What a difference a couple of weeks can make. The Wild are rolling, fans are happy, the coach is pleased but wants more, and the players seem to be buying in. There is a goalie battle, lines developing serious chemistry, and team defense about as good as can ever be expected. As far as the Wild are concerned, 7-3-3 is more than acceptable for a team learning a new system, and one many were ready to write off before the season ever started.
Now, things can change at the drop of a hat in the NHL. There are always surprises, but there are far more bright flames that fizzle out as the season grinds on. The Wild have been lucky with injuries, not claiming the top tier for too many games as of yet. Healthy teams are good teams.
The season has been a blast thus far, so let's continue on with it and take a look ahead at what the Wild did, and what they face next.
What we said last week was this:
None of the games will be easy, which should probably go without saying at this point. The Wings are going to be angry and in friendly confines, wanting to put a 10 spot up on the Wild as pay back. If it were me, I dress Kassian and hope to escape with Setoguchi in one piece after angering the poor baby boy with the bruised
egonose Todd Bertuzzi.
We all know what a Canucks game means, so there is little need to spend much time here. The Wild better bring the heat, or they will find themselves falling flat very quickly.
Well, Setoguchi is in one piece, Bertuzzi is still a joke, and the Wild not only brought the heat against the Canucks, they brought down the house.
Josh Harding continued his dominating play, pushing for what looks to be a lock on at least the A1 position. The top line had some luck, with Guillaume Latendresse nearly cementing his role on that line, and the second line found new life as Setoguchi, Matt Cullen, and Pierre-Marc Bouchard have clicked.
It was a good week, with a total of six out of six available points from three very tough opponents. What more can we say? Great week.
The Challenge Ahead
Four games, all on the road, all out west. This is what Wild fans like to call the "For the love of everything holy, just put the Wild in the Central and save us from this crap" week. Two games with 9:30PM starts, one with an 8:30 PM start, and one with a nice, normal 7PM start. There will be some bleary eyed fans at work in Minnesota this week.
To the games themselves, the Wild start in Calgary, a barn they struggled in for oh so long, but have found some recent success. The Flames are a terrible team, to be blunt. Terrible. The Wild need to steamroll through the Saddledome, and head to SoCal before the Flames know what hit them. As long as no one is looking past the Flames...
Then it's on to warm pastures, and a meet up with Burnzie. The first time Wild fans will have to face the hard truth that Brent Burns wears teal now come on Thursday. The Sharks have had a slow start, but the offense has not been the problem. They have weapons, oh so many weapons. The Wild will have their hands full with this game, and will need to bring the A game to get some points.
Next up are the LA Kings. If San Jose is off to a slow start, the Kings are mired in super glue mixed with molasses. That won't last, and Jonathan Quick is going to be a force to be reckoned with when the Wild hit town. He posted three shutouts in a week near the beginning of the season, and the Kings have everything they need to make opponents look silly. This should be a fun game to watch.
Finally, to close out the week, the Wild get the Ducks. The last matchup went... well, not so good for the Wild. Nothing has changed, except maybe who will start in net. None of the goals scored by the Ducks were on Backstrom though, so unless the Wild pull it together, a wide open net and an all alone Corey Perry don't mix well.
This road trip will say quite a bit about this team, and could determine if the X sees a few more fans when the home team returns on the 17th. String a few more wins together, the X could be rocking against the Avs. Lose out, and you'll see all of the fan momentum fall to the wayside.
Enjoy the week, Wilderness. Which game looks the best to you? Any bold predictions?