In their new division, one that isn’t as difficult as some, a quick start is key for the Minnesota Wild.
The Minnesota Wild season opens up on the road on January 14th and 16th against the Los Angeles Kings and January 18th and 20th against the Anaheim Ducks. They then open their season at home on January 22nd and 24th against the San Jose Sharks and the 26th and 28th for their second series against the Kings.
These eight games are incredibly important for the Minnesota Wild. Too often they will play down to their opponents’ skill level and forgo points that should otherwise be nearly free.
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The Wild are also often guilty of starting the season incredibly slow. Examining previous seasons using the same sample size as the games we identified as incredibly important to begin this year, the evidence becomes clear.
Last season, the Wild in their first eight games were 2-6. In the 2018-2019 season, they began an even 4-4, and in 2017-2018 began 3-5.
You have to go all the way back to the 2016-2017 season to find when the Wild were above .500 for their first eight games when they went 5-3.
This eight-game stretch accounts for 15% of the season, and if the Minnesota Wild have dreams and ambitions of making the postseason, then it’s clear they have to start the year strong. They need to go 5-3 at a minimum during this stretch.
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Their opponents in the first eight games this season (reminder: Kings, Ducks, Sharks, then Kings again), all finished in the bottom five in Points Percentage, with the Anaheim Ducks the highest of the three at .472, the Los Angeles Kings at .457, and the San Jose Sharks the lowest of the three at .450.
It’s difficult to gauge if there’s going to be any significant improvement from the Californian Hockey teams because there isn’t much evidence that any of the teams significantly improved.
The Ducks and the Kings were in the midst of rebuilding last season, but the San Jose Sharks were expected to be a serious contender until players severely underperformed and their roster was bit by the injury bug. Compound that with the subpar play in net, and the Sharks tanked to the bottom of the standings in the Pacific.
The Kings are likely the closest to leaving the rebuild and could take a step forward this year if their prospects develop a bit, but it would be shocking to see them develop that quickly that early into the season. Corey Pronman of The Athletic ranked the Kings U22 Group the 5th best in the league.
For reference, the Minnesota Wild ranked 14th, the Anaheim Ducks ranked 18th, and the San Jose Sharks ranked 27th.
If the Minnesota Wild can pick up five or six of their first eight games against easier opponents, they can build the momentum and foundation they need to really make a drive for the postseason and show the growth in their younger players.
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