Color Me Impressed – Wild vs Hawks Preview, Pregame Thread, Dermatologist Appointment

jesse ventura vs oldschool

Game Time: 7:30PM Central
TV/Radio: CSN, NBCSN (national), WGN-AM 720
Computer Blue: Hockey Wilderness

While the Hawks first game of consequence in the month of April did not go as planned against the Trailer Park Boys, the Hawks are still in the conversation for home ice provided they get some help while taking care of their own business. And that business involves the Wild tonight, where the Hawks can clinch no worse than the third seed in the Central with a single point.

There has been no team in the post lockout era whose fortunes have so dramatically shifted within the context of an 82 game season than the 2014-15 Wild. The 2012 Kings might be close, but it took them into the playoffs for water to begin to find its own level. And the funny thing is, their success seems to be inversely proportional to their possession numbers. The date where fortunes began to change is January 15th, when Devan Dubnyk was acquired. It was mocked in this very space that if he needs to be a savior then a season might not be worth saving. But he’s come through with Vezina caliber numbers, sporting a .937 save percentage while starting 37 straight for the Wild coming into tonight. But as Dubnyk has bailed them out where their previous clown car of goalies were torpedoing their season, the Wild’s share of even strength shot attempts has dipped precipitously. Prior to Dubnyk, the Wild held a totally respectable 52.6% share of attempts at evens, and since his arrival, that has dropped to 49.6%. Now the Wild are giving up approximately the same amount of attempts per 60 minutes in those time frames (52.0 pre to 52.9 post), so it’s their attempts for that have gone down. This could be a result of not having to press late in games as a result of being down because their goaltending was shitty, but if that trend continues, the margin for error vis a vis a Dubnyk regression to human form is almost nothing.

That’s not to say there is a lack of talent on this team. In fact they’re quite balanced, and have shown an ability to keep up with the Hawks in the speed department since last year’s playoffs. Predictably the Wild are led in scoring by Zach Parise, who now has his first 30 goal season in Minny under his belt with 32. And while the Wild haven’t gotten as much scoring as they’d like out of Mikael Granlund, he still drives possession against top competition, and there have been pleasant surprises in the forms of Jason Zucker and Nino Neiderreiter, the former of which is returning tonight from a broken clavicle in 8 weeks and has 18 goals, and the latter of which is second on the team with 24 goals. Chris Stewart seems to give a shit because he’s playing for a contract now, and hasn’t been horrendous since arriving in St. Paul. Tomas Vanek has 21 goals and 51 points, but hasn’t necessarily gelled totally with this team in his first year, as he’s become more of a stationary shooter as he ages, and this team moves. That’s reflected in him being the only forward in the top 6 with less than a 50% share of attempts. The bottom six for the Wild is where things get a bit dicey, as Matt Cooke can’t really play anymore, and Kyle Brodziak has always been a bit of a turd despite the fact he always scores against the Hawks regardless of situation.

On defense, it’s obviously still the Ryan Suter show, as he still averages 29:06 a night and regularly eclipses that as a game situation warrants. But it’s not just Suter and Brodin still carrying everything for the Wild d-corps. Marco Scandella has had a breakout year in terms of scoring and driving possession, and actually gets far worse zone starts than Suter. Matt Dumba has produced 8 goals albeit in heavily sheltered minutes, and Jared Spurgeon is always a threat to jump into the play.

As for our Men of Four Feathers, home ice in the first round still remains the primary objective in the remaining three games, and they’ll realistically have to win all of them and hope for some help in order to do so. That climb got marginally steeper with word today that Brad Richards will miss those games but expects to be ready for the playoffs. It’s slightly disappointing to have him out given how he has been playing, but given his fades in the past few springs, it’s probably better to err on the side of giving him rest. Richards’ absence creates an opportunity for Antoine Vermette to move back into his natural center position after spending some time on the wing because Quenneville is going to Quenneville. The actual vacated spot will be taken by Kyle Baun who will be making his NHL debut tonight after being given assurances of NHL playing time were what sealed him even signing with the Hawks. Baun projects as a power forward with hands, though and could line up to be a replacement for Bryan Bickell once his salary is purged.

On the blue line, Kimmo Timonen will also not play tonight after getting crunched by Dumpster Dweller Ryan Reaves early on Sunday. The hit itself looked like more of a shoulder issue than a dizzyness issue, but it really is anyone’s guess. Again, it’s probably better to err on the side of caution with a 40 year old who is still getting up to speed with a new team, but he certainly could use the reps. David Rundblad will draw in tonight. There’s been no word on what the pairings will shake out as tonight, but anytime Q wants to put Keith and Seabrook back together and shelter the shit out of Rozsival on the third pairing is quite alright with everyone. Corey Crawford obviously gets the go in the net tonight.

The Wild were in action last night at home, losing to Winnipeg and making their playoff situation dicier. They have clinched nothing and in theory could bone this with their remaining three games against the Hawks tonight and then on the road at the Preds and Blues, all of whom are not taking their respective feet off the gas either. Look for them to come out and press early and then let Dubnyk do his thing. Mike Yeo has shown the ability to be able to change styles within the context of a game, and he’s got the pieces to do so. The Hawks will need to keep their exits clean with what should be a press forecheck from Minny, with the forwards keeping a tight gap on breakouts and regroups. And getting the 6’6″ Dubnyk moving and creating misdirection with screens in front will be paramount in capitalizing on the shots the Hawks earn. There are no small games from here on out. This team has continually stated it will rise to the occasion. It’s time to see it. Let’s go Hawks.

