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Our weekly Minnesota Sports Ramble blogs are released on Tuesday (Minnesota Wild related) and Thursday (Minnesota Timberwolves related). The first and third Fridays feature content from our non-active pro sports teams, the Vikings and Twins respectively at the moment.
All-Star game love and hate, three big Wild victories against strong opponents, the defense without Dumba, and some minor trades in this edition.. Wild analyst Peter Ripka, along with new contributor Jeff Hartfiel, answer questions from Rambling On god-king Erik Ritland.
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The Wild went into the All-Star break strong with three impressive wins against the Blue Jackets, Golden Knights, and Avalanche. Which victory was the most impressive?
Peter: The Avalanche game was the most impressive. They went into that game having been outscored something 19-4 over the last four games there. They shut down one of the best lines in the league this year. They held the entire team shotless nearly the last 14 minutes of the third.
Jeff: Three wins in row is impressive. The Wild really needed to get back into the playoff picture, which they accomplished. They also needed a confidence boost going into the All-Star break. It is more impressive considering the three teams they did it against, all three of which are currently in a playoff position.
The Avalanche game was the most impressive, as they have one of the top lines in hockey and are a division opponent, so that makes it more meaningful. They impressively held MacKinnon and Rantanen to an assist apiece and four shots between them, which also shows that the defense maybe coming around. That's a good thing, as they have been struggling to find consistently since the loss of Dumba. Let's hope this continues after their eight-day break and they come back firing on all cylinders.
Who was the star of each game?
Blue Jackets This game is hard to pick out a star, they played a really close game and had solid defensive effort. I'll take the low hanging fruit and pick Parise, simply because he scored the winner.
Golden Knights Dubnyk without a doubt. He made a lot of big saves to keep the game close or tied, often while being peppered with shots by a team that is dominate at home.
Avalanche Greg Pateryn, again without a doubt. He had a very gutsy shift and was blocking shots in key moments all night. One sequence he blocked three in like 17 seconds off of three separate parts of his body. That was a key moment late in the second when the Wild were trapped in their own zone.
Jeff: It's hard not to go with Greenway as the star for the last three games, just because he has elevated his game so much. But if I have to pick one from each game...
The Blue Jackets Charlie Coyle. He has been playing his role perfectly, using his big frame of his to drive forecheck and drive to the net. Maybe it's the new line of him with Greenway and Staal, as all three have elevated there game since being teamed together. Let's hope it continues. Could be big for the Wild.
Golden Knights Dubnyk (in addition to Greenway). Dubby stopped 30 of 32 shots while holding a very good team in check. Sure, he allowed two goals, but the saves he made are more impressive. He remains one of the most consistent players on this team.
As for Greenway, he didn't light up the stat sheet (had two shots and a assist), but the little things he is doing are important. His forechecking, backchecking, going to the corner, and drawing penalties are all impressive.
Avalanche Eric Staal, who had two goals and an assist. It looks like he has found his game and is playing really well. Not sure if it's his new line, but he's playing like he finally woke up, and I'm enjoying it. If he keeps this going it'll be great for the Wild.
How is the defense holding up without Dumba? How will the addition of former Golden Knight Brad Hunt change that landscape and what do you think of the trade?
Peter: Suter and Spurgeon have both picked up their game over the last couple weeks. This level of play needs to continue to fill the void.
Overall they're treading water. The strangest part of adding Hunt is that he is a small left shift defenseman. The one thing this team didn't need was a left shift d-man, so when the trade happened I was a bit puzzled. But after reading and learning more about him, I realized that he was brought in for a very cheap price for his big shot. The move should help the power play once he knocks the rust off from playing only 14 games this season.
Jeff: The defense has had there struggles since losing Dumba. They've had trouble finding consistency and good pairings outside of Suter and Spurgeon. That's why they brought up Belpedio and traded for Hunt. Pateryn has been playing out of position on the second pairing and not meshing to well with Brodin. Hence the moves the Wild and Fenton have made.
Bringing in Hunt, who has offensive upside, will be helpful. Hopefully he'll help the Wild down the stretch by scoring and stabilizing the defense a little more by adding depth.
What are your thoughts on the All-Star game?
Peter: This is one of the few All-Star games I enjoy watching because it gives a chance for the players to show off all their talent. The NHL made the right decision to go with the current format. It is definitely fun to watch.
Jeff: I'm not a big fan of the All-Star game in any sport, much less hockey. They are boring and unappealing. No one is really trying and it comes off like some players don't want to be there. They might be honored to be chosen, but they'd rather be at home spending time with family and resting their body.
The NHL tries hard to try to get fans more interested. Maybe if they put more effort into getting the players interested in the game you wouldn't have something like Ovechkin skipping it and accepting his one game suspension for doing so.
I understand they should want to do it for the fans, but the NHL needs to figure out a way that both fans and the players can enjoy All-Star weekend. But that can be said about all the All-Star games, as they're just not enjoyable. And the voting for all of them is even worse. Maybe they should just select an All-Star team, not play the game, and give the players a week off to spend time at home with their families.
Peter Ripka is the original Rambling On podcast co-host and has been a contributor since its inception. He’s currently the Wild analyst, a position he’s held for several years. A Wild and Twins season ticket holder, his writing combines the passion of a fan and the insight of a beat writer.
Jeff Hartfiel is a Minnesota sports analyst specializing in the Wild and Vikings. He's been a part of Rambling On since 2018.