We know it’s been a tough past month, Minnesota Wild fans. But with a strong goaltender, a top-10 defense and veteran forwards, the Wild appear in good shape to make their fourth straight playoff appearance. Here are seven reasons fans should feel optimistic heading into the second half of the season.
Recent record of second-half surges
The Wild lost six straight games from Jan. 3-13 last season but won 26 of their next 34 to secure a playoff berth. In 2013-14, the Wild were 20-16-5 halfway through the season, before going 23-11-7 to reach the playoffs. This team has a history of midseason swoons followed by strong second halves. Plus, the Wild are in better position to weather the recent losing streak this season because of their fast start.
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Front office is willing to make trades
The Wild ranked 29th out of the 30 NHL teams in save percentage midway through last January when general manager Chuck Fletcher traded for goalie Devan Dubynk, sparking the playoff push. In 2013-14, Fletcher acquired forwards Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick and goalie Ilya Bryzgalov midway through the season. McCormick scored one postseason goal, while Moulson tallied 16 points in 30 regular-season games. Bryzgalov started eight playoff games and earned the win in Minnesota’s game-seven victory over Colorado in the first round.
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Stayed relatively injury free
Zach Parise is the only player among Minnesota’s top 10 scorers who has missed time this season because of injury. Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper have returned after missing time. Only Nate Prosser and Ryan Carter remain out among Minnesota’s regulars.
More talented than competition for final playoff spots
Nashville (one point behind Minnesota for the eighth spot) and Vancouver (four points behind) are among the bottom third in the NHL in goals against. Minnesota is 6-2 in its past eight games against Colorado, which is currently tied with the Wild. Plus, the Wild only have three games remaining against those three opponents: Two against the Avalanche and one against the Canucks.
Power play will improve
Minnesota ranks 18th in the league in power-play percentage at 17.4 percent after converting at a rate of more than 20 percent in its first 30 games. The power-play unit did not convert for 11 straight games from Dec. 31-Jan. 20, going 0 for 24, but the Wild scored power-play goals in 18 of the 49 games before the All-Star break. Count on the unit to improve upon its recent futility.
The Wild’s lone All-Star selection has 18 wins, a 2.23 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage in 39 games this season. He’s allowed two or fewer goals in 10 of his past 12 games.
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The defense has played well
Minnesota is allowing the sixth-fewest goals per game and is tied for the league lead in shutouts with seven. The team has allowed just 1.96 goals per game since Dec. 1, led by a defense that features Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon.
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