The Minnesota Wild have never really been described as a free-wheeling offensive group over the the franchise’s history that stretches more than two decades.
Instead, Wild fans criticism typically has been that the team hasn’t shot enough.
But this year has been a different story — so far.
While it’s a short sample size, the Wild entered the week leading the NHL in putting pucks on net. Through 11 matchups, Minnesota has averaged 36.5 shots a game, and the team is coming off a 39-shot effort in a win over the New York Islanders on Sunday night. Minnesota outshot the Islanders 16-2 over the third period and scored four goals in the 5-2 victory.
The Wild have not ranked higher 19th in shots on net for a season over the past decade and have finished as low as 28th in the league. Minnesota averaged between 29.4 to 30.5 shots on net per game in that time span.
The Wild rank sixth in the league with 36 goals as well, and eighth with an average of 3.27 per game.
Minnesota’s depth is a reason for the production.
Kirill Kaprizov ranks 11th with 41 shots on net, and Ryan Hartman is 24th with 38 as the only Wild players in the Top 25 in that category. Matt Dumba is next as he ranks 49th and Kevin Fiala is 53rd. But 15 Wild players have at least 10 shots on net and 11 have more than 20.
Twenty-one different players have at least a point with Hartman and Kaprizov co-leading the team with nine points apiece. The Wild’s defenseman have been particularly productive with a collective eight goals and 32 points. The team ranks first in defenseman goals and second in scoring.
“We thought right at the start that we’d have depth to play the game with four lines and six defensemen,” Wild coach Dean Evason said in a media availability session after the Islanders game. That’s why (Wild GM) Billy (Guerin) got the people that he got here for us. You never know if the production is going to come.
“If Kirill and Kevin (are) not lighting it up, it’s nice to get team wins, and it might help us in the long run with our knowledge that everybody can chip in.”
That group mentality is another reason for the team’s success this year.
“The nice thing is one guy steps up or a line steps up one night, the so-called top line doesn’t get upset, like, ‘Why didn’t I get the points?’” Evason said.. “Who cares about points? We get (a win) and that’s what our group cares about.
“They’re not worried about their individual stats,” Evason said. “They’re just as happy for the other group, the other line, the other D-pair. It’s nice to get a good team feel.”
Having won three straight games and sitting in first place in the NHL Central Division, the Wild are riding a lot of good feelings.
The Wild will look to continue that as they begin a three-game road trip on Wednesday in Arizona.