The Minnesota Wild and Calgary flames will face off in Alberta tonight in a Western Conference game. The two teams are on somewhat different paths right now. The Flames were on a nine-game winning streak before knocking their train off the rails through the Vancouver Canucks. The Wild have lost two games in a row against the Ottawa Senators and Toronto Maple Leafs after deleting the Edmonton Oilers. Now they hope to add to the Flames’ losing streak and end the trip to Canada on a high.
The Flames under head coach Daryl Sutter looked like a whole new team. They are first in the Pacific Division with a 30-14-6 record, nine of those wins in the last 10 games, where they are 9-1-0. They’re led by the usual suspects—Johnny Gaudreau, Matthew Tkachuk and Elias Lindholm—who have lost their minds this season. Gaudreau leads the team with 64 points in 50 games, while Tkachuk has 56 points in 50 games and Lindholm has 49 points in 50 games. Andrew Mangiapane, one of the most underrated players in the entire NHL, leads the team in goals.
Another key contributor to their success this season is goaltender Jacob Markstrom, who continued his strong play from his years in Vancouver. Markstrom leads the league with eight shutouts, and while he hasn’t been level with Igor Shesterkin, there’s no doubt he’ll be mentioned in the Vezina Trophy conversation by the end of the season. only for this number. Markstrom also has a .926 save percentage and 2.11 goals-against average this season.
In the Flames’ last five games, Lindholm has led in goals and points with five and nine respectively, while Gaudreau leads in assists with five.
For the Wild, Kirill Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello continued to reign supreme in the scoring category, but Kevin Fiala also burst onto the scene along with rookie teammate Matt Boldy. Kaprizov leads the team with 62 points in 48 games, while Zuccarello has 52 points in 42 games. Fiala is third in the team and is starting to break away from the pack with 43 points in 49 games. The connection between him and Boldy really reignited his scoring ability in particular, and it also helped Boldy feel a lot more comfortable in his first games as an NHL player.
The goaltending situation in Minnesota has been a bit confusing lately. Kaapo Kahkonen looked very strong with a .921 save percentage and a 2.54 goals-against average. However, Cam Talbot has looked somewhat shaky in his last few appearances, and fans are starting to wonder whether or not he’s the team’s true starter. Of course, having two goaltenders capable of starting is a problem most teams would love to have (sorry Oilers fans). However, if head coach Dean Evason decides to mount Talbot and the wheels continue to fall, he will have no choice but to approach the young Finnish goalkeeper.
The Wild will have a big test against one of the NHL’s most stifling and deadly teams. The Flames are playing strong defensively, and with the addition of Tyler Toffoli from Montreal Canadiens, they became even more threatening offensively. The best defense and the best goalkeeper will most likely win this game.
Can the Wild stop the Flames front line?
Tkachuk, Lindholm and Gaudreau is one of the deadliest lines in the entire NHL. They play solid defense most of the time, and when they counter-attack quickly, the defense will have to be ready. There is very little room for error when they are on the ice because they will charge you. The Wild will have to be very careful and smart with the puck against that front line. If they have an opportunity, they will most likely score, or at least create a chance and cause a change of momentum.
Can the Wild get past Markstrom sooner?
Confidence is key in the NHL, and when a team knows they can get one from the goaltender, that’s a game-changer. Markstrom leads the league in shutouts by double the amount of the next player, Marc-André Fleury (4). The Wild should have confidence knowing they can beat the Flames, but if they can get one by the goaltender early, that should only spur them on. Guardians who seem capable of stopping everything can destroy their opponent’s morale. To have eight shutouts is incredible, and that means it will be an even bigger challenge for the Wild coming to Markstrom’s field. Scoring early is arguably the biggest talking point heading into tonight if you’re the Wild coaching staff.