Wild at Blue Jackets
Will MN make the Playoffs

Ankeny, IA

#1 Apr 7, 2013
Game Day Preview: Wild at Blue Jackets
What once looked like an easy game, now has the look of a real challenge today for the Minnesota Wild versus the Columbus Blue Jackets. Until recently, Columbus has been a perennial seller dweller. However, head coach Todd Richards has them playing a defensive style which is Jacques Lemaire-esque and is paying huge dividends for their new goaltender, Sergei Bobrovsky, and is translating into late season points for the Blue Jackets. Now, with the addition of sniper Marian Gaborik, the Blue Jackets are not a team to be looked past. To make matters worse, the Wild are catching them at home this evening where they have been playing extremely well lately.

Currently, the Blue Jackets are on a 4 game winning streak at home having, most recently, beaten the Anaheim Ducks, 2-1, at Nationwide Arena. Moreover, the Blue Jackets have not lost in regulation at home since February 10th, having gone 9-0-3 in their last 12 home games. Notwithstanding, they have played terribly on the road and currently have 39 points putting them in 11th place in the Western Conference coming in to today. However, with the likes of the Blues, Red Wings and Wild sitting 42, 43 and 44 points respectively, Columbus is within striking distance of making the playoffs should one of these teams not be able to clinch the last 3 available playoff slots. However, they still have to contend with the Oilers (tied with Columbus at 39 points) and the Coyotes (40 points). Tonight marks the first of a 3 game home stand for the Blue Jackets. After tonight, they play San Jose on Tuesday and St. Louis on Friday before facing off against the Wild on Saturday in St. Paul.

Tonight, the Wild try to halt a 3 game losing streak where they have lost to St. Louis at home and San Jose and L.A. on the road. Of significance, however, the Wild have had 2 full days of rest so the excuses of being tired won’t work tonight should they come up short against Columbus. Also of significance, the Wild are without the services of Dany Heatley and Matt Cullen. Heatley is currently in third for the Wild in scoring with 11 goals, 1 goal behind Setoguchi and 4 behind Parise. Cullen is third on the team in assists with 18 and only trails Koivu (24) and Suter (25) in that category. The losses of these 2 players have seemed to have adversely affected this team and one begins to wonder if they can recover from these 2 losses in the player personnel department, much less if anyone should fall to injury before the end of the season.
Will MN make the Playoffs

Ankeny, IA

#2 Apr 7, 2013
It should be noted that, historically, Minnesota has not fared well in Columbus with a record of 6-11-4 at Nationwide Arena, lifetime. Thankfully, Wild goaltender, Niklas Backstrom, has good numbers against Columbus, in general. He is 10-5-1 with a 2.26 GAA and a .925 SV% in 17 starts against the Blue Jackets. Bobrovsky has only faced the Wild once, in 2010, and is 1-0-0 with a 1.00 GAA and a .938 SV% in 1 start.

This game could very well be a goaltenders’ duel. Backstrom is currently tied for 1st in the NHL in the wins category with 19. Backstrom has started 20 of the Wild’s last 22 games and is 16-6-1 with a .913 SV% and a 2.43 GAA in his last 23 starts. And, even though he was pulled from Thursday night’s game in L.A. for allowing 2 goals on the first 2 shots he faced, Backstrom is an impressive 20-2-4, all-time, in games after being pulled in non-injury circumstances and has posted a 1.91 GAA and a .935 SV% in those games. Since March 26, 2008, he is 16-0-2 with a 1.69 GAA and a .943 SV% in those games. For Columbus, Bobrovsky currently ranks 2nd in the NHL in SV%(.929) and is tied for 7th in GAA (2.09). He is also 9-2-5 in 16 appearances at Nationwide Arena this season with a 1.74 GAA and a .943 SV% this season.

And if those stats aren’t enough to make you go cross-eyed, Columbus’ PR department has posted a number of interesting stats about tonight’s game, none of which really play a huge role in who will win and why including:

-CBJ is 3-1-1 when wearing their 3rd jerseys this season;
-CBJ is 3-2-0 on Sunday this season; and
-CBJ is 2-3-2 all-time when playing on the same day as Wrestlemania.

Really? Really? Wrestlemania-related stats? I wonder what the Wild’s record is when they play on the same day as Wrestlemania (not really).
Will MN make the Playoffs

Ankeny, IA

#3 Apr 7, 2013
From the “stats that matter” category, Minnesota has a slight edge over Columbus in 1-goal games (11-4-2 vs 10-6-7) and a bigger edge in 2-goal games (9-7 vs 3-5). When scoring first, the Wild are 13-4-0, while the Blue Jackets are 9-6-2. Also, the Wild are better when playing from behind after the first period (6-9-1 vs 2-8-1), as well as in overtime (7-2 vs 7-7). The Blue Jackets are a perfect 9-0-0 this season when leading after 2 periods, however and both teams are about the same when tied after 2 periods (6-4-0 vs 5-3-4). Minnesota has both scored and allowed 96 goals this season. The Blue Jackets have scored 87 and allowed 97. The Wild average 2.6 goals per game to Columbus’ 2.3. Both teams allow 2.6 goals per game on average. On the power play, the Wild are 18th in the league, but a surprising 8th in the league on the road. The Blue Jackets are tied for 26th in the NHL on the power play and are 21st at home. On the penalty kill, the Blue Jackets are 5th in the NHL, 4th at home, while the Wild are 15th in the league, but only 23rd on the road.

By acquiring Gaborik, he is tied for the lead in Columbus with 22 points (10 goals and 12 assists). This makes him tied for first in goals and tied for 2nd in assists on the Columbus roster. Other players for the Wild to look out for? Prospal (10 goals and 12 assists also), Anisimov (10 goals) and Tyutin (15 assists).

The Wild are led by Parise, Setoguchi and Heatley in scoring and Suter, Koivu and Cullen in assists, as mentioned above.

With the Blues beating the Red Wings in regulation, 1-0, the Blues now have 44 points in 37 games, tied in points with the Wild in the same number of games until tonight’s game against the Blue Jackets. It goes without saying that tonight’s hockey game is very important for both the Wild and Columbus.

After tonight, the Wild return home to face the Blackhawks on Tuesday night, the Blues on Thursday night and the Blue Jackets on Saturday before their last multi-game road trip of the season in Calgary, Edmonton and San Jose. The Wild then return home to face Calgary, L.A. and Edmonton before finishing the season in Colorado.
Will MN make the Playoffs

Ankeny, IA

#4 Apr 7, 2013
Can't believe the Blues beat Detroit today

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