What are the Minnesota Wild?
By Patrick Hoffman
Consistently inconsistent would be the best way to describe the Minnesota Wild.
As of this writing (January 11, 2018), the team is fifth in the Central Division with 50 points, which is actually just five points behind the third place St. Louis Blues. The club also currently holds the second wild card spot so if the playoffs were to start today, they would be in.
This team has been extremely hard to figure out this season. Some nights they dominate, some nights they just get by, and other nights they look awful and out of sync.
There are several reasons why the team has been so up and down this season. One of the reasons is because of their goaltending.
The team's starter, Devon Dubnyk, has only been decent this season. After playing out of his mind last season and the season before, he is 16-9-2 with a 2.66 goals against average, a .918 save percentage and 2 shutouts in 28 games played due to missing some time with an injury.
Yes, those numbers are not bad. However, the problem is that he is going to have to significantly improve those numbers if the team wants to solidify a playoff spot in the tight Western Conference.
The reason why Dubnyk needs to up his game is because this team does not score on a consistent basis. In fact, it is this issue that could actually prevent them from getting into the postseason.
The Wild are currently (January 11, 2018) 15th in the league in goals scored with 125 in 44 games. While that is in the middle of the pack, it needs to be much better moving forward.
Then only players on the team that seem to be putting the puck in the net with some kind of regularity are Eric Staal (19 goals) and Jason Zucker (15 goals). After them it is really slim pickings as guys like Nino Niederreiter (13 goals), Mikael Granlund (12 goals) are he only other Wild players in double digits.
For the Wild to become a more offensive club going forward, Zach Parise is going to have to start producing. He just returned from injury so hopefully, he can find his legs and hands soon and start scoring for this team because they are certainly going to need it.
Because of their lack of scoring, the team's power play has also struggled. The team is currently 18th in the league (18.4 percent conversion rate), which is not good enough considering how many penalties are called these days.
Simply put, this team has been on a seesaw this season. They can be good and they can be bad while also finding themselves somewhere in between.
With the postseason just a few months away, the team needs to get off the seesaw and become a winning hockey team like they were last season. If they cannot do that, it could be a playoffless season for the State of Hockey.
Previously, Patrick has covered the NHL for Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, About.com, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.