Category Archives: RandBall

NOTE: This appeared first at RandBall, though it was written Saturday morning and Rand forgot to post it until Sunday.

Game of the Week: Wild at Nashville (6pm Sunday, FSN Plus)

Advanced statistical analysis is becoming part of every sport, but the thing that strikes me is how forehead-smackingly simple some of the conclusions turn out to be. In baseball, one of the great conclusions was that outs — wait for it — are bad, because after three of them your team has to start over from scratch.

Hockey, too, has seen an expansion of advanced analysis. Allow me to sum most of the advanced stats up in three sentences: A team must score more than its opponent to win. The team that does not possess the puck cannot score. The number of shots a team takes in a game — including the ones that are blocked or miss the net (depending on the stat) — is a pretty good representation of how often they had the puck.

Got that? The conclusion is that having the puck is good. Forehead-smacking, right?

I bring all of this up because I want to direct you to the excellent page for the Wild, which contains handy charts that show off a graphical look at the Wild’s season. On that page, you can also find the most telling stat for Minnesota: over the past three games before playing Colorado on Saturday, at even strength, Minnesota was getting out-shot more than two to one by their opponents. Winning streak or no, that does not bode well for the Wild.

What else to watch

Sunday, noon: Niners at Panthers (FOX)
3:30pm: Chargers at Broncos (CBS)

There is one reason that football, brain injuries and shortened lifespan aside, will never die, and here’s that expressed in one number: 47,100,000. That’s the number of people who tuned in to the Packers-49ers game last Sunday, the most-watched wild-card game ever. Or another number: 22, the number of NFL regular-season games that drew more than 25 million viewers, up from eight last year.

This is why ESPN has turned itself into a 24/7 NFL pregame show. This is why NFL talk is inescapable in any scenario. This is why football will never go away; it’s America’s favorite game and has the eyeballs to match.

6pm Sunday: Wolves at San Antonio (FSN). The Wolves are having one of the weirdest seasons I’ve ever seen. They are second in the NBA in offense and seventh in defense, and any ranking based on those two stats has them among the top six or seven teams in the league. Yet they’re tenth in the West and 18-18 overall, all because they either lose by two (0-10, famously, in close games) or win by 27, like they did Friday night. This game will likely be close. 0-11 or 1-10?

Note: This appeared first at RandBall, your home for new years.

Games of the week: NFL Playoffs

Two games today (Chiefs/Colts, 3:30pm; Saints/Eagles, 7pm, both on NBC); two games Sunday (Chargers/Bengals at noon on CBS, Niners/Packers at 3:30pm on FOX).

It’s strange; on virtually every fall weekend, you can watch football from morning to night on both Saturday and Sunday. Yet it’s not until the first round of the NFL playoffs, when the league lines up games on both Saturday and Sunday, one at a time, that it really feels like an event. Most Sundays, we’re inundated with one good game and a bunch of garbage. We’ve sat through it all year. This is our reward.

What else to watch

Today, 2pm: #5 Michigan State at Indiana (CBS). Sure, it’s still the first week of January, and March Madness is still months away. If you squint, though, a top-five team going to Assembly Hall on a Saturday afternoon isn’t a bad replacement.

Today, 7pm: Capitals at Wild (FSN). After losing six in a row, the Wild beat the hapless, hopeless Sabres on Thursday to temporarily staunch the bleeding. Today, then, is the first day of the rest of their season. Lose again, and Mike Yeo may not make it to Monday; win, and we will all start forgetting about the Christmas swoon.

Sunday, 1:30pm: Purdue at Gophers (BTN). The Gophers dropped a winnable one on Thursday against Michigan, and now, Purdue – probably one of the bottom four teams in the Big Ten – comes to Williams Arena. One game into the Big Ten season, it’s a little early for must-win games…. but still, this feels like a must-win game for Minnesota.

What to read this weekend

Scott Burnside’s look inside the selection of the USA Olympic hockey team is absolutely fascinating. And most importantly, defenseman Brian Rafalski will be nowhere near the team this time. HOW CAN YOU LOSE TRACK OF SIDNEY CROSBY ON THE HALF WALL, RAFALSKI? HOW???

NOTE: This appeared first at RandBall, your home for self-determination.

