Minnesota Showing A Balanced Attack In Recent Success
Prior to last night’s contest in Los Angeles, the Minnesota Wild had not yet lost in the month of December. The last regulation-loss for the Wild was on the road on November 20 against the Florida Panthers. Since that date, the Wild have gone 8-1-1 and have built an impressive lead in the Central Division with a 19-7-1 record, five points ahead of the St. Louis Blues.
However, once you get past the Wild, the Blues, Predators, Avalanche and Jets are all within three points of each other. While Colorado is currently in fourth-place, they’ve also played three less games than the Wild to this point in the season, which even if they win 2 of those 3 games, it would certainly tighten up the standings in the Central Division. Four of the Wild’s eight losses have been by only one goal and each of those games were on the road – at Vegas, Tampa Bay, Florida and Los Angeles.
The Wild are tied for third in the NHL for best goal differential +26 goals, and second (102 GF) in the NHL for the number of goals scored behind the Avalanche (106 GF). Those two teams are the only teams in the NHL with 100 or more goals scored so far this season. Yes, the Wild have been incredibly impressive during the last month, but there is a long way to go in the season.
Kirill Kaprizov leads the team in points and assists, Ryan Hartman leads in goals and Plus/Minus. Those two, along with Joel Eriksson Ek, Marcus Foligno and Mats Zuccarello, are the top-five for points for the Wild. Kevin Fiala has been slowly coming out of his slow start, as is Jordan Greenway who has been looking pretty good as of late. In 27 games, the Wild has 12 players in double-digits when looking at points. In the goal crease, Cam Talbot has a 15-5 record in 20 games and leads the league in wins, while Kaapo Kahkonen is 4-2-1 in seven appearances.
Stating the obvious, the Wild have been pretty fun to watch so far this season. The team has good chemistry together and while I would not want to see a major shake-up, it would be nice to see them trade for a more seasoned goalie as a back-up. Kahkonen is doing an OK job and Iowa Wild goalie Andrew Hammond is having a decent year so far with a 5-1-1 record, but the Wild are one injury to Talbot away from being pretty damn thin at goalie. That is not something that you want long-term and especially considering this will be the best shot to go deep into the playoffs for the next few years, considering they are going to eat a ton of dead money in the next few years for releasing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter during the offseason. Next season, they will have over $12.7 million and over $14.7 million each in the next two years after that.
They could trade off someone like Victor Rask and his $4 million price tag and a few draft picks/minor leaguers to get a decent goalie. Rask will be an unrestricted free agent next year anyway, and it’s doubtful the Wild will re-sign him (please, no). I hope the Wild leadership recognize that this is the prime time to make a bold, yet responsible move.
Regardless of what the remainder of the season holds for the Wild, they have given us hope that a Stanley Cup is not too far off. Be it this season or not, Bill Guerin has the guts to make the difficult, yet right moves. Dean Evason and his staff have the respect and control of his team and with such a balanced team, the future is bright.
The Wild take on the Vegas Golden Knights in Sin City tonight, beginning at 8:00 PM on Bally Sports and ESPN+. Hopefully, the Wild beat the Knights like an 80-year-old chain smoking, scotch-drinking grandma or grandpa who beats the “Max Bet” button on the slot machine at 3:00 in the morning at Caesar’s Palace. Go Wild!!!