Goalie nuzzles. The sign of a winning program.
If you check the standings, the Wild continue to rank near the top of the league and / or Western Conference, and remain squarely in the middle of the pack in "expert" rankings. Which, of course, is fine. The Church of Yeo is not a zealous cause. The converts must come of their own volition, using their own choice of free will to do so. As for the rest of you, it's just preaching to the choir.
Last week wasn't all sunshine and rainbows, but it ended well, despite a nasty travel schedule and opponents ready to wipe the floor with anyone who dare oppose them. The final tally was three wins, one loss. That's a week any team would take as a success. Still, all the quotes from the Wild show that they don't feel they have accomplished much.
And that is a good attitude to have.
Looking at last week's schedule, a 2-2 split would have been perfectly acceptable. Heck, not too many around the league would have been surprised to see the Wild go 0-4-0 with those games. Yet, they beat a stacked Lightning team, a curiously proud Oilers squad, a Devils team looking for revenge, and a Ducks squad with a new star coach and looking to prove themselves to him.
Not a single one of the victories was "easy." They were, following the script, tough battles with come from behind wins and times where no one thought they would pull out of the tailspin. Yet, the Wild found even more ways to win, with their "secondary" scoring picking up the slack when the primary options were not around or shut down. They also continue to receive outstanding goaltending, which is always helpful.
The Week Ahead
If you were to book three teams the Wild really didn't want to play in a row, it would be the Sharks, Kings, and Coyotes. In their first visit through this trip, the Wild were outplayed, out worked, and embarrassed. Now, they get to do it all again, this time with just enough momentum to make smacking into the brick wall all that much more painful.
The Sharks game is clearly the most intimidating. They have few weaknesses and absolutely smoked the Wild in their first meeting. It will be a bit less of a circus this time (yeah, right) with the first game between all of the interested parties behind them. Maybe this is the one where we see those players play for their new teams instead of being focused on hurting their old teams. Won't be easy, and the Sharks are good enough to beat the Wild even if the Wild play a perfect game.
The Kings shouldn't be as intimidating as they are, but they are. They, too have an outstanding team, but one that is certainly under performing. Against everyone but the Wild, that is. They are masters of learning how to beat a team and then using that information to their advantage. The weaknesses of the Wild D should be clear by now... the back door shot is almost always there, and if the Wild can't find a way to shut that down, things will be very ugly against a very active Kings team.
Finally, the Wild head to Phoenix. If for no other reason than to not have to listen to Travis Hair (of Five for Howling fame) boast, the Wild need a win. The other reason? They then get to board a plane and head for Winnipeg. Man the schedulers are awesome.
What it All Means
Tough week ahead. This is a chance to show they are for real, or to further the thinking that they are not. Winning teams find a way to win against teams they shouldn't beat. The Wild, by all measures, should not be able to beat the Sharks. Until they show they can, the "experts" will never take them seriously.
Which game are you looking forward to, Wilderness?