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Behind Enemy Lines: Wild Look to Secure Second Seed in the West

The slumping Wild look for their first consecutive wins since the end of February.

NHL: Carolina Hurricanes at Minnesota Wild Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

At one point in the season, the Minnesota Wild looked like the best team in the West. But now, they appear to be limping into the playoffs. With a 3-5-2 record in their last 10 games, the Wild are currently one of the coldest teams in the league heading into the playoffs. They will look to right the ship and win consecutive games for the first time since February tonight, when they host the Carolina Hurricanes.

Heading into March Devan Dubnyk was first or second in all of the major goalie stats of wins, goals-against average, and save percentage. Just a month later, he ranks fourth in wins (38), fourth in save percentage (.924), and fifth in GAA (2.23). From October to February, the Wild ranked second in the NHL in goals against, letting up 140 goals in 60 games. However, since the start of March, the Wild now rank third to last with 54 goals against in just 18 games.

Despite this downturn in goaltending, Minnesota’s +53 goal differential is the best in the Western Conference and ranks second in the league behind only the Capitals’ +76. Part of this success can be attributed to a fellow we know well, Eric Staal, who is having his best season as a goal scorer since the 2010-2011 season.

With three games left this season, Staal already has 27 goals and 61 total points. He has also been contributing on the power play, setting up 15 power play goals, and finishing three of them himself. Even though Staal is having success away from the Hurricanes, it is great to see him performing well in Bruce Boudreau’s system this year. If the Wild are to succeed in the playoffs, they will need him to keep up with these same numbers.

The Wild have two great lines that will make tough matchups for the Carolina Hurricanes. The scoring for the Wild is spread pretty equally between their top two lines. The line of Chris Stewart, Eric Staal, and Charlie Coyle have combined for 57 goals and 134 points and the line of Jason Zucker, Mikko Koivu, and Mikael Granlund have combined for 64 goals and 171 total points.

The Canes aren’t going to be able to focus on any one specific player to shut down the Wild. They will need to have to have solid positioning in the defensive zone because all six players in their top two lines, as five of the Wild’s top six have 46 or more points and four have over 20 goals.

Game Notes:

  • The Wild play better at home than away, earning a 26-12-2 record as opposed to their 20-13-6 road record. The game tonight against the Hurricanes marks their final regular season home game.
  • With just three games remaining, the Wild have a seven point lead over the St. Louis Blues for the second seed in the Central Division. The Blues have a game in hand on the Wild and would hold the tiebreaker if they won all four of their remaining games, meaning that the Wild’s magic number is two to secure home ice in the first round. One win or a Blues regulation loss will do the trick.
  • Carolina leads all-time, 9-6-6, including 6-1-2 at home and 3-5-4 on the road. The Canes won the only other matchup this season 3-1 at home.