A week into the "second half" of the season, the Wild have three of the possible six points available to kick of the stretch. The team is playing better, even if they are still having a few lapses in brain power from time to time. The level of buy-in to Mike Yeo's system seems to ebb and flow with every game, with the valleys being much lower than the peaks are high.
There are rumblings that Mikko Koivu may be angling for a return, but our guess is that doesn't happen anytime soon. He has yet to be cleared for contact and with some chippy hockey to be had this week, there is no need to rush him back into the lineup just to see him hurt again.
The season is winding down at this point. Reality has set in, and the grind is on. The next few weeks will decide if this is a playoff team or just another also ran. It all happens one game at a time, and we look at it a week at time.
After the jump.
A rather embarrassing loss to the Predators that left Wild fans wondering if the playoff race would be more of a limp to the finish. Being up 4-1 in the waning minutes and losing 5-4 is something playoff teams don't do. To anyone. Ever. The players took their lumps, owned the game, and moved forward. The fans began to get uneasy in their seats.
A quick trip west to Denver resulted in no boost to the offense, but a victory nonetheless, as the Wild shutdown an Avs team hell bent on winning the game in the third period. Niklas Backstrom was outstanding, and the Wild played a solid defensive game in order to bring the two points home with them. The shutout was a welcome sight, even if the complete lack of offense was frustrating.
The week continued with a trade bringing Erik Christensen to the Wild and sending Casey Wellman to the Rangers. The move was a signal to the team that Fletcher is willing to help, should they be willing to reciprocate. What Christensen brings to the table has yet to be determined, but as of right now he represents a message, and that may just be enough.
To finish the week, the Wild headed to Dallas, and... wait for it... lost. The curse continues, this time with a shootout loss in which the Wild played well, but could not close the deal. Backstrm was wholly unimpressive in the shootout, while the new kid made an impressive move, but was stopped by Kari Letonen. The shootout has cost the Wild six points on the year, and they haven't shown anything that says that trend is going to change.
The Week Ahead
A trip to Columbus to face the Blue Jackets, currently the last place team in the standings. No matter what happens, or the situation in the league, the Jackets have shown they can own the Wild. Rick Nash is a Wild killer, and Jeff Carter is due for a breakout anytime now. The goaltending is weak, and the team is beatable. If there is a traditional playing down to the opponent, the Wild could certainly get beat.
Then, it is home to the friendly confines of the Xcel Energy Center for seven of the eleven games in the month. First up is the always fun to watch Vancouver Canucks. You all know what you are getting there, and it is sure to not disappoint. This is a case where playing up to the opponent might just be the best thing to do. Who wants to bet that Roberto "small sample size" Luongo doesn't get the start?
This bit of the season ends with yet another matchup with the Jackets, this time in Saint Paul. Nothing much is likely to have changed since the first game of the week, and depending on how the first one goes, it could be an entertaining end to the week.
Which game are you pumped for this week, Wilderness?