Game of the week, 3:30 today: USC vs. Fresno State, Las Vegas Bowl (ABC)

Somewhere out there, right now, someone is telling his family, friends, or assorted internet followers that he is above watching the beginning of college football bowl season today. The games don’t matter, he says; the matchups are nonsensical, and too many teams play in bowl games.

Our straw-man friend may well be right. But let’s look at this a different way: college football is on television today, and who doesn’t like that? USC, having just stolen Washington’s coach, is pounding the final nail in the coffin of the Lane Kiffin era today, for one. For another, they’re doing it against their in-state non-rivals, Fresno State, who were a single loss to San Jose State away from a perfect season and a potential bottom-drawer BCS berth. And the Bulldogs have QB David Carr, who could – you never know – be wearing Purple in 2014.

Next year, there will be a playoff for the Division I national football championship. It is the beginning of the end for bowl season; college football won’t be able to resist the lure of the untold billions that await from an ever-expanding, March Madness-style tournament. The regular season will grow meaningless and bowl season will become increasingly anachronistic, and someday we’ll all look back and wonder why this game was a glorified exhibition and not a first-round playoff game, with the winner going on to a spot in the Round of 16.

I think we’ll miss it. I think we’ll look back fondly on a time when the reward for any kind of decent season wasn’t a playoff beating, but a trip someplace warm at the end of the year, to play a team that you wouldn’t otherwise play, and a jump on next year’s season. Either way, though, there is college football on TV today, and that’s a good thing.

What else to watch

3:00 today: Colorado at Los Angeles (NHL Network): Los Angeles has a claim to be the best team in the NHL right now. Meanwhile, the Avalanche are young, fast, and skating serenely along above the Wild in the standings, always apparently teetering on the brink of a collapse but never quite tilting into disaster, either. Anyway, it’s not too early to start thinking about playoff positions in the Western Conference, and this game will have obvious implications.

Noon tomorrow: Vikings at Cincinnati (FOX): This is genuinely the best game going in the NFL tomorrow, on your television. The other three games are Denver-Houston (yikes), Green Bay-Pittsburgh (nope), and Chicago-Philadelphia (yecch). Meanwhile, the Vikings are ruining their draft pick more with every passing week; can they do it again this week, against the mighty Bengals?

2:30 tomorrow: PBA Scorpion Championship (ESPN): The other week, I somehow found myself living out a fever dream, in which Terrell Owens owned a professional bowling team and in fact showed up in a patterned shirt and was attempting bowling trick shots. This is all true, except for the part where I reveal that it wasn’t a dream after all, and that the whole thing was strangely hypnotic and televised on ESPN. (Anyway, if the VIkings are losing, this would do a good job of getting you an afternoon nap.)

6:30 tomorrow: Wild at New York Rangers (FSN): Do you guys remember when Nicklas Backstrom wasn’t terrible and starting him in net gave the Wild a decent chance to win? (Let’s hope Backstrom remembers too.)

What to read this weekend

The story of how Qatar came to host the 2022 World Cup is equal parts fascinating and infuriating. The short answer is that everything and everyone is for sale, for the right price, but it runs deeper than that – and by no means is the discussion over, given that now FIFA and Qatar are facing a fight against almost every other established soccer interest in the world.

This appeared at RandBall, your home for plenty of stuff.

Game of the week: Wild at Colorado, Saturday, 8pm (FSN): This, then, is the beauty of the intradivisional playoffs: a Saturday night game in mid-December suddenly feels next to a playoff game in importance.

The Wild are now two games into a brutal stretch that sees them play seven of eight on the road, the first six against probable playoff teams. They’ve also sunk back into their goal-free tailspin, scoring just once each in losses at Anaheim and at San Jose to begin the first portion of their road trip.

The stats say that Colorado, which is giving up far more shots than they are taking, can’t continue to stay among the league’s elite. But for the moment, they’re not only ahead of the Wild in the standings by a point, but they have four games in hand – as does St. Louis, four points ahead of Minnesota.

A loss tonight, and yet another Colorado hot streak, could drop the Wild far enough behind the Avs that catching them would be next to impossible. Add in the pressure of the road trip, and the Wild’s recent troubles, and I’m willing to say that tonight’s game is the biggest of the year so far for Minnesota.

