The NHL’s biggest storylines heading into 2017 were the Minnesota Wild and the Columbus Blue Jackets, united by two of the longest winning streaks in the league’s history.
Their matchup on New Year’s Eve was the first time in the history of any of the major North American professional leagues that two teams riding winning streaks of at least 12 games had ever faced each other.
But while the Blue Jackets left Minneapolis with their streak intact, the two teams have since been trending in opposite directions.
Columbus has been playing around .500 hockey since that game — 13-11-2 –, including a string of four losses in five games less than a month later.
The Washington Capitals are now the talk of the Eastern Conference, while the ‘Jackets have slipped into a tie with the Pittsburgh Penguins for second in the Metropolitan Division, with the New York Rangers close behind.
Columbus is — at this moment — just two points ahead of a wild card spot.
Meanwhile, the Wild have kept right on winning.
Minnesota has just five regulation losses since their last meeting with Columbus, including one of the best stretches of road play in NHL history.
The Wild are 9-1-1 on the road since the Columbus game, and 15-1-1 since Dec. 4, the best 17-game road record in league history.
And while the Wild’s success could once be attributed to a career season for goaltender Devan Dubnyk, their offense has emerged as one of the best scoring units in recent memory.
The Wild have scored at least five goals 18 times this season, tied for third behind the 2013-14 Chicago Blackhawks and the 2013-14 Anaheim Ducks.
Most Times Scoring 5+ Goals in a Season, Since 2013-14
Games with 5+ goals
It’s the work of a deep offensive unit that has been scoring with the league’s elite this season. The Wild now feature a league-leading nine players with at least 30 points.
# of Players with 30+ points
Fifth-year forward Mikael Granlund has led the charge, and now leads the team with a career-high 21 goals.
Granlund has goals in four straight games, tied for the league’s second-longest active scoring streak.
Granlund and co. have gotten some unexpected help in the form of Ryan White, a journeyman forward and an afterthought in the deal that brought former Arizona Coyotes center Martin Hanzal to Minnesota a few days before the trade deadline.
White has scored twice since the trade, becoming just the second player in Wild history to score in his first two games with the team.