After Sunday night’s disappointing loss to the Winnipeg Jets, the Minnesota Wild have a five game losing streak and have lost eight of the last ten games. As with every slump of the last few years, there are plenty of fans who are willing to throw in the towel now, eleven games before the end of the season. Despite their recent run of losing and the short memory of many fans, the Wild are still the best prepared to make a deep playoff run than they’ve been in a long time.
So far this season, the Wild have scored 229 goals, which is the second most goals for in the entire league behind only the Pittsburgh Penguins. Before this season, the Wild had never even breached the top ten in goals for. On the other side of the ice, the Wild have surrendered the sixth fewest goals in the NHL. In addition, despite their slump, the Wild have still given up the fewest even strength scoring chances against in the league.
For the first time in franchise history, the Wild might also end up with six players to score at least fifty points as Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, and Jason Zucker are all within four points of the milestone. Overall, the Minnesota Wild will have fourteen players with at least twenty points by the end of the season. While not as uncommon as one might think, it is something most teams in the NHL can’t claim, including the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Wild’s defense is also having a franchise record year offensively. Previously, the highest sum of points from the Wild’s top six scoring defensemen was 141, and the Wild’s current top six defensemen already combine for 138 points with eleven games left in the season. Further, only six Wild defensemen have ever scored thirty or more points in a single season, and the Wild will have three defensemen meet that milestone this year.
While he has struggled recently, Devan Dubnyk has still been one of the league’s best goaltenders over the past several years and especially so this year. Among goalies with 22 games played, Dubnyk currently sits fourth in the NHL for save percentage with .927 and fifth in goals against average with 2.18. With a good stretch of games left before the playoffs, Devan Dubnyk could still retake the lead in those categories for the league and he could still wind up winning the Vezina Trophy for the league’s best goaltender.
Before this season started, plenty of NHL pundits and press had the Wild missing the playoffs, much less having a decent chance of contending for the Cup. It wasn’t until December when fans started to think this team could be even a little good. We have waited too long for this team to prove something in the playoffs to jump off the hope train now, and there’s more to look forward to in the playoffs than not. If anything, this year’s Wild slump helps remind us and the Wild that winning isn’t easy and that the playoffs should be a fun challenge.
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