What else to watch

11am today: Coastal Carolina at North Dakota State, ESPN. The Gophers were 8-4 this year and things are looking up in Dinkytown, and even so, I don’t think they are the tri-state area’s best college football team. The Bison, the #1 seed in the I-AA playoffs, are the favorites for a third consecutive championship; they beat Furman 38-7 last week, and could reasonably be expected to punish unseeded Coastal Carolina similarly. But you’ll have to tune in to find out.

2pm: Army vs. Navy, CBS. I love the Army-Navy game. There’s no good reason for this; the football’s generally not great, and once the cadets from either side finish marching, they don’t provide much more in the way of pageantry than any other college football game. And yet, there’s something fun, something primal, about two schools for whom the biggest game of the year isn’t a conference championship or a bowl game or a battle for a better ranking. Army-Navy isn’t about any of that; it’s about beating your brother, and who among us doesn’t find that as important as possible?

4:15: #11 Kentucky at #18 North Carolina, ESPN. It’s a nonconference matchup between two Top 25 college basketball teams. Even if this doesn’t necessarily have the Top-5 Tar Heels-Wildcats cachet that we might have expected, we have to take excitement where we can get it, at this point of the season.

Noon Sunday: Vikings vs. Philadelphia, FOX. Friend of the blog Drew Magary wrote a (R-rated, so kids, look away) screed against cheering for the Vikings’ opponents so that the Purple can get a better draft pick. And maybe he’s right; maybe it’s better to always want your team to win. But at the same time, if the Vikings lose, then we’re one step closer to a host of other benefits; better draft picks, yes, but also potentially new coaches and new general managers and, if we’re lucky, fewer of these nightmare three-win Les [Insert Last Name Here] seasons. So there’s that too.

What to read this weekend

At Grantland, Sean McIndoe reviews some of the recent NHL research regarding zone entries, and whether it’s better to dump the puck and chase it, or try to carry it in. The Wild doesn’t seem like it is much for advanced stats, but Minnesota features heavily in this one, as a change the Wild is trying to make this year fits in pretty well with what the numbers show.

Also, the Twins have Jason Kubel coming back; Parker Hageman at Twins Daily looks at just why he was so terrible in 2013 for Arizona.

NOTE: This appeared at RandBall too.

We are all RandBall now.

For the first six years, these birthday posts have focused on the difference between RandBall (the blog) and traditional media; when the blog started seven years ago, it was a breath of fresh air that cut through the stale cloud of 2006’s newspaper industry.

Seven years on, RandBall is everywhere. The blog is just one small part of RandBall Industries; it stands alongside Page 2, the online videos, and an entire community of Twitterers and blogs and podcasts that can be traced, at least indirectly, to the group of goofballs that used to gather in the comments section of RandBall posts.

It’s almost foolish to continue to celebrate these birthdays; we might as well celebrate the anniversary of all of the people who signed up for Twitter, or of the first of the long-since-discontinued Redactulars, or any number of other milestones along the way. Don’t get me wrong, RandBall is great, as a blog — but it’s grown beyond these virtual blog walls. What started as something different than traditional media has itself become traditional media. We are all RandBall now.

I suppose the credit you can give to Rand is that he never, ever tried to wrestle this thing to the ground and control it. He let go and trusted us all to not ruin everything, and it – I would like to think – has paid off. As for me, on this auspicious yearly occasion, I offer my thanks to Rand for kicking all of this off. He didn’t know where it was going, either, but it’s spawned friendships beyond counting and fun beyond measure, and what else can I ask for?

So wish RandBall a happy birthday! Use the comments, or Twitter, or your blog, or your podcast, because the way this thing is going, those all make perfect sense.

Reminisce! RandBall’s 1st Birthday | 2nd | 3rd | 4th | 5th | 6th

It’s a long, snowy Sunday ahead. Here’s what to watch today.

9:55am: Arsenal vs Everton (NBC Sports Network): College football is into the only-semi-entertaining bowl season, the NHL and NBA playoffs are months away, the Vikings are terrible, and the NFL can only fill so much of your time. Either you can become a college basketball nut, or: the Premier League.

One of the best criticisms of English soccer over the past few years has been the top-heavy nature of the league. So far this year, though, that hasn’t been true; Arsenal, famously low-spending, can go seven points clear at the top of the standings with a win today – and if they do win, Manchester United, with all of their piles of cash, will be closer to last place than first place.

The oil gazillionaires at Manchester City and Chelsea are still doing well, so it’s not completely topsy-turvy yet in England. But Liverpool are in second place, and Everton can get to a tie for second with a win today, and Tottenham and Newcastle aren’t far back; it’s an actual race this year.

