After a Quiet Deadline, Who Are the Minnesota Wild Going Forward?

The Trade Deadline has come and gone; who are the Minnesota Wild with twenty games left to play?

DENVER, COLORADO – DECEMBER 27: Kevin Fiala #22 of the Minnesota Wild plays the Colorado Avalanche at the Pepsi Center on December 27, 2019, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images)

In the weeks leading up to this year’s trade deadline, Minnesota Wild fans were clamoring at the idea of General Manager Bill Guerin putting his stamp on his team.  As the deadline past, fans were left scratching their heads.  Watching Guerin stand pat and say this is our team, this is the team going forward.  The bottom line is Guerin didn’t like the return he was receiving from other GMs.  Guerin decided to hold off and avoid just making a trade to make a trade.

What is the identity of the Minnesota Wild going forward?  What can we look forward to as the season winds down?  The Minnesota Wild are currently 3 points out of a playoff spot and have two games in hand on Calgary.  The Flames currently sit at 72 points and Nashville owns the second wildcard spot sitting at 70 points.

The Wild are 6-3-1 in their previous 10 games.  After their win Tuesday night in St. Paul the Wild will face Detroit on Thursday.  62 games into the season, who are the Minnesota Wild?  Let’s not forget what some analysts said before the season, picking the Wild to finish 32/31 teams.  In the past 10 games, the Wild has received solid goaltending from Alex Stalock.  Devan Dubnyk has been up and down all season, but what we’ve seen in the past 10-15 games is a team that can make a push toward the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

The Penalty Kill is Back on Track

The penalty kill is finally back to where it was last season.  When the Wild are minimizing their mistakes, making smart plays with the puck, and being disciplined fans see that this is a fairly decent hockey team.  It’s not a team that’s going to average 4+ goals a night, but when they’re playing smart hockey they have a chance to be successful each night.

Per Fox Sports, through 61 games this season the Wild own a 75.7% penalty kill rate.  Per Hockey Reference, in the past 10 games, the Wild own an 86% kill rate.  Higher than the lead leader (Edmonton) at 84.7%.  The Wild have yet to surrender a power-play goal in their previous 6 games.  In those 6 six games, the Wild have killed a total of 14 power plays by their opposing teams.  The key to this team is smart defensive hockey.  We have our moments to score and need to capitalize on our chances.  Moving forward, if the Wild continue to trend upward on the penalty kill this team has a great chance to make the playoffs.

Fiala is Buzzing

One sign of hope this season has brought Wild fans is the long-awaited emergence of Kevin Fiala.  Brought over in a trade from Nashville a season ago.  Fiala is finally finding his place in the lineup and finding the puck in the back of the net.  Per Hockey Reference, Fiala has found himself averaging approximately 15:07 ATOI (average time on ice) this season.  Fiala is currently shooting 11.4% this season and owns a 3.3 OPS (offensive point shares) this season.  Fiala’s OPS is the highest on the team.

 

Offensively Fiala has been a game-changer this year.  He’s using his speed everywhere on the ice and making defenders look silly in their zone.  Fiala is nearly at a point per game in his past 16 games.  In that stretch, Fiala is shooting 12.9% with 7 goals and 8 assists.  We’ve all been drooling over the fact that Fiala may indeed prove to be the game-breaker Paul Fenton traded for.  The most exciting thing about all of this is the fact that next season Fiala may get to share the ice with a new linemate named Kirill Kaprizov.

Goaltending

What has been one of the Achilles heels for the Wild this season is finally starting to trend in the right direction.  Alex Stalock had a rough start to the season, but the past three weeks have lead fans wanting to see more of #32 between the pipes.  Per Hockey Reference, Stalock is 15-9-4 on the season with a .908 SV% and 2.69 GAA.  These numbers as a whole are anything but glamorous, but it’s starting to rise.

In his previous 9 games, Stalock has posted a 6-2-1 record.  In those 9 games, Stalock has produced a .921 SV% and a 2.00 GAA.  Looking at the numbers Stalock has been on the rise lately.  Now the underlying question is are these numbers sustainable through the end of the season, and potentially into the Playoffs?  History has shown Wild fans that Stalock isn’t a goalie that can start 2, 3, 4 games in a row.  Stalock needs rest, and with that, he needs another complementary goalie.

It’s been extremely difficult to gauge Devan Dubnyk’s season thus far.  Unfortunately, Dubnyk’s wife experienced a life-threatening medical episode earlier this season.  The State of Hockey is behind Dubnyk during this difficult time.  With that, his numbers have been his worst wearing a Wild sweater.  Per Hockey Reference, Dubnyk is 11-15-2 this season with a .892 SV% and a 3.34 GAA.  Dubnyk’s game has been off all season.  With the recent play of Stalock trending upward now is the time for Dubnyk to step up.  If the Wild are going to make a run and possibly get into the playoffs we’re going to need Dubnyk to rise to the occasion.

Who Are The Minnesota Wild?

The Wild are a blue-collar lunch, pale team.  Not to poke fun at the second oldest team in the NHL, but the Wild are the 45-year-old steelworker that wakes up every morning at 4:30, puts on a pot of coffee, goes to work, gets the job done, and picks up a six-pack on the way home from work.  This team doesn’t have a lot of finesse. Do we have finesse players on the team? Of course, but the overall outlook of this team is gritty.

The Wild compete, get to the dirty areas, come out with pucks, and score the best garbage goals in the league.  Because after all, a goal is a goal no matter how it goes in.  If the Wild can continue to get their special teams trending in the right direction they have a serious chance to squeak into the playoffs.  To make that postseason push they Wild are going to need their goaltending to improve and see more consistent starts.  This team can make the playoffs.  They have the tools to do so, and we all know once you get in, it’s anyone’s game.

Drop a comment and let me know what you think the chances are the Wild make the playoffs.  What do you think they need to improve on most?  Who will be the biggest factor in the Wild making/not making the playoffs?