It's no secret that the Wild have suffered from some pretty slow starts at home lately. They come out flat, the forecheck is sporadic, the power play has regressed into a dump and chase fight for relevancy, and the Wild seem unable to follow the bouncing puck. The offense sputters out of the gate for seemingly no reason besides the emblem at center ice. Yet, for the final 40 minutes, they seem to find their legs and are able to make a decent game out of it. What give Coach Yeo? During that 4-day break did you install nappy time around 6 pm and the players are just not used to waking up for the start of games?
After having their way with much of the league since acquiring Devan Dubnyk, the Wild have fallen flat at home in March and April, going just 5-5-1 over that span in a time when they should be amped up with all the extra energy on display in St. Paul. By comparison, the Wild won all their games away from the home of the home ice advantage, and in fact have won their last 10-consecutive road contests. You have to go all the way back to February 16th in a road game against the Vancouver Canucks to find a loss away from St. Paul on the schedule. In the era of The Doobie, the Wild have lost just 3 road contests, and only failed to secure a loser point in 1 of those.
So what do we make of all this? Are the Wild just that much better when the team of 18,000 isn't screaming "SHOOOOOOT!" at them? Are they unable to just relax and play their game for a full 60 minutes in St. Paul? Does the 1st period interrupt nap time?
It almost feels like it, doesn't it?
So, should we be worried about this? I'm inclined to say no here. It's no secret the Wild are not strangers to a late season slide, at home or away. In 2012-13 after winning 9 of 10 games including 7 straight, they backed into the playoffs by going 6-9-1 in the final 16 games. In 2013-14 they earned points in 16 of the last 22, going 11-6-5 in the final month and change. To their credit they did win 4 of the last 5, but dropped a 7-3 stinker to close the regular season against the Predators. Without those loser points in hand, they would have finished just 1 point ahead of the Dallas Stars as well.
Now, when the Wild are in a holding pattern around a 'win and you're in' situation, the woes at home hurt the most. It has a lot of people saying "At least they won't have the extra home game in a playoff series", which is a pretty ridiculous thought pattern if you think about it. Not wanting extra home games in the playoffs? It's almost blasphemous!
Since mid-January, the Wild have been playing some pretty lights out hockey. It hasn't always been pretty. The fancier side of the stats will tell you that. Yet they have found ways to win by getting scoring from each line. The 4th line has been crucial in maintaining the push and the big guns have been lighting the lamp at a pace almost befitting their massive contracts. Even the glorified sloth, Thomas Vanek has started to pick up his goal scoring pace of late.
Tonight, your Minnesota Wild look to continue their dominant road performance against their old adversary in the Chicago Blackhawks. It's never a lock walking into the windy city. Especially on the 2nd night of back-to-back games. Without Patrick Kane and stanchion power, they have another shot to lock it up tonight.
Should we be worried? Not at all. Not yet at least. The race for the final playoff spots are tight, and it's never easy but it's going to take some sort of major disaster at this point, or an anti-miracle if you will, for them to extend their season.
Until next time, be excellent to each other!