Math update after the Wild’s 1-0 win tonight here in Calgary (the first time this season the Flames have been shut out):
8th-place Calgary is on pace for 92 points
9th-place Los Angeles is on pace for 92.25
That means the Wild, which has a .521 points percentage (50 points out of a possible 96), would need to grab 43 out of a possible 68 points in the final 34 games to eclipse that pace. That’s a .632 pace – or 6.3 out of every 10 points needed (although to be safe, it’d behoove the Wild to increase that pace so it doesn’t face must-win games in the final road trip of the season to, gulp, Chicago, Nashville and St. Louis).
How much better moods are coaches and players after victories?
Coach Mike Yeo hilariously answered the first question in his postgame presser, “I’m just here so I don’t get fine,” an ode to the Seahawks’ Marshawn Lynch, who answered every question he faced during Super Bowl Media Day that way.
Zach Parise scored his 20th goal of the season 8:59 into the first period and the mini-breakaway in which he outwaited Jonas Hiller to get him to open up his five-hole came off the terrific work by Thomas Vanek.
First, Vanek outmuscled a Flames player to help win a Mikael Granlund faceoff, then he turned and fired on net. When the puck popped up high, Jonas Brodin did a great job to walk down the wall before backhanding the puck into the corner. Vanek slyly slipped in front of Johnny Gaudreau and picked off Mark Giordano’s outlet pass with one arm to get the puck to Parise all alone with Hiller.
“That’s why we call [Vanek] Selke,” said Parise, a sarcastic nickname about the offensive-minded Vanek referring to the NHL’s defensive forward award. I asked Parise if that’s true, and with a big laugh, Parise said, “Well, that’s what I call him.”
Comically, after Parise left the locker room and took a right turn down a hallway, he walked head-on into Vanek and just gave him a big smile with Vanek having no clue what the smile regarded.
Good work by the Wild tonight, who put together an awesome first period, a good first 12 minutes of the second period and an even third until Calgary predictably pressured late.
Devan Dubnyk was terrific for his second shutout in six starts with Minnesota. The Calgary hometown dude made 30 saves for his 11th career shutout, stopped 10 in a row at one point in the second period and stopped eight of eight shots in the third period against the highest-scoring third-period team in the NHL.
He stopped Paul Byron on a third-period breakaway, Gaudreau from between the circles and Mikael Backlund in the last few seconds from the doorstep.
Just gigantic that the Wild won this game in regulation.
“We recognized the importance of this game and put a lot into it,” Yeo said. “That’s a really good team over there. We needed Duby to come up big in some situations. I thought we weathered some storms.:
Yeo said Hiller was also very good and even though he still wasn’t overly thrilled with the Wild’s puck management or wall play, he liked how the Wild defended and said the players remained composed and protected the areas in the D-zone they needed to protect.
With two days off before Sunday’s 2:30 p.m. CT game at Vancouver, the Wild may scrap practice Friday. If it does, you won’t probably get a blog from me unless there’s news and you’ll next hear from me Saturday. Otherwise, you’ll hear from me Friday.
Wild had a big chance to sweep this road trip Sunday, and remember, the teams in the Pacific like Vancouver or San Jose are the ones who would have a chance to fall out into that second wildcard spot. So technically, the Wild’s chasing the Canucks bigtime, too. Vancouver does have two games in hand on the Wild though.