Tonight, Wild-Canadiens is destined to be a 5-4 game or something.
I say that sorta tongue in cheek because so much is being made regarding the Devan Dubnyk vs. Carey Price matchup.
Dubnyk, a Canadiens minor-leaguer before reestablishing his career in Arizona, then Minnesota, is a career-best 9-0-2 in his past 11 since Nov. 23 and leads the NHL with a 1.55 goals-against average, .948 save percentage and five shutouts. Price, the most decorated goalie in the league minus the Stanley Cup, is second with 18 wins, third with a .936 save percentage and third with a 1.87 goals-against average.
Is too much being made?
"It is for you guys," coach Bruce Boudreau told the gathered press scrum today. "The media is the ones that are going to hype it up. Duby could let in six goals today and I’d still think he’s as good as any goalie in the league because of the amount of games. To me one game does not constitute either a great goalie or a bad goalie. He has been great for us. Carey Price is the gold standard and always will be until he retires. But Duby has been great for us."
This is a battle between two of the best offensive and defensive teams in the NHL. The Wild ranks first at 1.87 goals allowed per game; the Canadiens rank fourth with 2.16 goals against per game. The Canadiens rank fifth with 3.13 goals per game. The Wild ranks seventh with 2.9.
The Wild, winners of three straight on the road, makes its 10th all-time visit to Montreal, where it’s 3-4-2. The Atlantic Division leaders, who have won four of their past six, have the NHL’s best home record (15-2-2).
The Wild can equal its longest win streak (nine) and point streak (10, currently 8-0-1) in franchise history. The Wild has outscored opponents 26-10 during its eight-game win streak (19-5 in the past five games).
"It’s a measuring stick from our standpoint," Boudreau said. "We are playing maybe two of the best teams in the NHL (Rangers tomorrow). I think the East is stronger than the West this year. This is one of those occasions. They had a little bit of a hiccup at home and seem to have straightened that out. They are a tough team to beat in this building. I expect a great test."
Here's a stat that may make this destined to be a blowout one way or the other.
The Wild is 12-1 in games decided by 2+ goals, the Canadiens are 12-2.
That is nuts in an empty-net goal league that you can be this deep into a season and the Wild has lost by more than a goal ONCE and the Canadiens TWICE.
Christian Folin in for Nate Prosser tonight.
Sounds like Zach Parise is a gametime decision. Nothing to do with the blocked shot the other night. He's sick again, and frankly, again's probably the wrong word because he has been under the weather for a few weeks, I'm told.
If Parise doesn't play, Jordan Schroeder will draw in. If Parise does play, my gut says Kurtis Gabriel's in.
It wouldn't shock me though, if Parise plays, maybe to get fresh legs tomorrow in New York in the second of a back-to-back, that Schroeder plays for Gabriel and Prosser plays for Folin. As of now, the Wild's saying it hasn't determined tomorrow's starting goalie. If Dubnyk doesn't see a ton of action, maybe you come back with him. If Dubnyk does see a ton, you probably start Darcy Kuemper, especially because he was solid in his outing against Arizona.
Of course, I still have deadline nightmares from a hellacious Kuemper outing at the Garden once, so maybe that comes into play, too.
Habs defenseman Alexei Emelin's wife is currently giving birth, so he's a gametime decision. As of now, I don't think the Habs have recalled another defenseman, so if that's the case, and with Andrei Markov hurt, the Habs would have five D if Emelin can't play.
Jared Spurgeon plays Game No. 400 tonight. Amazing: I still remember being given the scoop the night before his NHL debut on his 21st birthday in Calgary. I didn't write it because I thought my source was kidding.
I mean, they obviously weren't recalled a 5-foot-7 or 8 junior free agent to make his NHL debut in November!
Well, Spurgeon ranks 10th in franchise history in games played (third among defensemen). His 38 goals ranks second in Wild history among D and his 141 points rank third.
Hilarious stuff today from Spurgeon and Boudreau regarding their first encountered in the workout room before camp. Boudreau couldn't get over how tiny Spurgeon was and just couldn't believe that a guy of that stature could be good. Now Boudreau thinks he can do no wrong.
"I like to blame it on Tony," Spurgeon said of equipment manager Tony Da Costa. "He gives me oversized shirts so no one can see my muscles that I have underneath it. I sort of saw the reaction on [Bruce's] face when he came around the corner. I’m used to it now. I’ll be happy when I’m 60 and I look like I’m 40."
Boudreau kiddingly called Spurgeon a goon today for his four penalty minutes last game. Spurgeon's 58 penalty minutes is tied for fewest among NHL players that have skated at least 400 games since entering the league in 2010-11.
It's pretty remarkable that a guy who averages nearly 21 1/2 minutes a night since he entered the league can be so responsible. It's also amazing to watch his body position and how he spins off checks and usually comes away with the puck.
He is truly the model of consistency. I'll write a lot about him in the paper tomorrow.
I'll be on the NHL Network Bald Spot Cam at 4:10 p.m. CT. Talk later.