I'm starting to wonder... how good could this team be if they had a PP that could score goals? They've gone from a team that couldn't score a 5 on 5 goal to save their lives to a team that can't seem to find any way to score with an extra skater or even two extra skaters. They've now scored 4 or more goals in 4 of their last 8 games and scored a season high 5 last night with Koivu's empty netter to put the Avalanche away. If the Wild can somehow find a way to capitalize on the PP with more consistency, they'll be in the chase for the number one spot in the Northwest division.
This team is starting to look very impressive as far as their line combinations are concerned! I'm starting to think the Rupp trade is looking border line genius! Big bodied winger that has surprisingly soft hands and puck handling ability. He has only 3 points with one goal in 17 games, but has been danger close to about a half dozen more that just didn't cross the line. Mitchell has been a pleasant surprise as well with his speed and energy and nose for the net. The 4th line looks as good as any on the ice as of late and they are creating just as many scoring chances as are the top lines! Who would have thought Konopka would have been asked to actually play the game of hockey in between his slug fests? And he's looking the part of a genuine 4th line center versus just being a goon and face off specialist and that is helping this team win games.
I think Matt Cullen could easily be penciled in for team MVP at this point. I think it's definitely between him, Parise and Ryan Suter. But Cullen has been the offensive catalyst for the team this season... Notching his 17th point of the season, he's all over the ice and assisted Tori Mitchell on the games first goal last night when he was double shifted on the 4th line after Konopka's bout with Cody McCleod. He's also currently ranked 11th in the league in faceoff % at 57.3% and 2nd in the league for home faceoff % at 59.8%.
Suter tallied his 20th assist last night with 3 in the game, and continues to prove his invaluable worth as the number one D man on this team. Parise continues to show he's one of the hardest working players in the NHL and directly contributed to one of the Wilds most impressive scoring plays of the season last night when he shoveled the third of a tic tac toe passing play to the stick of Koivu that pulled Varlamov so far out of the net that Koivu had time to decide which part of the empty cage he wanted to deposit the puck in, which turned out to be the game winner.
Defense still has some holes to fill. I think Falk's days are now numbered, he continues to look unimpressive and mistake prone on a nightly basis. His size is pretty much all he has going for him at this point.
I'm interested to see what Brett Clark is going to bring to this defense, by the looks of his AHL season this year( 17 points in 18 games)he's got to be an upgrade over Falk, maybe even Gilbert.
That leads right into Tom Gilbert. He is another big question mark on this team. Simply put, he's a turnover machine. He doesn't belong on the PP and he certainly doesn't have the skill to warrant the cutsie little behind the back pass attempts he likes to try and execute when he can't even seem to make a basic pass without turning the puck over. For a top 4 defenseman, he's certainly isn't earning that $3.5 million a year paycheck.
Aside from his little bit of offensive upside, I don't like any facet of Gilberts game. I hope once Dumba is ready (hopefully by next season) the Wild cut ties with Mr. Gilbert and his bloated salary.
And what can you really say about the absolutely amazing play of Jonas Brodin?! This guy is a superstar in the making. He scored his first career NHL goal last night on a laser wrist shot and this kid just looks like he's got future perenial all star stamped on his forehead. The incredible poise this kid shows is like watching a 10 year grizzled veteran and he's only 19 years old! Kudos on that pick Fletch!
With all of that, the Wild still need to find a way to start consistently beating the contending teams like Anaheim and Vancouver if they want to vie for a playoff birth this season.