Wednesday night marks the eighth and final regular-season game between the Minnesota Wild and Vegas Golden Knights this season. The two teams have played highly entertaining games this season and could easily be on pace to meet in the playoffs should the Colorado Avalanche leapfrog over the Knights into the top spot in the Honda West division.
Facing Vegas might be the most preferred outcome for the Wild in Round 1 because they have matched up much more favorably against the Golden Knights than they have against the Avs this season.
Minnesota has enjoyed great success against Vegas this year. They have won five of seven meetings, and their most recent win was the most impressive. The Wild scored three third-period goals in a come-from-behind 6-5 victory on Monday, erasing a 5-3 second intermission deficit and picking up their fifth win in seven games against the Knights this season.
What has the key been for Minnesota? Let’s take a look:
Three’s goal-scoring company
The Wild have scored 22 goals in seven games against Vegas this season. Eleven of those goals have been scored by a combined three players: Kirill Kaprizov (four), Joel Eriksson Ek (four), and Marcus Foligno (three) have all been leading the way on the scoresheet. In fact, Foligno is the Wild leader in total points against Vegas this season, with seven.
It’s worth noting here that this trio has played on three separate lines against Vegas this season, which makes these totals more impressive and has given the Wild a very balanced scoring attack.
If the Wild and Vegas meet again down the road, having a balanced scoring attack from these players will be crucial to the team’s success, as line matching becomes of utmost importance in a seven-game series.
Goals in the clutch
The words ‘clutch’ and ‘goal’ typically have not gone together when referring to the Wild. But this year appears to be a different story, and there’s no better example of this than that of Minnesota’s season series against Vegas.
In the five wins against the Golden Knights, Minnesota is outscoring Vegas 10-3 in the third period. Again, that’s 10 third-period goals in five wins. Averaging a score of 2-0 or 2-1 in the third period is always a good thing, especially when most of the games have been decided by one goal. Having success like this in the third period against a good team like Vegas could go a long way to boosting the confidence of a team that needs a goal or two in the third period of a playoff game should that situation arise.
With games between Minnesota and Vegas being eerily close this season, special teams will play a factor in helping us find a winner. The Wild have narrowly gotten an edge on special teams in this season series, which can help when both team’s goaltending is playing about the same.
Minnesota unadvisably has given Vegas more power-play opportunities in this season series (20-15), but the Wild have an edge in power-play goals (4-3) despite having fewer chances. That gives the Wild a better power-play and penalty-kill percentage in the season series, something you cannot say with the Wild and their other opponents.