Question: What's the best way to snap a losing streak?
Answer: A road trip!
Well, probably not. The Wild haven't been a good road team all season, sporting a poor 9-9-6 record playing outside the friendly confines of the Xcel Energy Center. It's been rough, particularly after a 1-3 road trip near the end of January put them out of the playoff bubble.
But to save their season, the Wild are going to have to be strong on the road. All three of their games this week are away, and they're all against playoff teams.
Even with the Wild out of the playoff picture, there's hope for them in that they managed to surge into the playoff picture last season with this same team. The secret to their success? Well, yes, Devan Dubnyk playing out of his mind. But other than that? They were lights-out on the road. From February on, Minnesota destroyed torched the rest of the league in their own arenas, going an insane 13-2-1, with 9 of those wins coming against playoff teams.
So, sure, it's a tough schedule up ahead, but Minnesota doesn't have an excuse this week. This is crunch time, and they've done this before. They just need to take care of business. If not, we're going to have an even worse outlook this time next week.
This Week's Schedule
Tuesday, February 2nd @ NY Islanders; 6:00 PM on Fox Sports-North
Thursday, February 4th @ NY Rangers; 6:00 PM on Fox Sports-North
Saturday, February 6th @ St. Louis Blues; 7:00 PM on Fox Sports-North
Game of the Week
As good as the Islanders and Rangers are, the biggest game on this week's schedule is St. Louis. While Minnesota's terrible January put 9 points of distance between the Wild and the Blues for the 3rd playoff spot in the Central, there's still something to be said for winning games in the Wild's division.
After spending years getting owned by St. Louis, the Wild have seemed to have the Blues' number ever since they acquired Dubnyk, who has an 8-3-1 record against St. Louis since last January. That's the good news. The bad news? Those wins are almost entirely on Dubnyk, as St. Louis is still a bad match-up for the Wild, frequently dominating the play when these two teams meet. It just happens that the Blues have had a tough time solving El Duberino.
The Blues have been rocked by injuries this season, but they're still a very scary team. Only the Capitals, Blackhawks, and Stars have more than St. Louis' 64 points. They've got one of the best goal-scorers in the league in Vladimir Tarasenko, a solid cast of offensive support for him, and a really dominant defense. It hasn't translated into a ton of scoring, but Alex Steen, Paul Stastny, David Backes, and Jori Lehtera aren't jokes. Throw in the pending return of Jaden Schwartz, and this is a team that should be able to put the puck in the net. And if that happens? Good luck, Western Conference.
Key Player of the Week
With a team spiraling out of control like they have been, there comes a time where the best player on a team needs to step up and carry them. Hello, Zach Parise.
Parise led the team with 6 goals in January, but he's mostly been a non-factor for the Wild. Take out his hat trick in Columbus, and his scoring line becomes 3 goals and 0 assists in 12 games. That's just unacceptable. And that's without considering his play at 5v5. The Wild have been out-shot with Parise on the ice at 5v5, and he hasn't been shooting as frequently as he normally does. Sure, he's being asked to do a lot working with a struggling Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville, but that's why Parise's paid like a star. The Wild can't afford to have their best player be a no-show for a month, and for them to get back into the playoffs, he'll have to catch fire again.
Key Opponent of the Week
The Wild scored more than 2 or more goals just 4 times in 13 days. That's the bad news. The worse news? None of the goalies the Wild will be facing this week are pushovers. Jaroslav Halak, Henrik Lundqvist, and Jake Allen all have a Save% over .920, and they've all proven instrumental to their team's success this season. It'll be a tall order to fill, but Minnesota is going to have to beat these goalies consistently to end their scoring woes.