Wild keep on rolling – at the moment
Image courtesy of © Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY SportsThere’s depth to this success, too. Mikko Koivu (12 points in his last 14 games), Jason Zucker, Eric Staal (team points leader with 25 in 31 games) Ryan Suter (18 points, team leader at +22), Charlie Coyle (leads the team with 11 goals). Add your favorite guy to the list. They’re all playing some solid hockey right now.
Devan Dubnyk is playing some kind of amazing hockey in between the pipes, earning his fifth shutout of the season Tuesday when he really wasn’t even tested a ton.
The great thing about the two goals the Wild scored was the positioning of the goal scorers. On Coyle’s goal, it was Matt Dumba with the initial shot from the point, which bounced around Staal’s feet before kicking out to Coyle who easily scored on the doorstep of the crease.
Dumba grabbed a second assist on the second goal, which was credited to Koivu after he was right in front to pound home the rebound. Zucker was right there, too, sprawled on the ice trying to get his stick in there.
I just have a better feeling watching some of these plays develop. These were two goals that were finished off; they weren’t missed opportunities.
But back to the overall success of this team right now. They’re second in the Central Division with 42 points through 31 games, a mark that is second in franchise history by just a point. They started 20-8-3 in 2011-12. They’ve got the longest active winning streak in the league. Darn those Blue Jackets hogging some of the glory.
The home-win streak for the Wild has reached seven games, and they’ve outscored opponents 26-8.
This is all fine and good – and great hockey to watch – but there’s something else nagging me about it all.
Here’s the part in this post where I wave the yellow caution flag. I can’t help it. I’ve grown up around Minnesota sports, so this is what I do.
The holidays are coming up this week, and then January is just around the corner. This team has had a swoon for a few years now, including last year when the team performed with such a lackluster effort that it got its coach fired. A swoon should almost be expected, until the Wild prove they can get through a season without it.
The day after Christmas last year, the Wild faced the Pittsburgh Penguins at home. The Pens scored three in the second period for a 3-1 victory over a Wild team that appeared to have a holiday hangover. I was there with my family for one of the biggest crowds at the Xcel Energy Center last season, announced at 19,234. My dad still uses this loss as a benchmark for how much time he’ll invest into this team. It was a game where the Wild really didn’t show up to play, failing to execute passes, possess the puck or get any offense going.
The year before, the Wild lost the post-Christmas game at the hands of the Winnipeg Jets with a 4-3 overtime game. The Wild are 1-7-1 in their past nine games right after Christmas.
Looking ahead to the schedule coming up here, it’s not exactly full of easier customers like the Avs. There’s Montreal and the New York Rangers for road back-to-backs this week. Then they head to Nashville for that hold-your-breath after-Christmas game Dec. 27. New Years Eve is the setting for what could be a matchup of the league’s hottest teams with the Columbus Blue Jackets (won 10 in a row) coming to town.
We’ll see what happens in the next couple weeks and how the Wild will handle some stiff competition from the Eastern Conference.
The Wild players have proven they can play good hockey. This team has also proven it’s a master at limping into the playoffs after going into a midseason tailspin, then needing to play with backs against the wall. It really is fun to watch this team when it’s playing well. I mean, that’s obvious. I think the real X factor here is Bruce Boudreau. The Wild swooned with other coaches; will they do that with Bruce?
So, as I’ve cautioned in the past, let’s enjoy this Wild ride. Because at some point, it will end.
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