Last season the Jackets and Wild were nearly identical in goals scored averaging 2.68 and 2.61 respectively. The Jackets scored just 6 more total goals than the Wild at 220.
..but what about this season?
The Wild lost offensive but oft-injured star Marion Gabrik but replaced him with Martin Havlat. They also have a healthy Brent Burns patrolling their blueline. The Wild however didn't have a single player crack the 70 point plateau with Koivu leading the team in scoring with 67 points.
The Jackets are led by Nash who scored 79 points a season ago. They will also have a healthy Derick Brassard back in their lineup with the addition of a full year of Antoine Vermette.
Havlat's addition plus a healthy Burns isn't enough to match Nash, Juice, Umberger, Vermette and the kids.
Under Jaques Lemaire the Wild were one of the most suffocating defensive teams in the league. Last year they gave up only 2.40 goals against which was good for 2nd overall in the league. The Jackets, no defensive slouch in their own right, checked in at 9th giving up 2.72.
The Wild return many of their defensive starters from a year ago with the addition of Greg Zanon. The Jackets are in a similar position with the lone addition being Anton Stralman.
I'm gonna give the Wild a slight edge here but with Lemaire gone they could open up offensively which could lead their defense more vulnerable than in year's past. The Jackets under Hitch should pick up where they left off last year.
Yeah I'd say it's a toss up.
Not much to go off yet so again gonna have to defer to last year's stats.
PP: 20.1 (9th)
PK: 87.6 (2nd)
PP: 12.7 (30th)
PK: 82.1 (13th)
Special teams are how the Wild were able to compete last year. To be ranked in the top 10 of both categories is very hard to do. Until the Jackets prove otherwise the Wild has the clear advantage in this one.
Pretty easy one... the Jackets get to play this one at home in front of a large (hopefully sell out) crowd coming off their first ever playoff appearance. They should feed off the energy of that crowd and deliver a 'W'.
I caution though that I also thought the Jackets had the clear advantage at the final home game last year where all they needed was a point to avoid Detroit in the first round and they fell flat on their faces.
You hate to call any game a must win this early but with the next 3 being road games -- and all home openers for those teams -- this is a crucial 2 points to grab out of the gate.
Hockey is back ladies and gentlemen. Not sure about the rest of ya but we'll be hitting up our favorite hockey home away from home - the R Bar - at or right after their 1 p.m. EST opening time!
Whatever your pre-game routine - have a great time as there is always just something special about opening night.
(Thanks to Dru for the great graphic!)