Still a good ways from a firm playoff spot, Minnesota's boys are flying pretty high these days. It's a very small sample size, but the players seem to be responding to a fresh voice behind the bench in John Torchetti, and we're seeing offensive and defensive production from all across the roster. Most importantly, they've rediscovered how to have fun and enjoy playing the game, which has made the viewing experience all the more so for fans.
Today, the Wild occupies ninth place in the West with a 27-22-10 record and 64 points, just one point behind Nashville for eighth, two behind Colorado for seventh, and has three games in hand on the Avalanche. Arizona and Vancouver are the closest teams behind Minnesota with 60 and 58 points, respectively.
This Week's Schedule
Tuesday, February 23rd - Minnesota Wild vs New York Islanders 7:00 PM CT (FS-N)
Thursday, February 25th - Minnesota Wild @ Philadelphia Flyers 6:00 PM CT (FS-N)
Friday, February 26th - Minnesota Wild @ Washington Capitals 6:00 PM CT (FS-N)
Sunday, February 28th - Minnesota Wild vs Florida Panthers 2:00 PM CT (FS-N)
Game of the Week
After falling 4-3 to Alex Ovechkin and the Caps in the second-to-last game of the Mike Yeo Era, the Torchetti-led Wild would love a rematch with the heavy Cup favorites. After the way they dismantled Chicago Sunday, you can bet they're determined to do the same to the Blackhawks of the East. Buckle up; this game should be good.
Key Player(s) of the Week
If any line has stood out in particular in recent games, it's the trio of Erik Haula, Jason Pominville (yes, that's right - the Mayor is back!) and Nino Niederreiter. These guys have been lights out under Torchetti, collecting seven goals, 18 points, a plus-18 rating and 25 shots on net combined. Pominville has regained his scoring touch (three-game active goal streak), Nino is shooting more and really gets an opportunity to shine on this line, while Haula is proving himself to be much more than just a roster afterthought. If anything, the Pori, Finland native has been just as important, if not more, to the club's success under Torchetti than the once highly touted Mikael Granlund. If Minnesota is to continue its success, look for this line to play a big role.
Key Opponent of the Week
It takes a remarkable player to upstage the likes of Jaromir Jagr, Brayden Holtby, John Tavares and Ovi as Key Opponent, but that's exactly what Philly rookie defenseman Shayne Gostisbehere has done. In 16-18 fewer games than the majority of his teammates, Gostisbehere ranks fifth in team scoring, and first among all Flyer defensemen, with 12 goals, 34 points and a plus-4 rating in just 40 games, all while skating an average nightly ice-time of 19:16 per game.
The slight 5'11" 160-pound rookie is currently riding high on a record-breaking 15-game point streak in which he has managed to collect five goals, 18 points, a negative-2 rating, two power play goals, an overtime game-winning goal and 37 shots. Not only has he been Philly's regular season MVP, but he's also a legitimate contender for the Calder as the NHL's Rookie of the Year. "Ghost Bear" may rank just fifth in rookie scoring, but his 0.85 points-per-game average is bested only by Chicago's "Bread Man", Artemi Panarin - who leads all rookies with 22 goals and 57 points in 60 games - and Edmonton Oilers savior Connor McDavid (10 goals, 27 points in 23 games).
Players, management and fans should pay serious attention to this guy, because he's going to be piling up the hardware throughout the next several years. Looks like Philly has finally found its franchise No. 1 defenseman.