The fundamental question with any of these bubble teams is this. Can they put together enough of a streak to get their way into the playoffs? Minnesota had a significant cushion about six weeks ago and now that has evaporated. As of Monday, the Wild were on the outside looking in when it comes to the last wild card spot.
How much have their futures plummeted? The Wild were around the +1200 mark to make it out of the Western Conference on February 1st. Now, they have shot out to +2500. That illustrates the uncertainty of this Minnesota team making the playoffs. Looking down the list, one can easily demarcate who is on the playoff bubble and who most bookies feel is out.
Currently, Minnesota had a mixed bag of a weekend. They defeated Washington on the road 2-1 on Friday in what was quite the effort. However, Saturday saw them get blown out 5-1 at the hands of the Carolina Hurricanes (another team looking to punch their ticket to the playoffs).
The question begs itself to be asked. Will Minnesota make or miss the second season?
What Minnesota Has Done Lately?
With four weeks to go, Minnesota was deemed to have the second toughest schedule in the league facing teams with a combined .590 winning percentage. That number has not changed much and they still have among the three roughest schedules for the final dozen days.
Minnesota is 3-5-2 in their last ten games and only Arizona has been as bad at 4-4-2. This is one of the aspects which has kept the Wild in the playoff picture.
The six goals scored over the past four games must be the most troubling concern of all. It is difficult enough to win with league average level scoring. However, scoring that little almost certainly leads to trouble. This taxes Devan Dubnyk and the goaltending. Dubnyk leads the league in minutes played and starts (projected to start 65+ games). Dubnyk’s margin of error is almost zero at this point.
Minnesota were gassed as the game early during the game on Saturday against Carolina. The good news is that there are no more back-to-backs for the Wild this season. The bad news is again, the offense. They are 22 goals below the league average so even with slightly above average goaltending, the Wild do and will not have it easy going forward.
What The Road Ahead Looks Like For Minnesota?
Unfortunately, Minnesota still has one nasty schedule ahead. Their six games feature teams that are currently in a playoff spot or fighting for one. Those games include the following teams.
- Nashville Predators (3/25)
- @ Vegas Golden Knights (3/29)
- @ Arizona Coyotes (3/31)
- Winnipeg Jets (4/2)
- Boston Bruins (4/4)
- @ Dallas Stars (4/6)
This will be far from easy. Nashville is in a bit of a funk themselves as they have dropped two straight games. They were just blown out by Winnipeg on Saturday. Vegas is one of the hottest teams in the league right now (9-1-1 stretch in their last 11). Arizona is a tough place to play and they are also fighting for their playoff lives. Boston is one of the better road teams in the league and Winnipeg is never easy to play against either.
Their season finale against Dallas could still be for a playoff spot. Dallas after their 1-3-1 homestand may be back on the bubble themselves so there will be tons of urgency.
Minnesota needs scoring from sources other than Ryan Donato and Zach Parise. Yes, one can ride these types of players, but the idea is balance. A common theory states that Minnesota needs to average around three goals a game from here on out to make the playoffs.
The goaltending has been a bit shaky with Devan Dubnyk (13 really bad starts in 63 games), but on the other hand, he put together three excellent starts before the Carolina game.
Minnesota do not control their own destiny, but they will have a big say on who does and who does not make the playoffs. Now, the Wild must finish. This is a team that can pull this off. It is time to see if Bruce Boudreau’s guarantee of making the playoffs sinks or swims.
By Chris Wassel