Just as the first significant snowfall of the winter began to drop on the Twin Cities Wednesday afternoon, another sign that winter is here finally came for hockey-starved fans in the form of the NHL's 2020-21 schedule release. The Minnesota Wild, as previously noted, will be part of the realigned West division for the season as all Canadian teams had to be in their own division for COVID-19 border protocol purposes.
The Wild are bringing the Colorado Avalanche and St. Louis Blues with them to the
Pacific West Division from the old Central Division and will have to face new divisional foes in the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings, San Jose Sharks, and Vegas Golden Knights.
The start of the season is of huge benefit to Minnesota
For a team that is infusing some new talent up front, they needed a light start to the year and that's exactly what they got. The Wild play their first eight games of the season against teams that did not get an invite to the NHL's play-in series last August. If Minnesota wants to hit the ground running without the benefit of a preseason in this new division,
Kaapo Kahkonen will get his share of starts
Because the schedule is loaded with back-to-backs, nine sets in the 56 games, the Wild simply cannot rely on one goaltender in ways they have previously. That means Kahkonen, Cam Talbot's backup and the team's goaltending prospect, will get his share of starts in the season and furthers his chances to prove himself as an NHL-ready goaltender. This could turn into a negative if Kahkonen falters, but at least the Wild will get a good look at him to figure out if he is a long term option on this squad.
The Wild had Arizona's number in 2019-20
The top four teams in each division make the playoffs, so with Colorado, St. Louis and Vegas firmly ahead as the three best teams in the division, there will be a battle for the fourth playoff spot. Minnesota and Arizona should be expected to battle for that final spot, and that's an advantage that could favor the Wild, who went a perfect 3-0-0 against the Coyotes in 2019-20 before the pause -- repeating this success will be key in Minnesota's efforts to making the postseason.
Because the Wild are in this
Pacific West Division, prepare for a lot of late starts when playing on the road. Everyone outside of Colorado and St. Louis plays in the Pacific time zone, which means 9:00 PM CT or later will be a common start time. The league is supposedly trying to ease this issue for the Wild and Blues, but don't hold your breath.
They still have to win meaningful games to make the top four
The Wild simply cannot bank on just getting their wins from the lesser teams in this division. They will still have to get some upset wins over the top teams if they want to secure a playoff spot while taking care of business against the Coyotes, as noted above. Although, as you are going to see in the point below, that is not going to be easy.
Record against rest of division
Minnesota was 3-0-0 against Arizona last season and went 2-0-1 against Anaheim as well. But if you take that combined record away from their record against the rest of the division, the Wild went 5-9-1 against their new divisional foes. That kind of winning percentage will simply not fly if Minnesota wants to get that fourth and final playoff spot. They will have to make improvements.
|1||Anaheim Ducks||3||2||0||0||1||5||.833||11||9||3.67||3.00||3 games|
|2||Arizona Coyotes||3||3||0||0||0||6||1.000||15||10||5.00||3.33||3 games|
|9||Colorado Avalanche||4||2||2||0||0||4||.500||13||13||3.25||3.25||4 games|
|14||Los Angeles Kings||3||1||2||0||0||2||.333||9||11||3.00||3.67||3 games|
|23||San Jose Sharks||3||1||2||0||0||2||.333||8||10||2.67||3.33||3 games|
|24||St. Louis Blues||3||0||2||0||1||1||.167||5||10||1.67||3.33||3 games|
|28||Vegas Golden Knights||2||1||1||0||0||2||.500||6||3||3.00||1.50||2 games|
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