Minnesota Wild vs. Washington Capitals Preview


What a difference a week or so can make.  With the Washington Capitals at Minnesota Wild, the Caps have watched their 9-point lead for 7th place in the Eastern Conference playoff race evaporate to dead even as the Boston Bruins have gone on a 7-1-2 run in their last 10 games.  Washington is 5-5 in its last 10 games and they are certainly feeling the pressure right now.  The Minnesota Wild knows this feeling well, but from the opposite perspective as they were the team on the edge of the proverbial cliff in the standings only to go on a tremendous run that vaulted them into a Western Conference wildcard spot.

Live Feed

Alex Ovechkin will score 50 goals in 2023-24
Alex Ovechkin will score 50 goals in 2023-24 /

Stars and Sticks

  • It's time for Capitals fans to chill out with the Anthony Mantha hateStars and Sticks
  • The Capitals Have Several Potentially Bad ContractsStars and Sticks
  • Top 3 Capitals prospects to watch at Rookie CampStars and Sticks
  • Top 3 undrafted invites to watch at Capitals Rookie CampStars and Sticks
  • Top 3 storylines ahead of Capitals Rookie CampStars and Sticks
  • The Capitals’ slide really began after the Minnesota Wild pulled off an 2-1 road victory on March 5th.  Of course that was a game where the Capitals did not have the NHL’s leading goal scorer Alex Ovechkin in their lineup.   The Capitals still had plenty of other weapons healthy and were ready to go, but he certainly makes Washington far more dangerous.  Especially on the power play where the Capitals rank 1st in the NHL (25.6%).  With Minnesota’s victory over them a somewhat recent memory I expect Washington to be quite motivated tonight.

    The quotes from Washington’s Head Coach Barry Trotz these days should sound eerily familiar to Minnesota Wild fans if they think back to what it was like around mid-January.

    "“It has to happen within the room.  The group has to solve it.  They have to solve it, and I’m part of it.  We all have to solve it, but it really comes from the guys in the room.  Let’s get going here.  I need some urgency in our room.  Dallas is playing playoff hockey, there’s no question about it.  We need to play playoff hockey and we’re not, not to the level that we need to.” ~ Capitals’ Head Coach Barry Trotz after 4-2 loss to Dallas on Friday"

    The Capitals are trying to work itself into playoff form and they certainly have lots of potential secondary scoring in their lineup with Troy Brouwer, Marcus Johansson, Joel Ward and Curtis Glencross as well as firepower from the blueline with John Carlson and along side former University of Minnesota defenseman Nate Schmidt.  However, the Capitals still will go as far as Braden Holtby will take them.  Washington will want to make a statement by beating a playoff team in the Minnesota Wild after their last two games where they struggled against non-playoff teams in Dallas and Buffalo respectively.

    The Capitals are a woeful 11-11-3 against Western Conference teams this season which certainly bodes in the Wild’s favor even though Minnesota has a modest 15-10-2 against Eastern opponents.

    Live Feed

    NY Islanders: Is this the week we learn if Zach Parise is retiring?
    NY Islanders: Is this the week we learn if Zach Parise is retiring? /

    Eyes On Isles

  • 2023 Central Division Preview Series: Minnesota WildBlackout Dallas
  • NHL 24: Predicting the highest rated players at every positionApp Trigger
  • How Tough Will The Central Division Be For The Hawks?Blackhawk Up
  • Minnesota Wild: Goalie Controversy With Gustavsson and Fleury?Puck Prose
  • NY Islanders teammates letting Zach Parise do his thing as team awaits his decisionEyes On Isles
  • Meanwhile the Wild are making a case as the NHL version of the ‘cardiac kids’ as they’ve been using late-game heroics with huge wins over St. Louis and Nashville respectively.  The rallies are indicative of a team that has terrific confidence because they know goaltender Devan Dubnyk will keep games close.  An 8-2 record in their last 10 is impressive but also masks the fact the team has lost its last two home games.

    The Wild have embraced having a different hero each night.  On Tuesday you could argue they had two in the 2 goals from Charlie Coyle and the game-winner in overtime from Mathew Dumba.  Dumba was recently promoted to the Wild’s top power play because of his rocket of a shot.  The former Red Deer Rebels’ star has been rising rapidly as he’s not only providing offense but is playing well defensively too.  He logged the 3rd most ice time (21:06) of any Wild skater on Tuesday behind only Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon without having logged anytime on the power play tells you how much he’s gained the trust of the Wild’s coaching staff over the last 10 games.

    Lately, the Wild have been receiving more production beyond just their top line of Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville.  Chris Stewart has 4 points (2 goals, 2 assists) in his last 5 games, and seems to be gaining more chemistry with each shift.  His solid play since being acquired at the trade deadline along with Dumba’s emergence has meant the team has not felt compelled to try to rush back injured Ryan Carter or Marco Scandella respectively and the wins have given them more time to heal properly.

    One player who has struggled a bit has been Sean Bergenheim.  Bergenheim, set to play his 500th NHL game if he plays tonight is a -3 since joining the team and has just 1 goal while averaging a little over 10 minutes of ice time per night on the 4th line.  The Wild look to the 4th line to provide energy but it has been noticeable that Head Coach Mike Yeo has sat Bergenheim in favor of Justin Fontaine later in games in part due to his superior speed and overall energy.  With Bergenheim’s role fading that makes one wonder if he’ll be scratched in favor of Jordan Schroeder who has oodles of speed and plays a high-tempo game.

    More from Editorials

    These two teams are surprisingly well matched.  They are in a similar place in their respective conference standings and both are trying to climb the ladder to have a more secure playoff position.  The one place the two clubs differ dramatically is their top end scoring and power play.  The Capitals have the best power play and the Minnesota Wild have the NHL’s best penalty kill (86.7%).  The penalty kill has come up huge many times over this last stretch to keep the team in games it perhaps did not deserve to be in as the Minneapolis Star Tribune‘s Michael Russo writes.

    Even with a great penalty kill, the Wild would be well-served to stay out of the penalty box against Washington.  On the flip side, Minnesota must do more to get shots closer to the net in order to draw some power plays of their own after failing to draw a single penalty against the Predators on Tuesday.  The best thing about playing an opponent like Washington is the team does not have to worry about the secondary effects of giving up a ‘mercy point’.  Its all about earning the two points no matter if its in regulation or not.  Just win baby!

    Washington Capitals Lines:









    Minnesota Wild Lines:









    Next: Chris Stewart Should Spend Some Time With Charlie Coyle

    More from Gone Puck Wild