Latest victory against the Capitals
The Wild’s recent run has been fueled by defense and goaltending, and their current winning streak has been run to four games in a row with last night’s victory being against the Washington Capitals. Before the Wild’s recent 22-game run started, their playoff hopes were on life support with the team below .500, but now they are climbing in the conference standings where they currently hold the fifth spot in the West. Devan Dubnyk of the Minnesota Wild has given the team great goaltending this season to help to reach their current status in the Western Conference after a rough start to the season throughout the first half. Throughout this surge, the Wild’s offense has done a great job with high scoring performances in the games where they were not able to limit the opposition’s goal scoring. Through a complete team effort, the Wild have been able to turn their season around while playing the best of any team in hockey throughout a full quarter of the season. With the Wild’s great play happening over such a significant portion of their schedule, it may be time to consider Minnesota among the top contenders in the Western Conference. A further look at what the Wild have been able to accomplish with their grind it out style of play, will help to determine if they are a legitimate threat to make a deep run this season in the Western Conference playoffs.
Goaltending and defense lead the surge
While Devan Dubnyk has done a fantastic job for the Wild recently, their surge in the Western Conference standings has been the result of money they have invested recently in their defense. Ryan Suter’s presence on the back end of the Wild’s defense has helped the team to begin to meet their goals for the season, as his physicality and skill has helped to prevent plenty of scoring opportunities for the Wild’s opponents. Size and mobility seems to be the theme for the Wild’s defense as each of their top two pairings possess enough size to block shots and win battles in front of the net, without too much size to prevent them from being good skaters. After adding veteran Jordan Leopold to their third defensive pairing at the trade deadline, they now have the veteran depth necessary to win defensive battles no matter who is on the ice for the team. Devan Dubnyk shares some of the athletic ability that the defensemen in front of him have, as he stands at six feet, six inches and has plenty of mobility to stop nearly every shot as long as the defense gives him time to react. Dubnyk’s strong rebound control has helped him to become one of the stars for the Minnesota Wild during their recent surge to become a relevant contender in the Western Conference.
Offensive stars thriving in wide open contests
Despite the Wild’s willingness to grind out victories in close low-scoring battles, they do have seven players who have scored 10 or more goals at this point of the season. Star winger Zach Parise leads the team in goal scoring with 25 goals this season. His presence on the team, along with the presence of other great skaters on the Wild offense, allows the team to score with top Western Conference opponents when the pace picks up and space opens on the ice. The versatility of the Wild offense is part of what has been the key to their recent surge, as the team has shown the capability to win games even when the opposition did not play the game to their strength. The ability of the Wild to show the versatility necessary to win high scoring and low scoring games, has been the difference between their below average effort in the first half of the season and their elite efforts so far in the second half of the season. As long as the Wild continue to play at a high level offensively when necessary, they should able to sustain the recent run they have gone on to prove they are a legitimate contender in the Western Conference.
Can the Wild contend for a title?
What the Minnesota Wild have been able to accomplish recently suggests that they have what it takes to make a deep run in the Western Conference playoffs this season. At this point, it is more than just a hot streak, as their 22-game stretch of greatness now makes up a large percentage of their regular season effort. With enough offensive talent to win high scoring games, and fantastic defense along with goaltending to win the close low scoring games, there are now multiple dimensions to the Wild’s attack that gives them a chance to win nearly every game they play. While the Wild may not continue to gain points in more than 80 percent of their remaining games, they have now proved that they have what it takes to climb in the Western Conference standings down the stretch run. With continued strong play, the Wild may be able to gain the standing necessary to earn a favorable matchup in the first round of the playoffs on their way to a significant run into the postseason where they will show that they are legitimate title contenders. With a difficult schedule ahead in the Western Conference, the Wild can continue to prove they have arrived after winning plenty of matchups against the West’s top contenders in the past few weeks.
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