Anyway, it’s either that or diving headlong into the random number generator that is the college basketball season. Or talking to your family, I guess.

1:00pm: World Cup Skiing (NBC): It’s the Olympics this year. Get in the mood with the World Cup men’s downhill, from Beaver Creek, Colorado – the only American stop on the circuit all year.

3:25pm: Seattle at San Francisco (FOX): It’s a divisional rivalry, with the Niners needing a win to stay ahead of the Wild Card pack, and Seattle just a couple of victories away from clinching home-field advantage throughout the playoffs – a big deal, given the noise in Seattle. Also, it’s the perfect football lead-in to…

7:20pm: Carolina at New Orleans (NBC): One of these teams will win the NFC South, and clinch a first-round bye in the process. The other will have to play an extra playoff game. This game could be the difference in deciding which is which.

And by the time that’s all over, you’ll be feeling ready to take on the week. That’s the power of Sunday Funday.

NOTE: This appeared first at RandBall, your home for St. Cloud football.

NOTE: As always, this appeared first at RandBall, your home for forgetting to post this for two weeks.

Game of the weekend: 2:30pm today, ESPN: #19 Wisconsin at #25 Minnesota

Most people already consider this year of Gopher football, broadly speaking, a success. Four Big Ten wins, including one over traditional power Nebraska, have seen to that; even if the Gophers lose their final three games of the year, it has been a positive year for Minnesota.

Today, though, the Gophers have a chance to make 2013 the most memorable year of Gopher football for a generation – to not only get to five conference wins, but to get a truly memorable win. (“Remember the year we beat Wisconsin, the year it was like zero degrees?”)

Minnesota has had a handful of five-win conference seasons in the past forty years, but perhaps only 1986, when the Gophers beat Michigan at the Big House, can truly compare – and even that year, Minnesota lost to Pacific in the non-conference schedule. 2003 was marred by the Michigan debacle in the Dome (and the nearly-as-craptacular Michigan State loss at home the following week.) 1999 had the epic upset at Penn State, but also had the frustration of four losses of five points or less. 1990 had a 56-0 loss to Nebraska, and a Pacific-style loss to Utah to open the year.

A win over Wisconsin would give Minnesota those five Big Ten wins, plus the fond memory of beating the Badgers in the below-zero wind chill. The Gophers probably aren’t going to the Big Ten championship game, let’s be honest; Michigan State can end that hope before things even kick off on the East Bank today. But regardless of what might happen next week against the Spartans, the Gophers can seal 2013 this week as one of the team’s best years ever. All they have to do: bring the Axe home.

What else to watch this weekend

11:00am today, ESPN: #13 Michigan State at Northwestern. All of that said, just keep an eye on how things are going in Evanston… you know, just in case.

7:25am Sunday, NBC Sports: Tottenham at Manchester City. It’s the best of the weekend English soccer slate, according to Dana Wessel. Can City continue their run of playing well at home? Can Spurs score a goal this season, pretty much ever? Can you find anything else to watch if you happen to be up early tomorrow morning? (Probable answers, in order: Yes. No. No.)

4:00pm Sunday, FSN: Minnesota-Duluth at Minnesota. When the kickoff for the Gophers and Wisconsin was announced for the late afternoon, this game was moved from Saturday night to Sunday, in order to minimize the difficulty of getting football fans out of Stadium Village and hockey fans in. A lot of Gopher hockey fans were mad about that one – Saturday night is hockey night! – but here’s the weird thing: Sunday afternoon Gopher hockey games are always raucous. I don’t have an explanation for that, but some of the loudest crowds I’ve ever heard at Mariucci were Sunday afternoon crowds.

7:20pm Sunday, ESPN: Denver at New England. Sunday afternoon is inviolable for a lot of NFL fans. I’ve talked to at least one person, and I’m sure there are others, who have negotiated a truce of sorts with their families: just let me have from noon to 6:30 on Sunday to watch football, and I’ll go anywhere and do anything the rest of the week. It is to those people I speak here: The afternoon games (Indy at Arizona, Dallas at the Giants) are terrible, and you probably don’t want to watch the Vikings/Packers game anyway. Move it back. Give up the afternoon so you can take the evening; you’d much rather watch this game instead. You have a day to pull this off. Go.

