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Kraken vs. Wild PREVIEW: Minny Bringing Unpredictable Offense to Western Conference Showdown

Steven Bisig-USA TODAY Sports

The Need to Knows

  • The Time: 7pm PT
  • The Place: Climate Pledge Arena, Seattle, Washington
  • Place to Watch: ROOT Northwest, ESPN+/SportsNet+
  • Place to Listen: KJR 93.3-FM
  • An Opposing Viewpoint: Hockey Wilderness

Know Your Enemy

Mid-season coaching changes are a gamble. There’s no guarantee initial bursts of energy spurred by a fresh face are enough to sustain winning results all the way through April should any strategic renovation fall through. 

When the Minnesota Wild swapped head coach Dean Evason for Jon Hynes in late November, the move was met with skepticism– the crux of their 5-10-4 start lay nestled in the mechanics of their offense, something Hynes has failed to prove he can fix during prior coaching stints with the New Jersey Devils and Nashville Predators. After all not every team is the Edmonton Oilers, who fired their own head coach Jay Woodcroft weeks before yet enjoy a dependable strength of personnel that can be leaned on if the going gets tough. 

Naturally, the Wild’s 22-14-2 record under Hynes– accumulating for a 27-24-6 record over 57 games– must be cause for celebration for the North Star State, as is the club’s wins over conference rivals the Vancouver Canucks on Monday (10-7) and Oilers last night (4-2). Kirill Kaprizov’s return to form has him racking up 14 points in February, the Wild’s best month to date with only one regulation loss Tuesday at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets. Additionally, Matt Boldy’s blossomed (38 points in 38 games with Hynes), and rookies Brock Faber’s and Marco Rossi’s respective Calder campaigns have shown no signs of slowing. 

But has Hynes brought the lasting offensive improvement Minnesota dearly needed?

Game Preview

Given that Saturday will be the Wild’s fifth game in the span of a week, and Jared Spurgeon, Pat Maroon, and Marcus Foligno’s absences still make their impacts felt, it’s hard to say whether tonight’s game will be a shining example of Jon Hynes’ Minnesota Wild. Regardless, the underlying numbers dictate the bar isn’t high for their offense even on their best night– that’s why they’re still fighting for a playoff spot in the West.

Controlling 50.58% of the total shot quality (14th) and 49.12% of the total goals scored (20th), Minnesota isn’t getting enough from their attack to win on offense alone, emphasized by a nonexistent presence in the middle of the zone.

Via HockeyViz.

Worse, depth is hurting the Wild’s attack location, notably on the left wing. Marcus Johansson, Jake Lucchini, and Brandon Duhaime make for a geographic weakness most vividly seen in their shooting percentage map.

Via NHL Edge.

But averaging four goals a game over their last eight, perhaps the Kraken are in for an offensive surprise. Expect Joey Daccord in net for Seattle and Marc-André Fleury for Minnesota.

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