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Hockey Wilderness
  • Looking Ahead: A Wild Stretch to the Playoffs


    Of the Wild's 16 remaining games, 13 of them are against teams that currently sit in playoff position plus a game against the Kings who are still very much in the hunt for a playoff berth. The final 6 games are all against teams holding a playoff spot, and will be played over a span of just 10 days. The Wild's record this season against all these teams is just 9-10-5. They have 4 back-to-back games remaining in the schedule, including a crazy stretch when they play 2 consecutive back-to-back series with 2 days off between them; that's 4 games in 6 nights. They play divisional teams in 7 of these 16 games including 4 straight divisional games to close out the season. The Wild's last 3 games are on the road. They play the Predators twice and the Blues 3 times down the stretch.

    Now is not the time for coach Yeo to start trying to over-coach his squad either. By now, most of these guys should know what to do. They should know where to be and how to react to the opposition. They've shown they can hang around in a games that get a bit more chippy, they have shown that they can be out-shot in a game and still come out on top, and they have been lights out on the penalty kill as long as Velgey doesn't make some jinxy comment or actually attend a game. (you're off the hook for the Avs PP goal last game Velgey)

    The forecheck needs to be relentless. I'm not suggesting the Wild throw 3 deep here, but they need to keep up the intensity and apply the pressure, forcing the opposition to make plays they aren't comfortable with. Whether it leads to mistakes or goals is irrelevant really, those will come. This is about wearing down the oppositions defense, and when you've broken them down, you pounce. Above all this though, is the Wild's neutral zone play. This needs to be stingy. Any time the opposition is trying to drive into the defensive zone the Wild need to make this as taxing as possible. Driving the play to the outside, keep the opposition from driving through the center of the ice, locking up the passing lanes and putting up a wall at the blue line. Preventing the opposition from gaining easy access to the Wild's defensive zone will go a long way towards continuing their success.

    Forget about the previous 24 games. They are in the past, and while they count in the standings they do not guarantee any kind of success going forward. The Wild have put themselves in a prime spot to secure a playoff spot, but that is not etched in stone yet. With all the success they've had lately they could probably regress a bit (and very likely will during the last few weeks) and still find themselves in the top 8 when the regular season comes to a close the 2nd week of April. We're not there yet, but with how the Wild have played of late, our expectations should be a nice run into the playoffs, they have shown they are capable of this and there is no reason whatsoever that the fanbase should tolerate anything less. This is very important hockey right now, and it will be very fun, if not nerve wracking, to see how this all plays out in the next few weeks.

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