If you’re heading to tonight’s game, make sure to pick up a copy of our gameday program sold outside. If you’re not going, you can get the digital edition right here. 

  • Cluster_Puck

    Enjoyed Vermette calling out Q on playing wing and face offs today. Maybe deserved, but nice to see the big kahuna’s swing.

    • Preacher

      What did Vermette say?

    • TitanTransistor


    • Aaeismacgychel

      Personally, if that’s true, I think Vermette should shut the frak up and play hockey. There are a lot of moves to call Q out on, but quite frankly that was a move that seemed to work out exceptionally well. Vermette was really struggling and looked completely underwater when he was centering the 2nd line and he has looked a hell of a lot better playing wing on Richards’ line, because, let’s face it, Richards has pretty much carried his line every night since Kane went down, and Vermette didn’t have to press sp hard or try to do so much. I realize players have egos and Vermette is a center and has been a center, but if a move is working and seems to be making the team better, then even if your ego takes a hit, shut the hell up and play hockey. Don’t create drama where there isn’t any. That said, what’s done is done, and as with any player who can’t keep his mouth shut he better then take advantage of Richards’ injury and make sure his play is up to the level of his mouth. As an added bonus for him, if he has a rough night tonight (which let’s face it we’re playing the Wild so him and the rest of the team likely will), welcome to Q’s doghouse. Hell, he might put him as wing on Shaw’s line just to spite him. And then we all will rightfully call Q out for it. Seriously though, the Richards-Vermette line has looked damn good out there. Not sure why Vermette is saying a thing.

      • Harry Longwood

        Moving Vermette from the 2nd line to the 3rd as a result of his poor play? Totally understandable.

        Moving Vermette, a career center with a 55.4% faceoff win rate this season (Toews leads the team with 56.5%, which is 4th league-wide) from 3C to 3W only to replace him with Andrew Motherfucking Shaw (50.5%)? No sense at all.

        • Aaeismacgychel

          Richards has basically been given the 2nd line and Vermette has been playing the 2nd line Winger. The joke that Q will put him as a 3rd line winger with Shaw as the center was basically tongue in cheek (though not out of the question knowing Q :-o). The main point I was making though is that Vermette from 2C to 2W and Richards from 3C to 2C has been a pretty big success. They gave Richards some actual linemates and they took the pressure off Vermette. Hell, that 2nd line has probably been over a 60% CORSI share since being put together. Vermette’s line wasn’t even at a 50% share when he was centering.

  • Harry Longwood

    I know the Hawks still have a chance at home ice in Round 1, and even a remote chance at the division, but I wonder if it would be better to rest guys like Hossa and Roszival before the playoffs instead of chasing points. I suppose if the Hawks lose either one of the games against the Wild/Blues, those guys won’t play against Colorado this weekend.

    • mightymikeD

      it’s worth chasing Home Ice, as the stats will show.. but yeah, if Q figures they’re out of the running, expect to see some folk resting

    • T.M.

      do you think resting roszival’s gonna make a difference?

      • Sopel the catfish

        Only if he takes a Kim Johnsson nap

      • MG

        Sure. Let’s rest him until 2020…

    • Aaeismacgychel

      Against Nashville it’s worth getting home ice, simply because they are so incredibly reliant on it (28-8-4 split vs. 19-14-6), but all the other teams in the division are pretty much good wherever they play. That said, I don’t think home ice is important at all for the Hawks. In fact, sometimes this team plays better with the simpler more defensively responsible game they play on the road. So I agree with you that it’s definitely not as important as health, but really, I’d wait until at least 1 or 2 games left before doing the rest thing. Oh, unless we’re talking about Rozsival, because with him we probably should’ve been resting him for the playoffs in the press box since before the season started

      • MG


    • Icdws

      What will help is not playing Rozival at all, ever again. Hammer has to wear him tonight watch hammers +- take a tumble tongiht

  • To Saad be the glory

    Nino Neiderreiter was hurt last night in the 3rd pd. I believe. I don’t remember seeing him return to the game,he went straight to the dressing room. It was from a shot,so maybe it was just a one game thing I guess.

    • arlingtonrob

      Nino is a go tonight.

  • tom woj

    I just heard that Nordstrom will replace Desjardins in tonight’s game.

    • To Saad be the glory

      #meh,I’m starting to like Desjardins.

      • TitanTransistor

        Quite frankly, if Versteeg continues to be shit on toast, we might be in a position where Desjardins would look good on the 3rd line wing.

      • Sopel the catfish

        I was liking how I didn’t hate him or really get upset with the things he was doing. Like a 3rd pairing D man, if I don’t notice bad things then I’m good with it.

    • Aaeismacgychel

      Of course he will… Well there goes that working experiment.

  • Jane Doe

    Patrick Timothy Kane II took slap shots in practice today. Now excuse me while I go run some water in the bathroom.