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The Minnesota Wild have established themselves as Stanley Cup contenders
- Updated: December 27, 2016
The Minnesota Wild are looking like one of the hottest team in the NHL, with them riding their longest winning streak in franchise history after securing their 10th straight victory right before the Christmas break.
The Wild’s win streak has been the result of a combined team effort, and has catapulted them amongst the best teams in the league. They’ve proven that they’re not only capable of beating any team in the league, but they have what it takes in order to make a run towards the Stanley Cup.
Before their streak began, the Wild held a record of 11-8-4 and were on the playoff bubble with 2 other teams tied with them in the West. Currently, as of Dec. 27, Minnesota sits only 3 points behind the Chicago Blackhawks for 1st place with a record of 21-8-4, and look ready to put up a fight for the top spot in both their division and conference.
— Wwwwwwwwwwild (@mnwild) December 24, 2016
The entire roster has been a part of their winning-streak, but their MVP remains their goalie in Devan Dubnyk. Heading into Tuesday night’s game against the Nashville Predators, Dubnyk has established himself as one of the best goalies in the league, already having registered 17 wins, a .948 save percentage, and 1.57 goals against in 26 games.
Last week in a game against the Montreal Canadiens, Dubnyk dueled Carey Price in a highly anticipated game that helped establish who was in fact the best goalie in the NHL. Dubnyk outperformed his opponent in net, registering 32 saves and a .941 save percentage against one of the best teams in the league. On the other hand, Price only made 23 saves with a .885 save percentage, as the Wild nudged their way to an impressive 4-2 victory.
After bouncing around the league, making it appear that his career was close to over, Dubnyk has been able to turn it all around to become the most important player in the Wild’s organization. His numbers, to go along with his team’s record, have not only put him in conversation to win the Vezina Trophy, but they’ve also given his team hope in practically every matchup they’ve entered this season.
Fortunately for the Wild, Dubnyk has been able to get some great support from his teammates. Minnesota’s 1st and 2nd line deserves some credit for their part in the team’s early success. When the streak began, the Wild were in the middle of the league in goals scored (64), but are now the 7th highest scoring team in the NHL (102 goals). Their improved offence has been because of major contributions from players like Eric Staal, Charlie Coyle, Mikael Granlund, and Nino Niederreiter, who have created a great offensive core in Minnesota.
Specifically speaking, Staal’s play so far this season has been both important to the Wild’s success, and surprising given the direction his career was going towards before coming to Minnesota. After numerous successful offensive years as captain of the Carolina Hurricanes, his numbers began to drop off dramatically. He went from one of the best players in the league, to only registering a lowly 39 points last season in a disappointing stint with the Rangers.
When it appeared that his time as a star player was likely over, the Wild gave him a 2nd chance by signing him to a 3-year deal in July. As of Dec. 27, it’s clear that the move has paid dividends so far, since he leads the team in points with 28, having registered 11 goals and 17 assists. Staal’s comeback year has played a huge role in the Wild’s offensive burst, while he has quickly become one of their most reliable scorers.
Finally, the Wild continue to be one of the best defensive teams in the NHL. Led by a core of Matt Dumba, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin, and Jared Spurgeon, the Wild have allowed only 66 goals this year, the 2nd lowest total in the NHL so far. In addition, the team has been extremely successful on the penalty kill, with the 4th highest success rate in the league at 86%, only allowing 14 goals when playing shorthanded. Combine that with them allowing the 10th fewest shots so far with 1013, and it’s no wonder opposing teams have had trouble dealing with Minnesota in their own territory.
Brodin specifically has been playing well for the Wild so far this season on both ends of the ice. Heading into Tuesday’s game against the Predators, the defender has 3 goals, and 10 assists for 13 points, which has him tied for 2nd amongst Minnesota’s defenceman. Brodin is well on pace to have the best offensive season of his career, looking ready to surpass his career-high of 19 points throughout the 2013-14 season.
In addition, Brodin’s on-ice presence has allowed the Wild to control the play more often than not. He currently leads all Minnesota defenders in Corsi at 49.5 % and is 2nd in Fenwick at 50.9%, meaning his linemates have control of the puck far more often when he’s on the ice. His continued development has helped propel the Wild as one of the best defensive units in the league while giving Dubnyk a player that he can rely upon.
Put it all together, and it’s easy to see why the Wild have been able to ride their longest win-streak in franchise history. The brilliant play of Dubnyk, along with a rejuvenated Staal, and a solid defensive core led by Brodin, has made Minnesota a legitimate threat in the Western Conference. The sky looks to be the limit for the Wild, and they should only get better as they get closer to the playoffs.
All stats for this article are from Hockey-Reference.com.
You can find Michael Mazzei on Twitter @MichaelMazzei3.