Kukla's Korner Hockey
The Minnesota Wild are one of the hottest teams in the NHL right now and it all started with a trade made for journeyman goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
from Michael Russo of the Star Tribune,
Back on Jan. 27, the Wild was buried in 12th place and 16 points behind the Chicago Blackhawks. This morning, at least for one day, the Wild kicked the Blackhawks into a wild-card spot, leapfrogged the star-studded rival for third-place in the Central Division and put itself in terrific mathematical position to make the playoffs for a third consecutive season.
With six games left in the regular season, that is quite an achievement when one considers how down and out this team was before Dubnyk came to the rescue Jan. 14. In the past nine weeks, the Wild is an NHL-best 24-5-1 to become the toast of the NHL. It hasn’t lost by more than a goal since Jan. 19, hasn’t lost consecutive games since Jan. 19-20 or consecutive games in regulation in 34 starts by Dubnyk (26-6-2).
Under Dubnyk, the Wild has outscored its opponents 104-57 for a league-best (by far) plus-47 goal differential. To be clear: 57 goals allowed in 34 games from a team that allowed 58 in the 14 games before Dubnyk’s acquisition.
“I don’t remember having this many games in such a short period of time,” captain Mikko Koivu said after he and linemate Nino Niederreiter each scored two goals against the Kings. “The last two months, it’s been a lot of hockey. I think this break will be good for us.
from Chris Johnston of Sportsnet,
Devan Dubnyk was a forgotten man when crunch time arrived last season. As a Black Ace during the Montreal Canadiens playoff run, the NHL seemed a long way off.
“I was skating with five guys,” Dubnyk recalled Monday. “Five guys that made me feel old.”
The goaltender was so far buried down the depth chart that he asked to go home after the second round to spend time with his wife Jennifer and infant son Nathaniel. Even when Habs starter Carey Price was injured in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference final, he didn’t second-guess the decision.
“I felt like I needed to go be a dad,” said Dubnyk.
He also needed a break after a season that saw him go from Oilers starter to Predators backup to Habs minor-leaguer in the span of a couple months. It was a precipitous fall. Dubnyk was beaten down and embarrassed.
"It was a big slip for me," he said.
When you speak with the 28-year-old today it's hard to believe he's the same guy.
The puck did go in the net, but not between the goal posts.
from Michael Russo of Russo's Rants,
... the Wild’s next three games are against the three teams that are all tied for the most points (91) in the Western Conference – vs. Anaheim, at St. Louis, at Nashville.
“It’s fun to play games this time of year when everything’s on the line,” Yeo said. “…Right now, this is where you make your money. … You have to find a way to play your best hockey, to go into tough buildings to win hockey games and pick up points and that’s what we’re facing.”
As the standings sit right now, St. Louis is first in the conference, Anaheim is second and Nashville is second in the Central. As the standings sit right now, if the season ended right this moment, the Wild would face the Ducks in the first round.
Parise said it’s too early to really start thinking like that, that the last 15 games is all about improving the team’s game, but “in the back of our mind, everyone knows the standings.”
“It’ll be a tough stretch of games. It’ll be good to see where we are at,” Parise said. “We’ve played some teams that aren’t in the playoffs lately, so it’ll be good to see where we are at compared to these guys (Anaheim) who have had a pretty good hold on their division lead for awhile now.”
from Travis Yost of TSN,
We’re growing more confident in Dubnyk’s ability, despite the unsustainable downswing in 2013-2014 and unsustainable upswing in 2014-2015. He’s seen a ton of rubber, and we now can be confident that he’s between a 91.5% goalie and 92.7% goalie at even-strength. His worst case scenario is now that of a very good back-up who can spot start without the team missing a hitch. His best case scenario? Sergei Bobrovsky.
And, right smack in the middle (92.1%) of where Dubnyk sits in his career? Something like James Reimer, Cam Ward, Michal Neuvirth, or Marc-Andre Fleury.
For a goalie whose career was in jeopardy just six months ago, it strikes me as obvious that Dubnyk not only belongs in this league, but warrants a contract with some job security come next summer.
In case you missed what happened a few days ago, you can get caught up here.
from Michael Russo of the Star Tribune,
The rivalry has built throughout the years in part because Minnesota has played Colorado in three of its four all-time playoff berths. One of the great dramas is the disdain Landeskog and the Wild’s Mikko Koivu, Landeskog’s captain counterpart, have for each other. They battle intensely every game, and in the heat of the moment last weekend, Landeskog swiped at Koivu from bench to bench to earn a $5,000 fine.
“Five grand, he should have hit him. Make it worth it at least,” Avalanche coach Patrick Roy, laughing, joked.
Every Wild-Avs game, there are skirmishes, big runs and dirty hits, and the Avalanche still is upset that now-injured Matt Cooke knocked defenseman Tyson Barrie out of last year’s playoffs with a knee-on-knee hit that earned Cooke a seven-game suspension.
After last Saturday’s game, Wild coach Mike Yeo called what McLeod did to Granlund “garbage.” Friday, Roy countered, “To me, garbage is what Cooke did to Barrie.”
added 5:08pm, below there is more...
added 5:28pm, Russo remarks now added below too...
via Scott Lewis of Sportsnet,
The Minnesota Wild’s deadline acquisition of defenceman Jordan Leopold was hardly a blockbuster trade, but it wound up being one of the day’s biggest stories.
A letter written by Leopold’s daughter Jordyn back in January, asking the Wild to bring her father home to Minnesota, went viral on deadline day.
Jordyn spoke about the letter and the impact it made on social media Thursday.
Take note, NHL fathers. Your shot at landing on your hometown team rests on your children’s ability to pen adorable letters.
Both TSN and Sportsnet report Chris Stewart has been traded to the Wild.
added 3:33pm, Multiple reports say the Sabres will pay 1/2 of Stewart's salary, still waiting on trade details.
added 3:44pm, from Michael Russo of Russo's Rants,
Buffalo Sabres GM Tim Murray, who had been trying to trade Chris Stewart all year long for a huge return, may have overreached at the end. The Wild was able to snag the power forward for a 2017 second-round pick. The Sabres are also picking up half the $465,000 still owed to the free-agent-to-be.
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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