When Zach Parise was injured last week, there was much wailing and gnashing of teeth, particularly after Dubnyk gave up a couple soft goals against the Predators. With both Parise and Marco Scandella out of the lineup, the Wild needed players to step up and make an impact in order for them to stay competitive in the extremely tough Central division.
On Saturday, Devan Dubnyk pitched a shutout, while this evening, Thomas Vanek stepped up in a big way with two goals en route to a whomping of the Winnipeg Jets. Through 13 games in 2014-15, Vanek had just one goal and eight assists. It would be another nine games before he potted his second goal last year, just after Thanksgiving. Tonight against the Jets he had six shots, four of them classified by war-on-ice.com as ‘high danger scoring chances’ … and I think you might already know how a couple of those turned out. Chrsitian Folin made a very nice pass from about the Wild’s faceoff dots to hit Vanek at the blue line, where he confidently rifled one short side past Pavelec. Vanek looked completely in flow tonight, and was thinking several moves ahead of just about everyone on the ice.
Vanek takes a slap shot on a breakaway, 2-1 Wild pic.twitter.com/R0KEBMiSHl
— Stephanie (@myregularface) November 11, 2015
And then, later in the period, he made what has to be considered the Wild’s signature goal of the season…perhaps in the running for best goal in the NHL this year. He just embarrassed Paul Postma and knocked Pavelec out of the game.
The Jets came back to make it at least somewhat close toward the middle of the third period, but they just took too many penalties. They tried to intimidate the Wild with a super physical game, but it backfired on them as they ended up shorthanded multiple times, including a nasty 3-on-5 for over a minute at the end of that devastating second period. The Wild did not cash in with the man advantage tonight, but overall I thought they looked pretty good, and generated a ton of quality chances. Dumba and Zucker both hit the crossbar in the 5-on-3, and Vanek set up Koivu with a really nifty feed to Koivu that could have gone in. With Scandella out, I thought Dumba stepped up nicely, with a number of good shots and a great open ice hit. The bottom line from tonight’s game was that after Niederreiter put them down 0-1, the Jets shot themselves in the collective foot going shorthanded so many times, and the second period was just a back breaker.
Let’s take a look at a couple of charts generated by war-on-ice:
Call it score effects if you want, but the Jets managed to keep up the pressure and at least go down swinging. There was one really close call where the puck was loose in Dubnyk’s pads but the refs blew the whistle.
This is a chart that I think I will be including in recaps more this year. It shows which players were deployed with which others, and their possession statistics (blue good, red bad.) Tonight, Koivu-Zucker-Niederreiter were deployed nearly exclusively, which is great because they are one of the best lines in the league. After that, it got a little more crowded, though Granlund and Pominville spent all their time together.
Here’s the matchup chart, with the Wild along the vertical axis and the Jets along the horizontal. Mike Yeo was able to get the Koivu line matched up against some of the Jets’ depth lines, which is where we see Brodin and Dumba earning their Corsi numbers. Suter and Spurgeon saw a lot of rubber their way, but again that may just be due to the score effects.
The Wild have some big games coming up, including two versus the white hot Dallas Stars, so they’ll either need to hope Parise and Scandella come back soon, or rely on their depth to carry them through. It won’t take much of a losing streak in Conference III to set a team reeling.
Thanks for reading, and don’t forget to follow me on Twitter, @BobaFenwick!