So the Wild look like they mean business right now and are playing some phenomenal hockey, passing both the eye-test and the numbers test.
They are about to embark on a road trip with 4 games against teams from the Flortheast division. I'm really excited about this because: A) We haven't got a chance to see teams from the East in a long time, B) I've been following the situations in Florida and Toronto very closely this offseason and look forward to seeing how they stack-up against the Wild, and C) The Wild have a very good chance to come away with all of the spoils.
My Noon Number for today is "6", which is the minimum number of points I expect the Wild to come home with after these 4 games. I'll show you why I expect so much with some analysis of the upcoming opposition.
-The following chart shows how the Wild and each of their next 4 opponents have performed in terms of the league table, at home (on the road for the Wild), at 5v5, at 5v5 Close and on special teams. The chart shows their numbers and also where they rank league-wide:
So the Sabres and Panthers are downright awful, the Lightning are okay but overachieving and the Leafs probably aren't as good as their league position suggests. All 4 teams have been beaten in regulation at home at least once already this year. I know no game is a given and there are no easy wins in the NHL, but with the level of hockey the Wild are playing right now, this is the perfect chance to expel their road demons from previous years and send a message around the league that they are going to be a tough team to deal with.
As you may have noticed, I've been pretty belligerent about how good I think this Wild team is, and with good reason. For the first time in quite a while, the Wild are being talked about by other fans in a positive light and as a genuine contender rather than just some lucky underdog. A lot of fans need to see the results of all the good play in the standings before they accept the quality of the team, so this run of road games will be a good chance for the team to climb up the standings. If they can continue to put-up the strong underlying numbers that they have so far, then they have every chance to come away from this road trip with 6-8 points out of the 8 available. If they do that, then I'm all-in on this team and I think everyone else should be too because they could be on to something special.
I feel like 20 games is the point where I will completely stop worrying about the underlying numbers being unsustainable and just enjoy the ride, but success on this road test is gonna have me feeling a lot more comfortable. It begins tonight in Buffalo.
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