What to read this weekend

With Thanksgiving coming up, you probably haven’t been thinking much about the Twins’ starting rotation. I’d like to offer you the chance to correct that, thanks to the TwinsCentric / TwinsDaily crew. Last week, Parker Hageman looked at Ricky Nolasco, one of the guys the Twins are rumored to be high on; this week, John Bonnes did the same for Bronson Arroyo.

This post appeared first at RandBall, your home for keeping everyone happy.

Game of the week: 7:30 tonight (BTN) #2 Penn State at #15 Gophers volleyball

I’m not sure Gopher volleyball gets the attention it deserves. Most of the Gopher bandwidth in town is taken up with football, men’s basketball, and men’s hockey, and what’s left traditionally is absorbed by the amazing women’s hockey team and the ultra-successful wrestling program. Throw in a few memories of the Lindsay Whalen-Janel McCarville women’s hoops team, and there’s not a lot left for Gopher volleyball.

Allow me to give you a little background; the Gophers haven’t missed the NCAA tournament since 1998, a span in which they’ve made it to the Sweet Sixteen an astonishing ten times and advanced to the Final Four thrice.

The background on Penn State is even more impressive: nine of the last ten Big Ten titles, and four consecutive NCAA titles from 2007-2010. The Nittany Lions are on top of the Big Ten once again this year, with the Gophers in third place, and no doubt Penn State is expected to roll tonight.

I love cheering for an underdog, don’t you?

What else to watch this weekend

2:30 pm today (ABC): #16 Michigan State at Nebraska. Don’t pretend that you haven’t idly checked the Big Ten West (fine, Legends division) standings over the past couple of weeks and thought to yourself, “Huh, I wonder if MSU loses another one and Nebraska loses another one, then the Gophers beat Wisconsin and the Spartans, then… nah.”

1pm Sunday (NBC): United States Grand Prix. Granted, the Formula 1 championship is decided, and the two Red Bull cars were fastest in the practice sessions, so we can probably count on seeing another win out of Sebastien Vettel. Still, the Circuit of the Americas is one of the best tracks in F1, it’s got a fun, goofy hill in Turn 1… and if you watch this, you don’t have to watch either of the awful noon NFL games.

7pm Sunday (FSN): Winnipeg at Wild. I see no reason that these teams shouldn’t don Sioux and Gophers jerseys for this game. It’s geographically sound, and we might as well amp this budding Jets-Wild rivalry up a little bit.

7:30pm Sunday (NBC): Kansas City at Denver. Near as I can tell, these are two of the three good teams in the NFL. Instead of watching the third (Seattle) beat up on the Vikings late on Sunday, save your football watching for this game, and see if the Chiefs can beat the Broncos.

What to read this weekend

There have been a few profiles of Ra’shede Hageman this year, all of them interesting, but I encourage you to check out a very worthy one from SB Nation by John Rosengren.

NOTE: This appeared first at RandBall, your home for utility.

Game of the week: Penn State at Minnesota, 11am (BTN).

Earlier this week, the Star Tribune ran an online poll, asking fans which local sports story interested them the most. The winner, by a landslide, was Gopher football, with 42% of the votes cast; the Wild finished second with 15%.

Part of this is because the Gophers are a good story right now, with three straight wins and Jerry Kill’s status drawing interest. I think it’s also a testament, though, to something else; I think it speaks to Gopher football’s status as the sleeping giant of the local sports scene. The Vikings are far and away the area’s favorite team, but I think Gopher football might be the natural #2.

The poll is evidence, but just going to a Gopher game is evidence enough. I make jokes about the typically-geriatric Gopher football fan, and there are certainly plenty of old-timers who can remember the pre-1965 glory days – but there are plenty of people in the under-40 crowd as well. We under-40s have no memories of the Gophers ever being good, but we show up anyway, and I think that’s a sign.

Today, the Gophers go for a fourth consecutive Big Ten win. The last such streak was 40 years ago, in the same year that was the last time the Gophers won six conference games, the minimum bar for being a decent team. Let the sleeping giant awake, I say. This town has waited a long time.

