Until Saturday’s regulation loss to the Carolina Hurricanes, the Minnesota Wild registered points in eleven straight games and had collected five straight wins. The last time they failed to register points in a game (before Saturday) was November 12th in a loss to the Los Angeles Kings. What has happened since the disastrous October? We dive into what we noticed and what to expect for the future.
The Minnesota Wild have come alive recently, crawling out of the basement of the League Standings and now could be competing for a Wild Card spot as we enter the middle of December. Thirty-one games into the season, we’re already a third of the way through the year; we have a pretty good idea of what teams are good and what teams aren’t. Like the Washington Capitals and Boston Bruins- Good teams, they’ll be in postseason contention when April comes around. The Detroit Red Wings and the Ottawa Senators- Bad teams, they’ll be watching lotto balls while most everyone else is watching playoff hockey. The Minnesota Wild’s status as a good or bad hockey team is clouded with grayness on how good our team is. Today, we’ll look at the numbers since the horrific start and see if they can continue the good play for the rest of the season.
Individual Player Stats
During this eleven game stretch, the Minnesota Wild experienced a surge in offense and chemistry and a staple of their play was the consistency of their lines. When the team is healthy, Bruce Boudreau has the four lines and three defensive pairs he likes to play:
Jason Zucker-Eric Staal-Mats Zuccarello
Zach Parise-Mikko Koivu-Kevin Fiala
Jordan Greenway-Joel Eriksson Ek-Luke Kunin
Marcus Foligno-Ryan Donato/Victor Rask-Ryan Hartman
Ryan Suter-Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin-Matt Dumba
Carson Soucy-Brad Hunt
No one has seen this better than Zach Parise. Over the eleven games, Parise went from four goals in the first eighteen games to eight goals in his next eleven. Parise has twelve goals in thirty games, which leads the team. During the point streak, Zach Parise averaged a point/game during the eleven game stretch for the Minnesota Wild. Kevin Fiala has been surprising. He has three goals and six assists. Jonas Brodin might quietly be one of our more talented defensemen. He skates incredibly well, is defensively technically sound, and has good game sense. He knows where to be and where the puck has to go and can execute it. He had one goal and eight assists during the eleven game point streak.
As a line, Parise-Koivu-Fiala register a 51.67% Expected Goals For% (xGF%), which means that when they take the ice, they are more likely to score than be scored on. It’s still practically 50/50, but because of the above fifty stat, it is indicative of the improved play. For reference, Zucker-Staal-Zuccarello score a 51.03%, and the GEEK squad compile a 52%. The fourth line is a bit of a statistical anomaly- Foligno/Donato/Hartman score an 81.66%, but this is a misnomer. They’ve only scored one goal together while having zero goals scored on them in a very limited sample size. Foligno/Rask/Hartman score a 53.44% which is more normal. For most of the point streak, Donato-Rask-Hartman played on the fourth line together and their xGF% was 64.72%. It’s also indicative of the type of players they are typically matched up against. Donato-Rask-Hartman has typically matched up against weaker opponents, whereas Parise-Koivu-Fiala and Zucker-Staal-Zuccarello match against the opposing teams’ best lines.
For the defensive pairs, Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon garner an xGF% of 58.62%, Jonas Brodin and Matt Dumba cultivate a 48.55%, and Carson Soucy and Brad Hunt obtain a 53.21%.
Another interesting metric for the Minnesota Wild during the eleven game point streak is their PDO (shooting%+save%). At its most simple, PDO measures how lucky a team is, over 102 means they probably aren’t as good as they seem and below 98 typically means they’re better than they appear. During the eleven games, the Minnesota Wild’s PDO was 103.7, meaning that the team was probably incredibly fortunate and likely on a hot streak. For the season, the Minnesota Wild sit at a 101.3 in PDO. It could mean they’re just a fortunate team, but it’s not unreasonable to say that the Wild have benefitted from improved goaltending and have begun finishing scoring chances.