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The Minnesota Wild re-claimed its identity in December

Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

Minnesota started the season playing a bit loosey-goosey. It translated into being able to strike quickly with goals and help turn momentum quickly resulting in wins. During the first month of the season, the Wild was at the top of the league when it came to back-to-back goals score in relatively quick succession. But that same style of play sacrificed a lot in the defensive end. It placed a lot of the defensive burden on the defensemen and goaltender. Soon the scoring dried up and the Wild's style caught up to them as they began to chase games after falling behind and needing to comeback.

Minnesota was losing the puck possession battle through the first 22 games of the season. In a game that it's super important to suppress shots against because you don't want the puck to go into your net. The Wild had given up 67 more shot attempts against than it took prior to December.

Then Mike Yeo challenged his team by ruffling some feathers and pushing his team with some tough practices. On December 1st, the Wild faced division rival Chicago Blackhawks. In a game where Minnesota returned to it defensive structure and its identity where it is just plain difficult for opposing teams to score. In the four games since that 2-1 victory, the Wild have been well ahead in the puck possession battle and have taken 32 shot attempts more than what its given up. The Shot Attempts Against per 60 minutes fell from 55.3 during the first 22 games to 46.4. The difference is staggering.

Sure, the sample size is much smaller and there is a huge outlier in the stats that was the Wild/Avalanche game in St. Paul back on December 5th. But even with the eye-test, the Wild are keeping shots against to a minimum. Both Devan Dubnyk and Darcy Kuemper have had less work as the average shots per game have dropped dramatically since the calendar flipped to December.

All-in-all, Minnesota is trending in the right direction by focusing on their defensive structure and making it easier for their goalies to make saves. This in turn is leading to the Wild winning tough, close-score games. Whereas there were many things that plagued the Wild into December in past years, Minnesota is doing things that more closely resembles their identity. While it's not a guarantee that they will win the rest of the way here in December and finally avoid a December slump, if they play the way they have to start the month the rest of the way, Minnesota shouldn't need a miracle run to make the playoffs again this season.