THE WILD WIRE - #21Mar 11, 2019
BLOG #20 – 3-11-19
Well, the Iowa Wild are down to just 15 games remaining in the regular season, and the club currently sits in third place in the Central Division, trailing the Chicago Wolves and Grand Rapids Griffins.
This year’s team is sitting on 74 points (through 61 games) following Saturday’s road loss to the Wolves. Last year’s squad had 74 points through 63 games before ultimately falling six points short of the final playoff spot.
Here’s a link to the AHL’s “Playoff Primer” where you can find every team’s outlook – from magic numbers (to clinch a playoff spot), remaining schedule, etc.
CAPTAIN ON ICE
Wild center Cal O’Reilly is playing a ton right now; I mean a ton.
(Note: All the numbers below are what the coaches get at the end of each game, which are tracked by the league’s various off-ice officials/analytics folks.)
Going into last Friday’s game in Grand Rapids, the 13-year-pro was averaging 24:14 time on ice over the last 10 games. Then, against the Griffins, he topped 20 minutes again. Saturday versus the Wolves he logged 21:43. With the Wild a bit thin at the center ice position since the trade of Justin Kloos (and other contributing factors), this has sort of been the norm lately for the Toronto native…and possibly for the foreseeable future as well.
Usually, that amount of ice time is reserved for top pair defensemen. The AHL doesn’t officially publish TOI (time on ice) stats, but you can find NHL ice time numbers here.
Minnesota’s Ryan Suter was leading the league over the weekend at just fewer than 27 minutes per night. After Suter, the next 31 players on the list are all defensemen.
The first forward on the list is Edmonton Oilers superstar Connor McDavid and he’s 33rd overall in the NHL at 22:54/game.
O’Reilly’s workload is pretty substantial, no matter the league, especially considering the team is 60-plus games into the season.
With the increased ice time has come stellar play, according to Head Coach Tim Army, who told me over the weekend that O’Reilly “seems to be playing better with more ice time.” I asked O’Reilly about that, and he agreed – it’s easier to get into a game when you’re playing more and you just sort of rely on adrenaline as the game moves along.
Going into Saturday’s road tilt against the Chicago Wolves, O’Reilly had nine points (2g, 7a) in a three-game span. That offensive production helped moved him back into the AHL’s top 20 scorers.
Here’s another quote I thought was absolutely great when I chatted with Army about the play of the team’s captain.
“He's the master of the chessboard,” Army said. “He moves the defenders where he wants them because he knows the puck is going somewhere else.”
Now that’s good stuff.
HOME, SWEET HOME
The Wild haven’t played a home game since 1963. Well, that’s not true, but it sure feels like it. Iowa’s last game at Wells Fargo Arena came on Feb. 22, which will be an 18-day span when they drop the puck tomorrow night against the San Antonio Rampage.
Going into action on March 9, the Wild were tied for the fewest home regulation losses in the entire 31-team AHL. Only the Wild, Griffins and Bridgeport Sound Tigers had as few as five games where they didn’t earn at least a point in the standings on home ice.
Iowa enters the two-game set against the Rampage on a seven-game point streak in Des Moines, a 5-0-1-1 span which began on January 19.
- Wild Joe Radio