The Wild face the best of the west in December, Can they avoid a nosedive?
Two years ago – the Wild were leading the league in points and on a mission to make some noise in the playoffs. This is before the July fourth double signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter. This is before they ran into the impressive college-bowl-student-section fanbase that is thee Winnipeg Jets. Coming down by the bus load, Jets fans infiltrated the Xcel Energy Center. They were loud! They chanted Go Jets Go! They turned the Wilds season and sent them into an embarrassing second half record. Including said Jets game the Wild lost 8 consecutive games – three by Shootout loss. The Wild record before the Jets game was 20-8. And after said game they found themselves below .500 at 35-36.
Winning only 15 of their final 36 games the Wild pointed to this Jets loss as the turning point. Injuries played a part as Mikko Koivu and Guillaume Latendresse missed a combined 93 games. The promising start to the season was lost as the wild finished 4th in the Northwest division with 81 points.
The question is – Can this happen again?
The Wild are off to another excellent start this season getting 37 points in 29 games – good for tenth in the NHL. Seven of their next eight games are against current playoff teams. Six of those games are against the dominating Western NHL conference. With the current schedule that the wild have – being Eastern conference heavy early on, The wild need under performing players to step up now during this stretch.
@Russostrib hope this isn’t long term with Granny but with previous concussions….
— DrLuther (@luther_philaya) December 5, 2013
Mikael Granlund has been shutdown after missing four of the last five games with concussion like symptoms. Mikael was injured on a seemingly even hit that he initiated against Phoenix. He came back Wednesday and played one shift then subsequently left the game. Mikael was placed on injured reserve today placing him off the roster for at least a week.
Jason Zucker was recalled from Iowa. We’ll see if he can crack the roster over Justin Fontaine who’s on pace for a Rookie record in goals for the Minnesota Wild.
Dany Heatley is a player who needs to step up and get some points for the wild during this tough schedule stretch. Dany has six goals and three assists in 29 games this season.
Kyle Brodziak also needs to contribute more this season. Kyle enjoyed a 20+ goal season only two years ago and more is expected from him. He’s look good on the ice as a forechecking line but only has eight points this season. Kyle is projected for 23 total points in 2014 – that’s a career low.
Two stats you need to know:
Power Play Percentage: The Wild enjoy the eighth ranked Power Play percentage in the league. But the flip side is the team is relying and succeeding only on the Power Play. The team has been deadly early on this season when they get on a power play. The problem is how many penalties they are drawing to get those Power Plays. As a team they have drawn only 20 Power Plays in the last nine games. In those games the Wild only have three Power Play goals. They are clearly trending down and need to work on drawing more chances by playing more in the offensive zone.
— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) December 5, 2013
Courtesy of SportingCharts.com
Even Strength Scoring: The Wild rank 21st in the league in Even Strength scoring. Mike Yeo needs to address these five on five numbers if they hope to avoid a nose dive. While the Wild are tough defensively minus a ugly Penalty Kill – They rank 23rd out of 30 teams in Penalty Kill percentage. It’s clear they need to stop relying on the Power Play – score Even Strength. The wild rank 22nd in the NHL in Total Goals.
Having a team with a Zach Parise doesn’t make you a guaranteed cup contender. But it does make the expectations higher. The fans of Minnesota expect the team to make the playoffs for the next ten years and have a couple deep playoff runs at the cup. If you factor in the 2011-12 nose dive coupled with the Wild missing the 2013-14 playoffs – Head Coach Mike Yeo will be looking for a new job.
I doubt the Wild will miss the playoffs this season but they are headed for a tough stretch against the best of the west. As of now the club has a 58.6% chance to make the playoffs. Surviving this stretch would make those numbers of being playoff bound inevitable.