 games, and he's only 7 away from that magical 60 point mark we've been waiting for him to hit the last 5 years. With 18 games left, anything less than 65 points is going to disappointing in Flip's breakout year. His first goal tonight was his 20th of the season, the first time in his career he's achieved that mark. He's one of your co-Players of the Game.
- Sharing that prestigious honour is Flip's linemate Henrik Zetterberg. Hank's struggles to start the season have been well-documented, but since the All-Star break Hank has put up 19 points in 15 games. He's increased his point pace to 68, which is still below his career average of 76 points per season, but is a lot closer than the 50 points he was going to hit midway through the season. Given his progression as the season has gone on, I'm expecting at least 15 points per playoff round.
- The Red Wings scored more goals in the first 40 minutes of this game than they had in the previous 3 meetings with the Wild. Minnesota also failed to become the first road team to win 2 games at the Joe this year. It seems like forever since the Wings won a home game, eh?
- Jimmy Howard didn't have a lot to do tonight, but he was good when he had to be, stopping all 19 shots he faced en route to his 6th shutout of the season. That's his first win since coming back from injury, although this is the first game where his team actually played like they gave a damn. He was the beneficiary of a call late in the game against Powe that preserved the shutout and showed it was just one of those nights where everything goes right.
- It wasn't all good news for the Wings. The power play continued to struggle, going 0-for 5 while generating 8 shots. Todd Bertuzzi left the game with a "tender groin", which doesn't sound nearly as delicious as the tenderloin I'm having for dinner this weekend, but Ken Holland says that it's not serious and they're just being cautious with things (Bertuzzi's groin, not my dinner. Holland doesn't give a shit what I eat).