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Crash and Burn: Wild fail to clinch playoff spot, lose 5-1 to Jets

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This team is still probably playoff-bound, but this was still a depressing affair.

Despite having nothing to play for, the Jets were able to dispatch the Wild in a lopsided affair.
Despite having nothing to play for, the Jets were able to dispatch the Wild in a lopsided affair.
Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild had their playoff fate in their own hands tonight! With a Colorado Avalanche loss, the Wild were able to punch their own ticket to the postseason with a win over the lowly Winnipeg Jets. Given that the Wild are defined by their killer instinct, what could go wrong?!

You could probably have drawn up better first periods for the Wild. The only line to generate any pressure for Minnesota was their new line of Zach Parise - Mikko Koivu - Mikael Granlund.There was a bit of a flurry of penalties in the middle of the period, but the Wild ended up on the wrong side of that when Nino Niederreiter got called for hooking while on a power play. After the 4-on-4 ran out, the Jets passed circles around a tired Wild, resulting in Mark Scheifele netting his 27th of the season to make it 1-0 Winnipeg.

In fact, the most exciting thing about this first period for Wild fans wasn't happening in Winnipeg, but in St. Louis, where the Blues were taking on the Avalanche. The Blues torched Semyon Varlamov to the tune of 3 goals, chasing him from the game after the first period. Dealing the Avs that loss ensured that to make the playoffs, Colorado would have to run the table while Minnesota would have to lose their remaining two games.

And to the Wild's credit, they did their best to keep the Avalanche in the race. After coming out strong in the second period, control of the game shifted over to Winnipeg, leading to a sequence where the Wild were pinned in their own zone. From then, Mikael Granlund single-handedly brought the puck out and into the offensive zone, buying the Wild a chance to change. That went well. Things fell off the wagon when Granlund tried forcing a pass which got intercepted by Chris Thorburn, who raced down the ice to score just his 6th goal of the season. Haula would hit a post mid-way through the second and again, a late flurry by the Minnesota failed to get a goal, meaning the second intermission saw the Jets leading by two.

Granlund redeemed himself in the third period by scoring to cut the lead in half, but the team immediately gave that goal back when Andrew Copp sliced through Ryan Suter and Matt Dumba to extend the lead to 3-1. Suter then took a penalty, and while he was in the box, Drew Stafford put the game out of reach. The Wild would pull the goalie, but to no avail, and Blake Wheeler scored his 23rd of the season on an empty net.

Minnesota out-attempted the Jets at 5v5 tonight, but that doesn't tell the whole story. The Wild were mostly hanging around the perimeter tonight, with the Jets actually doing the work to get to the dirty areas of the ice, and the Jets were rewarded for their effort.

If you're looking for a silver lining for this game, this might actually have long-term implications on the Central Division. The Jets winning moved them from 27th in the league in points to 26th. It's a small change, but the Jets do have less of a chance at scoring the #1 overall draft pick (and Auston Matthews) in this year's draft. If the Wild did this intentionally, then genius. I'd guess they weren't so diabolical, though.

The Wild still have two games left in the regular season: One vs. San Jose, who is still fighting for playoff positioning, and the last vs. Calgary, whom the Wild smoked to the tune of 6-1 in their last meeting. Just for morale's sake, you'd like to see the Wild win one of those and punch their own ticket to the postseason.

But even if that doesn't happen, it's almost ludicrous how good the Wild's chances of making the playoffs are. The Wild lost, and (according to Sports Club Stats) their playoff odds IMPROVED, jumping to 98.6%. Just to even have a chance, the Avs need to get 5 or 6 points against the Predators, Stars, and Ducks. It's probably not happening.

So, this isn't exactly a panic-inducing loss, but it is one that should make Wild fans wonder if their favorite team will have anything to cheer about even if they get into the postseason.

Game Notes:

  • Hard to blame Devan Dubnyk for this loss, too. All 4 goals he allowed were off high-danger chances.
  • Mikael Granlund now has the same amount of goals as Jason Zucker (13). Raise your hand if you saw that one coming.
  • Speaking of Zucker, he was actually pretty dangerous tonight, with a couple of good looks from the slot that didn't go in. Baby steps.
  • The Jets are a bottom-5 team, and the Wild have now gone 1-4 against them. That's what we call "a missed opportunity".
  • The Wild weren't on the power play much, but when they were, you could tell how much they missed Jared Spurgeon at the point.