Wild has had best success compared to other Minnesota teams

Published 9:07 am Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Since Dec. 4, which was the start of its turnaround, the Minnesota Wild has been the hottest team in the National Hockey League bar none.

Over the last month and a half, the Wild has gone from a record of 12-8-4 to 28-9-5. That span included a 12-game winning streak and now a current four-game winning streak.

It goes without saying the winter season in Minnesota over the last decade and counting has been bad for its sports teams.

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The Minnesota Vikings have only made the playoffs seven times since 2000. The Minnesota Timberwolves? Five times. But zero since 2004. The Minnesota Wild has made the playoffs seven times, and the team is looking to make it eight times since the franchise’s birth in 2000.

So far, so good.

Minnesota has claimed 61 points through 42 games.

General manager Chuck Fletcher has been building this team for quite some time, and now he and fans of this team are starting to reap the benefits of how new head coach Bruce Boudreau has gotten this group to play together and the young talent to produce.

Minnesota has six players who have scored double-digit goals with newcomer Eric Staal leading the way with 15. Twelve players have double-digit assists with 24-year old center Mikael Granlund leading with 25. Staal has 24 and Suter has 20. The Wild has also gotten great support from its centers. Aside from Staal and Granlund, Charlie Coyle and veteran Mikko Koivu are third and fourth, respectively, on the team in points.

The depth Minnesota has is remarkable. Most teams are lucky to have two solid lines, maybe three, but Minnesota has four, and getting production from the fourth line is just a bonus. Boudreau has no problem going four lines deep during a game, and moving Koivu from the first line to the second line has proved beneficial. Now he isn’t matched up with an opposing team’s best player. He has spent his entire career with Minnesota after being drafted with the sixth overall pick in 2001 and is Minnesota’s all-time point leader.

Of course, a team can’t go far without good goaltending. Minnesota has gone 42 games with great goaltending, mostly from Devan Dubnyk, who will play in the All-Star Game later this month.

Dubnyk has a 1.74 goals against average and a save percentage of 94 percent, both tops in the league. As of Monday night, he is second in the league with 23 wins.

This team has been fun to watch this season, but there are still 40 games left to play.

Other news and notes

Second-year center and the first overall pick in the 2015 draft Connor McDavid leads the league with 50 points through 45 games. McDavid had 48 points in 45 games last season.

Minnesota dominates the top five spots in the plus/minus category in the league. Defenseman Ryan Suter is +28, Jason Zucker and Jared Spurgeon are +25, and Granlund and Koivu are +22.

After finishing 34-40-8 last season, the Columbus Bluejackets are 29-9-4 and in second place in the Metropolitan Division in the Eastern Conference. Pittsburgh is in first.

The Colorado Avalanche has the worst goal differential in the NHL at -55. Colorado has scored 82 goals in 41 games and has given up 137, and it only trails Winnipeg (145) and Philadelphia (148) for goals allowed.