The Minnesota Wild play their 28th game of the season tonight and are officially at the midway point of the season. They have exceeded all expectations this season and are a legitimate playoff team. There are several big takeaways so far this season. Let’s look at the positives, negatives, concerns, and everything else.
1. The Minnesota Wild Are An Elite, But Dependant Team At 5-on-5
The storyline so far this season for the Wild has been their elite play at 5-on-5. Their 64 goals at 5-on-5 rank 4th in the NHL behind the Capitals, Oilers, and Islanders. The Wild have been one of the strongest two-way teams so far as they have been elite on both ends of the ice. On the offense side, they rank 2nd and 4th respectively in goals per game and expected goals against per game.
It isn’t just offensively, they have remained one of the best defensive teams in the NHL. They rank 5th in expected goals against per game which is a strong indicator of their strong defensive play.
2. The Power Play Is Struggling
It is no secret, the Wild have the league’s worst power play. Their 8.1 power-play percentage ranks dead last in the NHL. The Wild’s 7 goals on the man advantage is an issue. While they are an elite team at 5-on-5, their power-play struggles could catch up to them. They have to find a solution to this because it has become problematic, to say the least.
One of the biggest reasons the Wild have struggled on the man advantage is a lack of high-danger chances. Their 16.73 high-danger chances per hour rank 23rd league-wide. There is clearly a problem with the current system because it just isn’t working.
3. A New Element: Strong Goaltending
The harsh reality is that Devan Dubnyk held the Wild back for years. The Wild are finally getting stability in the net. Both Talbot and Kahkonen have been just above-average which is a huge upgrade from one of the worst goaltending tandems last season.
The Wild’s tandem has a .916 save percentage and has saved 1.01 more goals than expected based on the quality of shots they have faced. If the Wild were going to have success this season, they needed this from their netminders.
Kahkonen has been excellent so far this season and has displayed that he can be a number one starter. If he plays the way he has in the past 8 games or so, he could arguably be a Calder Trophy finalist.
4. The Youth Are Taking Over
Kirill Kaprizov is the real deal. He is the frontrunner for the Calder Trophy and frankly, if the Wild make a deep playoff run, he could be in the conversation for the Hart Trophy. He has been unbelievable for the Wild and has been the most polarizing player since Marian Gaborik. He has 10 goals and 25 points in 27 games.
The Wild have witnessed Joel Eriksson Ek and Jordan Greenway breakout which has been a huge boost for a team that has depended on veterans for far too long. Eriksson Ek has kept his status as an elite defensive forward, but also leads the team in goals scored with 11, which was not expected. Greenway and Eriksson Ek are 2nd and 4th on the team in points respectively.
This is all without even talking about game-breaker Kevin Fiala. The 24-year-old has 9 goals in 24 games which would put him on a pace of just over 30 over an 82-game season. He’s actually been above-average defensively too which helps complement his game.
5. Zuccarello Shines…Parise Struggles
Since returning from offseason surgery, Mats Zuccarello has flourished on a line with Kirill Kaprizov and Victor Rask. The 33-year-old has notched 5 goals, 14 assists, and 19 points in just 16 games. One year removed from an underwhelming season, he has been a force behind the Wild’s success. With three years remaining on his contract after this season, this is at least a positive sign as he’s trending in the right direction.
The same can’t be said for veteran Zach Parise. He has had a rough start to the season. He has been one of the leading scorers on the club for years and he only has 3 goals so far this season. He’s on pace for just under 10 goals over an 82-game season which would be a career-low. He’s been a defensive liability and just doesn’t appear the same player the Wild have witnessed excel in his time in Minnesota.
The Minnesota Wild have had a fantastic start to their season and now currently sit second in the Western Division. They will look to keep that position tonight as they take on the Colorado Avalanche at 8 pm. What have been the biggest takeaways you’ve noticed from the Minnesota Wild so far this season? Leave a comment below or reply to us @FSGonePuckWild on Twitter!