A month ago, the Wild started the season looking to get on a fast start. They've needed to as the Central Division of the NHL continues to be a gauntlet. However, with wins against the Avalanche, the Blues, and the Coyotes, the wins were defined as mostly "ugly." A ton of importance is placed on the results of games, and in professional sports, they should be. But when the team is eeking out ugly win after ugly win, the winning despite not playing well will usually tend to catch up.
We've talked in the past about the process being important, if not more important, than the wins themselves. Like the 4-1 loss to the Ducks in Anaheim, the Wild did everything right in that game. Anton Khudobin just got the better of the Wild and less than stellar play from Devan Dubnyk did Minnesota in. But if you could tell us that the Wild was going to out-shoot the opponent 35-22, kill both penalties, and possess the puck with near perfection with boatloads of scoring chances in every game like they did back on October 18th, we'd take that every single time even if it ended up once in awhile with the Wild on the short end of a hot goalie.
Things have changed with the line-up now. This current roster isn't the same team that started the season. Devan Dubnyk has turned in better performances and the Wild are dealing with some key injuries. Both Zach Parise and Justin Fontaine are missing time with an MCL sprain and Tyler Graovac, who was slated as the third line center to start the regular season, has been sidelined with groin problems. Those injuries have created an imbalance on the line-up. No longer do the Wild have four lines that can be rolled all game long no matter the situation and be expected to be productive offensively or just provide solid puck possession outside of the defensive zone.
Fontaine is a sneaky underrated player with good versatility that just helps the either of the bottom two lines go. Graovac allowed Charlie Coyle move to the wing and provided another big body to help maneuver the puck up ice because, well, Thomas Vanek is a player that drives possession. And we all see what Zach Parise does on both ends of the ice and on special teams, helping the power play click early. Parise just oozes effort all over the ice and his effort was needed as he carried his linemates in Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville on his back.
With those injuries, the Wild are now limited to one real line that is a puck possession monster. They do things the right way and stick to the process. So with that being the case, it's more important until the Wild become healthy again to just concentrate on the results. They need to keep winning until the missing pieces can slot back in. Thursday night's game against the Carolina Hurricanes was anything but pretty. The goals scored by Thomas Vanek and Jason Zucker were pretty, but the effort, the passing, and the execution especially in the first period was the exact opposite of pretty.
For the Wild to come back and find a way to win in a game that it had its doors blown off with 19 shots on goal against in the first period is nothing to sneeze at. The process is important to winning long term. But until the Wild can get fully healthy, winning is all that matters, no matter just how ugly it is.