The Minnesota Wild are finally back in the playoffs, but despite having one of the best records in the league and an impressive 49-25-8 record this season, they’re not considered a contender. Why? They have given up more goals than any other playoff team thus far.
The “mn wild game tonight cancelled” is a topic that discusses the case for the Minnesota Wild as a top Stanley Cup contender. The article also includes 9 other topics to discuss.
Don’t be fooled by their past two games. The Minnesota Wild are a legitimate hockey team. And they’ve been nothing short of magnificent.
The Wild had been on the hottest streak in the NHL until early December, winning eight consecutive games before dropping back-to-back games in Los Angeles and Vegas to end their current road trip.
Minnesota’s defeat against the Kings was their first since Nov. 21, and they were one win away from matching the franchise’s second-longest winning streak (nine games, back in 2006-07). It was also Minnesota’s first loss of the season in a game that was tied after two periods.
The game against the Golden Knights on Sunday was a back-and-forth affair in which the Wild won the 5-on-5 battle but lost the special teams battle.
There was no fear as Minnesota prepared to play Carolina at home on Tuesday (8 p.m. ET on ESPN+ and Hulu). There shouldn’t be. The Wild are in in first place in the Central Division, have tied for second in the league in points (39) and are sixth in total points %. (.696).
Minnesota has lately been the NHL’s top club, even after the weekend’s results.
The Wild have the most victories (8) and points (16) in the league since November 24, while scoring the third-most goals (40) and ranking 27th in goals-against average (2.30). Minnesota has been particularly strong at even strength, with the second-highest 5-on-5 shooting percentage (11.3%) and the best shooting-plus-save percentage (10.3%). (105.6 percent ).
Minnesota was able to do much of this despite the absence of top defenseman and captain Jared Spurgeon, who was sidelined for eight games with a lower-body injury until returning to the lineup last Thursday in San Jose.
So, how did Minnesota become a legitimate Stanley Cup contender? It didn’t happen in a flash.
On Tuesday night, the Wild play the Hurricanes in a possible Stanley Cup Final showdown that will be aired exclusively on ESPN+ and Hulu. • ESPN+ is a paid subscription service. • Schedule of ESPN broadcasts
The process began in July, when general manager Bill Guerin purchased Ryan Suter’s and Zach Parise’s contracts for the next four seasons. The two 36-year-olds were inked to 13-year, $98 million agreements with no-trade provisions, which meant Minnesota would have had to protect them in the expansion draft last summer.
The pay limit, though, was the driving force for Guerin’s decision to leave. Minnesota had reached the playoffs in eight of the previous nine seasons, but hadn’t progressed beyond the first round since 2015. Something has to be done about it.
Guerin proceeded to work on the remainder of the squad now that Suter and Parise were gone. He brought in Dmitry Kulikov and Jon Merrill, who have proven to be a formidable defensive duo. Frederick Gaudreau, a quality two-way player, signed a team-friendly two-year contract in July. Guerin then snatched Brandon Duhaime from the Wild’s Iowa farm club, and the winger has fit in well with Nico Sturm or veteran Nick Bjugstad on the fourth line. In October, Nashville attempted to slip Rem Pitlick through waivers, but Guerin pounced, and Pitlick had 10 points in 16 games.
Guerin did just that before the season began. The most significant changes have occurred from inside since it started.
The Wild had some early challenges, most notably for Kirill Kaprizov, Cam Talbot, and Kevin Fiala, but they overcome them all. Minnesota’s veterans are now shining brightly. The team’s youthful stars are on the rise. Dean Evason, the coach, is hitting all the right buttons.
Let’s take a deeper look at what the Wild is doing well.
Eriksson Ek showed he could be a powerful, 200-foot center in last season’s breakthrough effort (19 goals and 30 points in 56 games). Going into this season, the issue was who would be the ideal partner for Eriksson Ek in order to maximize his abilities.
