Jump to content
Hockey Wilderness
  • Charting Minnesota's Path To the Playoffs

    Luke Sims

    The Minnesota Wild entered the All-Star Break sitting third in the Central Division. They are one point ahead of the Colorado Avalanche in the division and a point ahead of the Calgary Flames for the second Wild Card spot in the Western Conference. With 34 games left in the season and the 11th easiest schedule remaining, how can the Wild take advantage of these matchups and punch their ticket into the Stanley Cup Playoffs?


    According to Moneypuck, the two teams ahead of the Wild in the Central, the Dallas Stars and the Winnipeg Jets, have a 96.6 and 96.9 percent chance of making the playoffs. Dallas has the most manageable remaining schedule in the league, and the Stars and Jets are at least seven points ahead of the Wild. It’s unlikely Minnesota catches either of them. Therefore, we’ll focus on the teams around the Wild in the standings and how Minnesota can stave them off rather than try and catch the division leaders.


    [caption id=attachment_143925" align="alignnone" width="896]Screen-Shot-2023-02-06-at-4.07.34-PM.png Courtesy of NHL.com[/caption]


    Let’s start with Colorado. They sit at 4th in the Central and just one point behind the Wild, with a nice 69% chance of making the playoffs. The Nashville Predators are just three points behind them and have a 31.8% chance of making the playoffs. Bad news for Nashville, though: they have the hardest remaining schedule of any Central Division squad.


    Looking at the Pacific and Wild Card races, the Flames and Edmonton Oilers currently hold the two spots there, but the lead in the Pacific is only by three points. The Seattle Kraken and Los Angeles Kings have 63 points. All of the contending teams in the Pacific have easier schedules than the Wild do, except the Vegas Golden Knights. However, all five teams have better than an 82% chance at the dance. All have higher percentages than Minnesota’s. Vegas sits at 82%, and Calgary sits at 86%.


    Colorado is hot on their tail and has the fifth-easiest schedule remaining. The St. Louis Blues have an abysmal 2.6% shot at the playoffs, and the Arizona Coyotes and Chicago Blackhawks are both trying to win the Connor Bedard sweepstakes. We wish them the worst of luck.


    So what do the Wild need to do to punch their ticket to the playoffs?


    Studies of past NHL seasons have determined that getting to 95 points almost guarantees you a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, and the Wild sit at 58 with 34 games left. Therefore, they need to secure at least 37 more points. Divide that by two, and you get 18.5. The Wild need to win at least 19 more games, with maybe room for winning 17 if they can get some overtime loss points. Winning 19 out of 34 games would only require a .559 point percentage.


    As it stands now, Minnesota currently has a .604 point percentage. Therefore, they should be able to hold onto third place, or at least a Wild Card spot, as long as they don’t regress.


    However, the Wild have played inconsistently lately. Their scoring depth is lacking, and they've been all over the place defensively, which clouds their future. However, with a favorable schedule and the ability to add at the deadline, the Wild can still get the job done and have the Xcel Energy Center rocking come spring.


    For starters, they need to beat the teams they are supposed to beat. The Wild get two games each against the Columbus Blue Jackets, Arizona, and Chicago. Theoretically, those should all be wins. If they take care of business, they’ll have 12 of the 37 points they need. There are also two games against the Blues and a game apiece against the Vancouver Canucks and San Jose Sharks. Hopefully, that is 8 more points, boosting them to 20 of the 37.


    The Wild play some games against the best teams in the Eastern Conference. Two games against the New Jersey Devils, a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs, and one against the Boston Bruins. The Wild have found success against teams like this. They have .500 records against the Carolina Hurricanes and Tampa Bay Lightning, two of the better teams in the East.


    Having already lost to the Bruins and Leafs, the Wild are bound to split at least one of the series. So let’s say they win at least one of those games and maybe lose one in overtime. Look at that, three more points, up to 23.


    There are five more tough matchups the Wild have against Western Conference foes. They have two more against the Stars and Jets and one more against the Kraken. The Wild have had Winnipeg’s number this year but have not fared as well against Dallas and Seattle. Let’s say Minnesota takes two of five in those matchups. That makes four more points — 10 more to go, and we still have 14 games unaccounted for here.


    Those are the games this season hinges upon, specifically, these four:


    February 15: vs. Colorado

    February 19: vs. Nashville

    March 29: @ Colorado

    April 13: @ Nashville


    Those games are pivotal in the grand scheme of things. They represent four-point swings in the standings. If the Wild drop these games, they give the Avs and Preds the ability to jump them easily. That Nashville game is also the last chance of the season to get two points. If they need a last-day win, they must go through a Division Rival.


    The Wild can play just as well as these teams, but if they don’t beat the teams that are nipping at their heels, Minnesota might find themselves on the outside looking in.


    Let’s hope the Wild split the series at the minimum and gather another four points. So they have ten games left to play, and only six more points are needed. So if the Wild play at least .500 hockey over those ten games, they should have a playoff spot locked down.


    The Western Conference is very wide open this year. There are not any dominant teams like there are in the East. Four of the top five teams in the league are from the East. Dallas sits at fifth in the league.


    The schedule gods blessed the Wild to control their own destinies. Can the Wild elevate their play and find consistency going into the postseason? Time to find out.

    Think you could write a story like this? Hockey Wilderness wants you to develop your voice, find an audience, and we'll pay you to do it. Just fill out this form.

    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    There are no comments to display.

    Join the conversation

    You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.
    Note: Your post will require moderator approval before it will be visible.

    Add a comment...

    ×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

      Only 75 emoji are allowed.

    ×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

    ×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

    ×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...