Minnesota Wild (17-10-2) 36pts 1st in the Northwest
2.55 Goals For (19th)
2.41 Goals Against (5th)
18.6% Power Play (16th)
86.5% Penalty Kill (5th)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #9 Mikko Koivu ~ 7G 17A = 24pts
2. #20 Ryan Suter ~ 2G 22A = 24pts
3. #11 Zach Parise ~ 11G 12A = 23pts
4. #10 Devin Setoguchi ~ 11G 9A = 20pts
5. #7 Matt Cullen ~ 4G 16A = 20pts
Top 3 PIM's:
1. #28 Zenon Konopka ~ 75 PIM's
2. #27 Mike Rupp ~ 41 PIM's
3. #44 Justin Falk ~ 22 PIM's
1. #32 Niklas Backstrom (15-7-2) 2.32GAA .917%SP
2. #37 Josh Harding (1-1-0) 2.92GAA .885%SP 1 SO
San Jose Sharks (13-10-6) 32pts 3rd in the Pacific
2.28 Goals For (28th)
2.55 Goals Against (12th)
18.8% Power Play (14th)
86.6% Penalty Kill (4th)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #19 Joe Thornton ~ 5G 23A = 28pts
2. #12 Patrick Marleau ~ 15G 8A = 23pts
3. #39 Logan Couture ~ 14G 9 = 23pts
4. #8 Joe Pavelski ~ 7G 10A = 17pts
5. #22 Dan Boyle ~ 4G 9A = 13pts
Top 3 PIM's:
1. #29 Ryane Clowe ~ 72 PIM's
2. #10 Andrew Dejardins ~ 52 PIM's
3. #9 Martin Havlat ~ 26 PIM's
1. #31 Antti Niemi (12-7-5) 2.28GAA .921%SP 1 SO
2. #1 Thomas Greiss (1-3-0) 2.78GAA .906%SP 1 SO
3. #32 Alex Stalock (0-0-1) 2.86GAA .846%SP
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With April just around the corner, for many high school seniors, they're in the final push for rankings of their own. For those highly motivated students, they're jockeying for position among their classmates. The most obvious positions are for valedictorian and salutatorian. These two students are the top two students in their graduating class. Not only are they recognized for their academic achievement, but they also have the responsibility and honor of giving speeches at their graduation ceremony. In some schools, the competittion is fierce and cut-throat. In other schools, there's more of a comradarie among the students. By the time graduation rolls around, these final honors have little bearing on university acceptance as students have decided which school to attend that has accepted them. However, these academic honors can and do effect and determine scholarship money. While it is an honor for those particular two students, it's as if there is sometimes too much emphasis put on those two students. The vast majority of graduating classes have students who have demonstrated academic success.
Hockey is much the same. In sports, we see rankings change every day. If you're a regular reader of these game previews and you're interested in statistics, you like to see how those numbers change. Even better, is when the numbers change for the positive. Such is the case of the Minnesota Wild. We are all well aware of the less than stellar start the team had this season. If ever there was a team that could have benefited from a full training camp and pre-season, it was this year's Minnesota Wild. With the number of new players (both veterans and rookies) that came in, they needed the time to gel with each other. Unfortunately, we did not get that. The first month of games had to act as a training camp and pre-season all rolled into one, and unfortunately for everyone concerned, those game counted. There were no freebie games like we normally get with a pre-season. Rookies really had no time to show whether they belonged in St. Paul or Houston, and the most highly-touted rookie (Mikael Granlund) that started in St. Paul is not the rookie that is nowwith the club showing why he belongs and is making small waves in the Calder Trophy contest (Jonas Brodin).
What I do like about this season in comparison to last season is the standings themselves. When the Wild made that meteroic rise to the very top of the league standings, I knew we were bound for disappointment. When you're at the top, everyone is gunning for your position. Everyone wants to be you and wants what you have. I have seen the same kind of cut-throat behavior from kids who are battling for the top two academic positions in their graduating class. I much prefer where the Wild are sitting right now. Meaning that, there's no possible way to get to that top spot in the National Hockey League or the Western Conference. Sitting on top of one's division is much better, and being on the top of the Northwest Division, is more like the kid who simply is graduating with academic honors. Sure, there are still people who want to be like him or her, but there isn't the same level of jealousy attached to that honor. However, being at the top of the Northwest Division isn't without its foibles as well. Vancouver is certainly going to do whatever they can to take that spot back. Plus with the recent of play of teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets, it might be hard to stay in the top eight of the Western Conference should the Canucks take back the division. It's going to be better to somehow to maintain possession of the Northwest Division than to fight out the fourth through eighth spots in the conference.
So while we still have a ways to go to find out how this year's Stanley Cup class turns out, it should certainly be interesting. I just hope that Minnesota gets the chance to take one of the exams and possibly the final exam itself.