Minnesota Wild: Pre-Season Game One Analysis


The Minnesota Wild opened pre-season action last night in St. Paul with a 3-2 loss to the resurgent Buffalo Sabres. The Wild backstopped by Darcy Kuemper had the lead heading into the 3rd period on the strength of goals from Granlund and Spurgeon.

But in the third period it would be Buffalo rookie Jack Eichel who would steal the show with an assist on the game tier and the game winning goal while shorthanded. After regulation the teams did play a league-mandated demonstration of 3-on-3 overtime, which saw both Zach Parise and Jack Eichel score goal. Overall it was a loss for the Wild, but since it was only a preseason game, it’s worth looking at the performance rather than the final score.

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The first thing to clue into is that the Wild’s power play was 1 for 3. Not bad, considering if they went 1 for 3 during every game of last year’s regular season they would be best in the league. What should be lauded as well is that Mikael Granlund, who has been identified many times as someone who needs to step up his scoring touch, scored the goal. Still I guess one red flag might be that Eichel’s game winner was scored short-handed, by him skating around Spurgeon.

Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The second take away I had from the night was the performance of Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper stopped 16 of 19 shots for a .842 SV%, not exactly a great stat for a goaltender. I feel in this instance the defense did its job as they only allowed 19 shots, and Kuemper, for that shot total, should only really be giving up 1 to 2 goals.

With this being his first pre-season game there’s certainly time and opportunity to get just a touch better. However, imagine if Niklas Backstrom, slated to start tonight in Winnipeg, has a better pre-season, does this mean that Kuemper might be the third wheel instead of Backstrom?

Credit: Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

The next thing I gleaned from the game was that the top line of Parise, Granlund, and Pominville played great. This line will be crucial this season as the Wild look to put the puck in the net more and outscore opponents like Chicago and St. Louis.

Granlund walked away with a power play goal and an assist on Spurgeon’s goal. Parise assisted on both goals and provided one of the overtime 3-on-3 exhibition goals as well. Pominville did not have a point but played solidly as he provided a very timely screen of Sabres’ goaltender Chad Johnson that led to Spurgeon’s goal.

Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

Looking ahead to tonight’s match up with the Jets, expect more of a rotation of the line-up with some other players getting a look. It will be very interesting to see how Backstrom preforms to see if he is indeed healthy and if there will be any competition with Kuemper for the rest of training camp.

Also I’m looking to see if some of the players on the bubble make the roster like Sutter, Bulmer, and Schroder, who play tonight in their first action of the pre-season. Finally I’d like to see just how the Jets will stack up to the Wild this year as a Central Division opponent. It’s a nice opportunity to gauge just how competitive things might be in the division this season. It should be a great game north of the border!

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