Minnesota Wild preview

 The Minnesota Wild system of play will never be confused with firewagon hockey.

They play a defence-first system, and at times, lull teams to sleep. But at the same time, they can also play a tough, physical game if the need arises.

However, they don’t score very much, and after losing a couple of their top offensive players, they will struggle this season.

Forwards: In another city, Marian Gaborik would be a superstar. But in Minnesota with their defensive system, he doesn’t get a chance to truly open up. And he’s still scored a point-per-game for the past three seasons. He’ll be going all out this season, because he’s an unrestricted free agent next season.

To try and make up for the loss of scoring, Minnesota signed Andrew Brunette during the offseason for his second go-around with the team. They got him for cheap, so they won’t be expecting much, but the team is hopeful he can take some of the pressure off the top line with some timely scoring. 

Pierre-Marc Bouchard is turning into a great setup man. While he only scored 13 goals last season, he did get 50 assists. Those aren’t Adam Oates numbers, but they’re impressive in this system of play.

Defence: All the defencemen play a defensive system first, so don’t count on them to be scoring a lot of goals or getting a bunch of assists. But they will not be giving up many odd-man rushes. Martin Skoula, Marc-Andre Bergeron and Kim Johnsson are the most well-known of the defencemen. They’re steady, but teams won’t be scraed of them.

Goaltending: Niklas Backstrom is a quality number one goaltender for this team. He has stolen a few games for the Wild the past couple of seasons, and should be about a 2.30 GAA, .920 save percentage and get about four or five shutouts this year.

Pool picks: Mikko Koivu has been improving every single season. While he missed some time last year because of injuries, he should be able to get a career year this year, with at least 60 points. Stay away from: Any of their defencemen. They don’t jump in the play a lot, and won’t be getting a lot of points.

Miscellaneous: Derek Boogaard belongs in a category all by himself. The guy is six-foot-seven, 260 pounds, and likes to punish people. Whether it be by hitting, fighting, or just being a presence on the ice, Boogaard makes sure opposing players don’t take a run at the Wild’s skill players, the few of them they do have.

Expected finish: Fifth in the Northwest division, 11th in the Western conference.

Overall: Minnesota will have a hard time scoring goals this season. They lost two of their top four scorers last year in Brian Rolston and Pavol Demitra, and will have trouble catching up if they fall behind in games. They still play a sound defensive system, so that should keep them in the playoff hunt, but won’t will lose too many games just because they couldn’t score.

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