Evason began by pairing Eriksson Ek with Kaprizov and Mats Zuccarello, rather than his old linemates Jordan Greenway and Marcus Foligno. They’re all good players, but the combination wasn’t quite perfect. Early on, Kaprizov struggled, and neither Eriksson Ek nor Zuccarello were thriving in that position.
So, on Eriksson Ek’s flanks, Evason rejoined Greenway and Foligno. The magic was back in a flash. During Minnesota’s eight-game winning run, their line dominated across the board, recording 17 high-danger scoring chances. They’ve been referred to be a “security blanket” for Minnesota’s offense by Evason.
Last week, Eriksson Ek’s line kept the Toronto Maple Leafs’ best scorers off the board at even strength, including Auston Matthews, William Nylander, and John Tavares. While being stifled by the Wild’s shutdown line in Edmonton, Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl combined for one point.
Eriksson Ek has three goals and eight points in Minnesota’s previous ten games, Foligno has six goals and seven points, and Greenway is finally clicking offensively, with four goals and six points. That’s not terrible for a so-called third line that’s also responsible for a lot of defense.
While Eriksson Ek has thrived in his new (old) role, his linemates have also found their stride, courtesy to one veteran on the verge of a career year.
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Merrill and Kulikov have also performed well on their own. Merril moved into the top four when Spurgeon was injured and successfully assisted Alex Goligoski. The 29-year-old has played in 28 games with the Wild and has a total of 10 points. He’s on pace to smash all of his prior career highs.
Meanwhile, Kulikov isn’t just a knowledgeable veteran in the defensive zone; with 12 points in 27 games, he’s showing off offensive abilities that provide another depth to Minnesota’s assault.
Jonas Brodin, on the other hand, is a unique character. The 28-year-old was enjoying a spectacular season with Minnesota until being sidelined by an upper-body ailment late last week (he’s classified as day-to-day). Brodin is an outstanding skater with great ice awareness, allowing him to compete with the top forwards in the NHL. Brodin’s quickness helps him to hold his edges and push people to the outside, reducing opportunities and assisting the Wild’s dominance in the 5-on-5 game. Plus, with three goals and 14 points in 26 games, Brodin is on track to have his finest scoring season.
Matt Dumba has also played an important role on the blue line. The top-pairing defender has 15 points in 27 games and plays over 23 minutes a game.
During Spurgeon’s eight-game absence, the Wild ranked 28th in goals-against average (2.13), indicating the team’s overall defensive ability. Minnesota’s defense should only improve now that Spurgeon is back.
Was Kevin Fiala’s game-winning goal against the Sharks a foreshadowing of things to come? D. Ross Cameron is a sports reporter for USA TODAY.
Fiala’s roar might have been heard in Minneapolis.
That was the winger’s reaction after scoring for the second time in 14 games in last Thursday’s triumph against San Jose. Fiala has had a season like this, with more opportunities created than anybody on his club but just four goals and 18 points in 28 games.
Even when the Wild’s second-leading scorer from last season (with 20 goals and 40 points) isn’t on the ice, the team is able to keep going because to an impressive depth of skill.
Minnesota’s bottom six, notably Gaudreau and Pitlick, have made significant contributions. With whatever combination of Duhaime, Pitlick, Sturm, and Bjugstad, their fourth line has done very well.
Minnesota’s depth becomes more dangerous if Fiala can go on a scoring streak and establish some consistency. Victor Rask, who has been a healthy scratch for the most of the season, is also in the mix. Despite playing in just 18 games, Rask has four goals and nine points, making him a good backup option if injuries arise.
Any club that has had a lengthy postseason run understands the importance of those sorts of players. By spring, it’s not just about who can drive the bus; it’s also about how much support those top men can gather. That framework seems to be in place for The Wild.
So, where will it lead them now?
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The “mn wild stats” is a case for the Minnesota Wild as a top Stanley Cup contender. The team has had an impressive start to the season, and they have been in first place for most of it. They are off to a great start, but will they be able to keep up with the other teams?
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