The Minnesota Wild are in the home stretch of the regular season and they have a gauntlet to run to the finish line. Tomorrow is the final meeting of the season between the Minnesota Wild and the Vancouver Canucks. Even though these two teams are no longer in the same division the genuine dislike they have for each other carries on and on. So far this season Minnesota has taken the first two games in shootouts, Tuesday December 17th 3-2 at the Xcel Energy Center and the February 28th game in Vancouver by a 2-1 final. At this point in the season the Canucks are playing for little more than pride as they hold the 10th spot in the Western Conference with 76 points 9 points behind the Wild. Minnesota holds the first Wild Card spot in the West with Phoenix currently holding the second Wild Car position 3 points back. The Dallas Stars are 3 points behind the Coyotes and 3 points ahead of the Canucks.
The Wild are entering the last 10 games of the regular season, five home and five road games. This game with Vancouver is followed by for on the road against some tough competition. Minnesota faces the St. Louis Blues, Phoenix Coyotes, Los Angeles Kings and Chicago Blackhawks before returning home. There the Wild take on the Pittsburgh Penguins before going on the road for the last time in the regular season and facing the Winnipeg Jets. Then Minnesota finishes the regular season in front of home crowds taking on the Boston Bruins, St. Louis Blues and Nashville Predators. Someone in the NHL scheduling department has a bit of a sadistic streak scheduling the Blues twice in 7 games at the end of the season. Of the final 9 teams Minnesota takes on 6 are playoff bound and three of those are leaders of the Central, Atlantic, and Metropolitan Divisions: St. Louis, Pittsburgh and Boston. Two of the remaining 3 teams Chicago and L.A. are top three teams in their division and solidly in playoff position that leaves only Phoenix fighting for it’s playoff life with Dallas and Vancouver for the last Wild Card spot in the Western Conference.
What this all means for your Minnesota Wild is that they have a tough journey ahead of them over the next 18 days. Compounding the difficulty are a pair of back to backs. March 26th and 27th is a home and away against the Canucks and Blues. Then the second back to back is April 7th and 8th starting with the Wild in Winnipeg to battle the Jets then coming home to face the Boston Bruins. All in all Minnesota has 10 games in 18 days to wrap up the regular season and cement their position as the #1 Wild Card team in the Western Conference. 95 points is thought to be about the total needed to make it into the playoffs in the Western Conference. As of today the Wild have 85 points, Phoenix 82, Dallas 79, and Vancouver 76. With 9 games to play the Canucks would need to win all nine just to reach 94 points. See you in the fall Vancouver. Dallas has 10 games left on their schedule. They are currently just 3 points back of Phoenix and 6 behind Minnesota. To reach the estimated 95 point plateau Dallas would need 16 of a possible 22 points or 73%. To date Dallas has been able to earn 55% of the possible points. Phoenix needs 13 of 18 or 72% or the possible points to theoretically catch the Wild. So far this season they are on a 56% pace. Minnesota needs roughly 10 of 20 points, that 50% level is well within their 59% rate this season. Bottom line for the Wild is win and their in. Any thing less than a .500 record or taking less than half the available points could see Minnesota clinging to their playoff life like last season then they had to win on the final day of the regular season to slip into the last playoff position.
The top three teams in the Central Division, St. Louis, Chicago and Colorado have 105, 99, and 96 points respectively. The Blues and Avalanche have 10 games to play while the Blackhawks have 9. Minnesota is currently 11 points back of Colorado and while mathematically still able to catch them, realistically the chances are slim and none and slim is on season ending IR. That leaves just the Coyotes and Stars to worry about. As long as the Wild can play .500 hockey or better they will make the playoffs. Making the playofffs though is not the goal OR the expectation. The Wild need to make it out of the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs this spring or the 2013-14 season will be seen as under achieving. The Minnesota Wild have a tough 18 days ahead of them but if anything is going to get this edition of the team into playoff shape this could be it. LET’S GO WILD!!