Well, folks, when I last left you, the Wild had just come off a 5-3 victory against Colorado. It was pretty decent.
And it only got pretty decent-er from there.
The Wild now sit as comfortably inside the playoff bubble, for a little while in here, thanks to a three-game winning streak, the latter two games coming on the road, where the Wild have (SPOILER) struggled this year. So there's definitely a lot to feel good about.
So, where do they go from here? They're on the road again, this time in Detroit, where a win will be necessary to stay ahead of Vancouver's points pace. This will not be easy. Detroit isn't DETROIT anymore, but any team that features Datsyuk and Zetterberg ought to be feared, as they showed during the weekend when they throttled Vancouver 5-2 on the road.
In fact, nothing is going to be easy for the Wild for the next three-and-a-half weeks. The Wild play their next 13 games- 6 on the road- against teams which are currently within 1 point of the playoff bubble. Even Columbus, despite Colton Gilles and Todd Richards, isn't a pushover nowadays.
Of course, this is a fantastic opportunity for Minnesota, that they can potentially create distance between themselves and bubble teams like San Jose, Dallas, and Phoenix, while testing themselves against Chicago, Los Angeles, and St. Louis.
Should be an exciting three weeks.
But instead of looking ahead, or even at the game in hand, most of the Walk is reflecting upon the recent success of the Wild, with occasional glimpses at the trade deadline. There's plenty to discuss, so here is the Walk.
Playoff Bubble Today
The Wild are currently 1st place in the Northwest Division, and 3rd in the Conference overall, by virtue of having a game in hand over Vancouver. If not for the Divisional format, they'd be 4th in the Conference, behind LA, and ahead of St. Louis by virtue of a game in hand.
Columbus (30 points) preyed on Nashville (28), defeating them in regulation by a score of 4-3.
Vancouver (34) toppled St. Louis (34) in regulation, by a score of 3-2.
Los Angeles (36) reigned over Phoenix (30), beating them in regulation 3-2.
Wild made moves early, so could be quiet before trade deadline | StarTribune.com- First of all, there's a really good article in here. On a tangent- I wonder how Russo frames it when he asks Fletcher questions like "Will you trade Backstrom at the deadline?" Is he all like, "Chuck, I'm really sorry to bother you while doing your valid and important GM duties, like making the team better and what-not, but can you please tell my dumber fans on Twitter that it's a bad idea to trade the goalie who's started 21 of the last 24 games, and generally kicked ass". Being a beat reporter has gotta be frustrating sometimes.
Tuesday (An NHL playoff run on our hands) edition: Wha' Happened? | StarTribune.com- The Wild are gelling. That's wha' happening.
Minnesota Wild: 'Everyone's walking a little taller these days' - TwinCities.com- A review of the Wild's recent fortunes, courtesy of Bruce Brothers.
Wild's Charlie Coyle not concerned with points - TwinCities.com- Funny that this came up in the mainstream news. Dan Chan of your favorite website wrote a piece that touched on a few of the same things as this notebook.
Jonas Brodin is the real deal; Minnesota Wild rookie in Calder contention - Gone Puck Wild- What's a Wilderness Walk without some Brodin love? SPOILER: There's a lot more to come. As there darn well should be.
Pierre-Marc Bouchard—Keep or Sell High? - Gone Puck Wild- Sell high, if you can. This is why he's playing, so when he's doing well, you can't say to yourself "Maybe we should just keep him." You can't just trade players when they suck and keep them when they're good- otherwise you'll end up like the Twins.
The Team of 18,001: Backstrom's Future- Giles discusses Backstrom's future. I would actually also really like to have Backstrom back. The only problem is that he's almost certainly going to have to take a pay cut, as well as less he'd get on the market, to remain in Minnesota. He really likes it, but I wouldn't want my salary to go from 6 million to 4 million or less, particularly when there should be some demand for his services, and certainly offering more term.
Tending the Fields
NHL Draft - NCAA prospects ready to break through - ESPN- Erik Haula makes the list, as well as another Gopher. Unfortunately, this is Insider.
Off the Trail
Marc Staal ‘making progress in the right direction’ after horrific puck injury | Puck Daddy - Yahoo! Sports- Some good news coming from an awful situation. Get well soon, Marc.
Rumblings: GM meetings firing up rumors - Cross Checks Blog - ESPN- Some chatter and scuttlebutt concerning who's getting moved. SPOILER: Wild aren't involved.
On Jake Gardiner, and old-school coaches adapting to today’s young stars | Backhand Shelf- Jusitn Bourne writes about why it might have taken Jake Gardiner so long to break into the NHL full-time (which he likely will do now), and how these things are changing. One way they are is there are more secret contracts where young players threaten to go to Finland if they are sent down. It's true! Check Twitter two weeks ago!
Systems Analyst: Defending a 3-on-2 with a backchecker doesn’t need to be this difficult | Backhand Shelf- Hey! Look! Look! A Systems Analyst post that DOESN'T involve the Wild gaffing it up!
Introducing the Jeff Carter clause, which prevents extended players from being traded to Columbus | Puck Daddy - Yahoo! Sports- Lulz, Cololmbus. Getting a bit less so, but still, Todd Richards so lulz. That aside, I find it to be a welcome wrinkle to the CBA. If you sign a player with a no-move clause for that kind of term, you shouldn't be able to just flip that player- or at least, it just seems like it's a deal in bad faith. It's not like the player can sign for a million dollars more per year.
NHL stretch drive forecast: who will rise, who will fall - NHL - Sarah Kwak - SI.com- I won't tell you what they say the Wild will do, but do you think they'll rise or fall, Wilderness?
Penguins take top spot from Blackhawks in NHL Power Rankings - NHL - Adrian Dater - SI.com- I normally don't like posting Power Rankings, but when you say that Suter and Brodin might be the best defensive pairing in the league, you get my attention. And a link.
NHL Awards Watch: Tuukka Rask moves into Vezina lead; Crosby vs. Kane for MVP | Puck Daddy - Yahoo! Sports- This week, Suter gets even more love, while Brodin gets some of the action.
Huberdeau takes over top spot in HF’s February Calder Poll - Hockey's Future- Brodin is about 6 spots lower than is acceptable on this list.
Introducing “Don’t Tell Me The Score”, a website that allows you to watch spoiler-free puck highlights | Backhand Shelf- This could be a useful thing.
The A/V Club
NHL.com has “NHL ’94′d” Pavel Datsyuk’s end-to-end goal | Backhand Shelf- This is really cool. They ought to do one of these with NHL Hitz 20-03. Or, you know, just make NHL HItz 20-13. I'd take that. It'd be dope.