Wild Trying to Navigate Way in the West
By Patrick Hoffman
Last season, the Minnesota Wild were one of the best teams in the National Hockey League.
The finished the season with 106 points and were supposed to be a Stanley Cup contender. Unfortunately, the St. Louis Blues derailed that thought and knocked them out in the first round of the postseason.
This season has been a bit of a different story for this Wild hockey team. As of this writing (March 20, 2018), the team is third in the Central Division with 90 points (seventh in the entire league), which obviously is not bad, but it definitely could be better.
One area the team has struggled with this season is playing away from home. They are currently (As of March 20, 2018) 17-18-1 on the road and with five big road games remaining on their schedule.
In fact, their remaining road schedule appears to be a difficult one as they will take on teams like the Nashville Predators, Dallas Stars, Anaheim Ducks, Los Angeles Kings, and San Jose Sharks. These are all teams that either currently hold down a playoff spot or are fighting for one, which means that these games will not only be difficult, but will mean something to both teams.
Another area the team has had trouble with this season is on the penalty kill. The are currently (As of March 20, 2018) the 12th worst team in that category and if that area of their game does not improve come playoff time, they could be in trouble.
On the other had, the team has had several bright spots this season. The first one has to be the play of Eric Staal.
Staal, 33, currently (As of March 20, 2018) leads the team in scoring with 71 points (39 goals and 32 assists). Yes, you read those numbers right.
Staal has been an absolute beast this season. He creates scoring opportunities every time he is out on the ice, cashes in rebounds, deflections and even off the rush, and his someone who uses his body to create offense and find open teammates.
Another area the team has excelled, no pun intended, is with their play on home ice at the Xcel Energy Center. The club is 24-6-7 (As of March 20, 2018) at home and have four remaining home games against the Nashville Predators, Boston Bruins, Dallas Stars, and Edmonton Oilers.
The Wild have a good enough roster to get things done both in the remainder of the regular season and in the playoffs. With that said, the team needs to start establishing true consistency in order to accomplish both of those things.
If the Wild can do that, they may just be a tough out in the postseason dance.
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.