What else to watch this weekend

Saturday, 6pm: Hockey Night in Everywhere. The NHL Network shows Hockey Night in Canada on Saturday nights, a great development that’s tempered by the fact that HNiC long ago became Maple Leafs Night in Canada. Fear not, hockey fans: you have choices! The Wild and Carolina are at 6pm on FSN, to go along with Toronto and Boston on NHL Network; if neither tickles your fancy, at 7:00, you can watch Chicago play Dallas (and root for the arena to collapse.) Or, you can watch…

Saturday, 7pm (CBS): #13 LSU at #1 Alabama. Oregon’s out of the title picture, at least for the moment – and wouldn’t it be just like Les Miles, the King of Chaos, to throw a wrench into the SEC picture by taking LSU into Tuscaloosa and beating Alabama? (Well, I hope so. I couldn’t be more sick of stupid Alabama.)

Sunday, 10am (NBC Sports): Arsenal at Manchester United. Formerly, this was the only rivalry in the Premier League that mattered. Now, it’s a matchup of first-place Arsenal trying to prove they belong, vs. eighth-place Manchester United trying to reverse a season that has so far been a disappointment. Also, if you watch this you won’t have to watch any of the awful NFL pregame shows.

Sunday, 8:30pm (FSN): Wolves at Los Angeles Lakers. Minnesota’s lost 22 straight to the Lakers. They haven’t beaten LA since 2007; they haven’t won in Los Angeles since 2005. But this year, the Wolves are good and the Lakers aren’t, and maybe, just maybe, we can see the Wolves walk off the floor in LA with a win.

NOTE: This appeared at RandBall, your home for old age.

Game of the Week: Gophers at Indiana, 2:30pm (BTN)

So many people spoke of Minnesota’s win last week over Nebraska as a “signature” win, as if all the Gophers needed was a single point of inflection to set them on a never-ending upward course. But here’s the thing: I sat through the Glen Mason era, and I know different.

Mason’s teams had a number of quote-unquote “signature” wins. Penn State in 1999, Michigan in 2005, Ohio State in 2000 (somehow always on the road) — all felt like the dawn of a new age for Gopher football.

Then, the next week, the Gophers would lose to Purdue, or Indiana, or Northwestern, or really any team in the Big Ten, and it’d be back to the same old thing. Any Gopher fan can rattle off the epic collapses of the Mason years just as fast as the signature wins — Michigan in 2003, Wisconsin in 2005, Northwestern in 2000, Texas Tech in 2006, Purdue in 2001, and on and on.

Signature wins are fun, don’t get me wrong, but what Gopher fans are really desperate for is for a team that not only beats Nebraska, but follows it up the next week with a win, and the next week with a win after that. Minnesota’s quest to be that team and that program starts today in Bloomington, against an exciting but porous Indiana squad.

What else to watch this weekend

12:30 pm today (NBC): Liverpool vs. Arsenal. It’s the game of the weekend in America’s favorite soccer league, as the league leaders visit third-place Liverpool. Arsenal has risen to the top by beating up on the Premier League’s dregs, and needs a result today to prove – if only to themselves – if they’re for real. Liverpool, similarly, wants to believe that they can at long last contend again for a league title.

7pm tonight (ABC): #7 Miami at #3 Florida State: Somehow, the Seminoles are three-touchdown favorites, despite playing a fellow top-10 team. It speaks to the gulf that we all presume to exist between this year’s Big Three of Alabama, Oregon, and FSU, and the rest of the country (sorry, Ohio State and Baylor, but people are judging you.) But, as I keep harping on in these weekend posts, the great thing about college football is that every week, teams have to go out and prove it – and tonight, FSU has to go out and prove it, against an in-state rival.

6:30am Sunday (NBC Sports): Abu Dhabi Grand Prix. Sebastian Vettel has locked up a fourth straight driver’s championship in Formula One, and has won six races in a row. He goes for a seventh in Abu Dhabi, under the lights at Yas Marina, one of the best tracks in F1. On the other hand, he qualified second, with his teammate Mark Webber in first; unless he drives into a wall, he’s going to win. So watch if you liked cheering for the orcs in the Lord of the Rings movies, I guess.

7pm Sunday (FSN): Wild vs. Devils. All right, Wild – how serious are you about making the playoffs this year? The Central is looking dangerous, with Chicago and St. Louis doing well and Colorado shocking everyone on their way to an 11-1 start. If the Wild are to make the playoffs, they need to destroy teams from the shockingly bad (and shockingly-named) Metropolitan Division, which is terrible. New Jersey is among the worst of the bunch. It’s a must-win game for the home squad.