The Minnesota Wild are winning games. With the 4-0 win at home to struggling Dallas, the team moved to 6-2-1 and at time of writing, are top of the Central Division.
We’ve already looked into some early successes in the NHL, but now it’s time to turn the Trust or Bust microscope toward St. Paul and decide whether or not the Wild’s recent success has any chance at longevity.
The Wild aren’t renowned for traversing the upper-echelons of the NHL, the XCel Energy Center’s sparse trophy cabinet is testament to that. I’m not saying the Wild are a bad team, they’ve qualified for four of the last five Stanley Cup playoffs, and have built a proud playoff tradition of losing to the Chicago Blackhawks.
Minnesota’s 6-2-1 record is the same as current champions Pittsburgh, and only Edmonton and Montreal have more points. October 2016 has been fruitful, bringing in 1.44 points per game. This is fractionally less than October 2015 (1.45) but definitely an increase on 2014 and 2013 (1.33 and 1.15 respectively).
Where has this success come from? And is it likely to last? Offensively the Wild are dangerously accurate, the team’s shooting percentage is 13.73, which is much, much higher than the league average of 9.35%. Minnesota are putting the biscuit in the basket 3.56 times per game, only the New York Rangers (3.89) are scoring more.
Eric Staal, picked up as a free-agent in July leads the team in goals with four. Although of the 23 skaters to dress for Minnesota, only five don’t have at least one goal to their name. Another central part of the Wild’s success is some phenomenal line management. Everyone contributes and with the sole exception of blueliner Mike Reilly; everyone has a point. No pressure Mike…
The Wild are dominating the league on both sides of the puck. The team’s PK unit is on fire, with a league-leading 96.2% penalty kill. That’s just one goal conceded despite having been shorthanded 26 times. After being on the wrong end of multiple goals earlier in the season, the Wild are sitting at 2.11 goals conceded per game, although that’s still a strong number and 4th best in the league.
In front of net, Devan Dubynk is just a brick wall:
— NHL Public Relations (@PR_NHL) October 31, 2016
Enough said about Dubnyk.
So trust or bust? Can the Wild go all the way? Or will those hopes fade faster than an Oiler’s draft pick? I say trust. Minnesota’s early success is a credit a team that’s faced some pretty tough opposition, and shut them out. The set-up isn’t perfect but it’s close to it, and Wild fans have a lot to be excited about. If the team can continue to carry this momentum then the playoffs are pretty much guaranteed, and not just as Chicago’s whipping boys.