They might actually do it again.
A year after climbing out of an impossibly-deep hole in the standings, the Minnesota Wild sat in a bad position in the standings a mere month and a half ago. The prevailing attitude among many in the Wild fandom (including yours truly) were thinking this year was a lost season, and wondering whether the Wild should Go Home For Strome. Even when Devan Dubnyk was acquired, my hopes weren't particularly lifted.
You will forgive me, I hope, for my doubt, because Dubnyk has defied everybody's expectations, resurrecting the Wild into being a playoff team. Depending on who you believe, the Wild now have between an 81-86% chance of making the playoffs. With four games this week against non-top-tier opponents, the Wild can go a long way to actually locking up a playoff spot less than two months after being written off by even their most loyal supporters.
Isn't that something? The Dube Abides.
This Week's Games
vs. Ottawa, Tuesday, March 3rd, 7:00 PM (FSN)
@ Washington, Thursday, March 5th, 6:00 PM (FSN)
@ Carolina, Friday, March 6th, 6:00 PM (FSN)
vs. Colorado, Sunday, March 8th, 5:00 PM (FSN)
Game of the Week
Sunday vs. Colorado
As fun as it will be to see Ovechkin play the Wild, and as crucial as it'll be to show up against Carolina on the second half of a back-to-back, there's just too much bad blood to ignore Sunday's game vs. Colorado.
You might not call this season series vs. Colorado competitive- the Wild have out-scored the Avs 12-1 in their head-to-head match-ups this year, but the games vs. the Avs in the last year and a half have been quite memorable. Part of it is due to the exciting level of play we saw in the playoff series. And part of it is the... shall we say, extracurriculars... that Patrick Roy's team deployed at the end of Saturday night's game.
Those tensions rising in the last three seconds of last night's game will add a bit more intrigue to a game where the Wild will have a chance to sweep the season series between a heated divisional rival.
Key Player of the Week
Jared Spurgeon, Defenseman
Jared Spurgeon has essentially been out the last 5 games with (what is almost certainly) a concussion. The indications from the media are that Spurgeon is making progress and should be working out soon, if he hasn't been skating already.
Getting Spurgeon back into the lineup is imperative for the Wild, particularly if Marco Scandella is going to miss some time. Scandella has stolen the headlines with some big goals this season, but Spurgeon has been the Wild's offensive leader from the bluelines. No disrespect at all to Scandella's excellent year, but Spurgeon shoots more frequently, gets points more frequently, and has driven offense better than any Wild blueliner.
The Wild have actually done a good job in holding down the fort, thanks to the elevated play of Mathew Dumba, but Spurgeon has so much to offer to the Wild that his prolonged absence from the lineup will only serve to weaken the Wild's blueline.
By no means rush Spurgeon back from a concussion, but the Wild will have a much better chance of strengthening their hold on a playoff spot with a healthy Spurgeon.
Key Opponent of the Week
Gabriel Landeskog, Colorado, Left Wing
There'll be a week where we highlight Alexander Ovechkin (He's coming to the X in just over two weeks!), but this week, we turn the spotlight to the bane of the Wild fanbase, Gabriel Landeskog.
I'm in the vast minority, but I really like Gabriel Landeskog. Wild fans are always going to have difficulty looking past his somewhat annoying tendency to punch Mikko Koivu in the head, but if I could poach one forward from a Central Division opponent, Landeskog would not be very far down my list. Off the top of my head- Toews, Benn, Seguin, Tarasenko, and probably MacKinnon and Kane.
"Gross, why?" you may be asking. It's true- Landeskog is a dirtbag. But the Wild don't really have those guys on their team, and they definitely don't have a dirtbag that can play. And make no mistake, Landeskog can play. He's second on the Avs in shots, goals, and he's tied for third in points. He's one of the best possession players on the Avs, too. He's skilled, he's physical, he's tough, and he's actually drawn almost as many penalties (10) as he's taken (12) this season. Nathan MacKinnon's the superstar, but fans will do well to keep their eye on Landeskog this week, if for no other reason than the fact he'll sucker punch you if you don't.