After a disastrous homestand in which they won just one out of five games, the Minnesota Wild find themselves one point behind Wild Card holder Colorado for the last playoff spot in the West. Minnesota also currently trails Arizona, who is level with the Avalanche with 78 points, and all three teams have eight games remaining on the schedule after both the Avs and Coyotes played Thursday night.
Minnesota returns to action Friday night as they visit the nation’s capital for a matchup with the defending Stanley Cup Champion Capitals. Not exactly the team you want to start your final stretch of the season against.
Then to make matters worse, Minnesota follows that up the next night for a game in Raleigh against old friend Nino Niederreiter and the red-hot Hurricanes.
So just how bad is the remaining schedule for the Wild comparative to the teams they are trying to fight with for the last playoff spot? To put it lightly, it is not great. The game against Colorado on Tuesday was the last game of the season Minnesota has against a non-playoff team (on the day of the game, Colorado was not in a playoff spot).
With games against playoff teams highlighted in bold, the Wild have by far the worst remaining schedule out of the three teams who are within a point of that final Wild Card position. The Wild and Coyotes also have more of a road-heavy schedule, as both teams play five out of their remaining eight games away from their home rinks.
However, Wild fans might tell you playing more on the road as opposed to at home might help their cause rather than harm it.
If you further break down the Wild’s record this season against the teams they have left on the schedule, you find it to be disheartening. Against the eight teams Minnesota has left on the schedule, the Wild have a combined 7-6-5 record against those teams. If you subtract Winnipeg from that record — whom the Wild have defeated in all four meetings this year — the record goes down to 3-6-5.
|2||Arizona Coyotes||2||1||1||0||0||2||.500||5||5||2.50||2.50||2 games|
|3||Boston Bruins||1||0||1||0||0||0||.000||0||4||0.00||4.00||1 games|
|5||Carolina Hurricanes||1||0||0||0||1||1||.500||4||5||4.00||5.00||1 games|
|10||Dallas Stars||4||1||2||0||1||3||.375||6||10||1.50||2.50||4 games|
|17||Nashville Predators||3||0||1||0||2||2||.333||8||12||2.67||4.00||3 games|
|28||Vegas Golden Knights||2||1||0||0||1||3||.750||5||4||2.50||2.00||2 games|
|29||Winnipeg Jets||4||4||0||0||0||8||1.000||13||7||3.25||1.75||4 games|
|30||Washington Capitals||1||0||1||0||0||0||.000||2||5||2.00||5.00||1 games|
Then compare them to how both Colorado (6-9-3) and Arizona (7-7-2) have fared and there is reason for hope if the Wild can get on a hot streak to close out the season.
|2||Arizona Coyotes||2||1||1||0||0||2||.500||9||7||4.50||3.50||2 games|
|8||Chicago Blackhawks||3||1||1||0||1||3||.500||8||8||2.67||2.67||3 games|
|11||Edmonton Oilers||2||1||1||0||0||2||.500||8||7||4.00||3.50||2 games|
|23||San Jose Sharks||2||0||2||0||0||0||.000||7||9||3.50||4.50||2 games|
|24||St. Louis Blues||3||0||1||0||2||2||.333||5||10||1.67||3.33||3 games|
|28||Vegas Golden Knights||2||1||1||0||0||2||.500||4||2||2.00||1.00||2 games|
|29||Winnipeg Jets||4||2||2||0||0||4||.500||17||14||4.25||3.50||4 games|
|7||Chicago Blackhawks||2||1||1||0||0||2||.500||5||8||2.50||4.00||2 games|
|8||Colorado Avalanche||2||1||1||0||0||2||.500||7||9||3.50||4.50||2 games|
|13||Los Angeles Kings||3||2||1||0||0||4||.667||7||5||2.33||1.67||3 games|
|14||Minnesota Wild||2||1||1||0||0||2||.500||5||5||2.50||2.50||2 games|
|16||New Jersey Devils||1||0||0||0||1||1||.500||2||3||2.00||3.00||1 games|
|18||New York Islanders||1||0||1||0||0||0||.000||1||3||1.00||3.00||1 games|
|28||Vegas Golden Knights||3||1||1||0||1||3||.500||8||10||2.67||3.33||3 games|
|29||Winnipeg Jets||2||1||1||0||0||2||.500||7||6||3.50||3.00||2 games|
If the Wild do have anything going for them, it is that goaltender Devan Dubnyk has been impressive on the road in recent weeks and has propped up their play away from Xcel Energy Center. But Minnesota Wild need Dubnyk to fire on all cylinders at both home and road games if this team wants a chance to sneak their way into the playoffs for a seventh consecutive year.
Ultimately, it will have to be Dubnyk who drives this team right into the playoffs. If he can have an other-worldly streak over the final eight games — which he is certainly capable of — he gives Minnesota a shot of leap-frogging over Colorado and Arizona into the playoffs for the seventh consecutive season.
The Wild offense has been mainly a disappointment this season and currently sits 26th in the league for goals scored. It would not be wise to rely on that area to get this team on a roll. Which leads it back to Dubnyk, who has had struggles himself this season.
Minnesota is very much still in the playoff race as the NHL comes down the final stretch of the regular season. But while Minnesota’s schedule does not favor them by any stretch of the imagination, the teams they are chasing also haven’t given much to go on that they can pull away from the Wild either.
It’s anyone’s spot at this point. Don’t count out the Wild just yet.