Today, those odds are even more comfortable, at 92.5 percent, with a chance to bump them up even higher with a victory tonight at home versus Vancouver.
The Wild got a big win Sunday versus Detroit, beating the desperate Wings 4-3 in overtime after trailing 2-0 early. But like with any team that hasn’t officially clinched, there’s always some reason for concern that it could go all go sideways. For Minnesota — which has won just three of its last 10 games — that reason may be goaltending.
With neither Josh Harding nor Niklas Backstrom available, coach Mike Yeo has a choice between rookie Darcy Kuemper and much-maligned veteran Ilya Bryzgalov in the final 10 games of the regular season.
From the StarTribune:
Yeo said today that he’s not going to say these games will serve in determining the Wild’s No. 1 goalie if it makes the playoffs, but he said there’s no question the Wild will use these next 10 “days” to sort things out.
Kuemper’s game hasn’t been as strong as it was before the trade deadline. He has allowed three or more goals in four of his past six starts, but Yeo said he doesn’t think Kuemper is that far off from his “A” game.
As for Bryzgalov, who is 2-0-2, Yeo said, “He’s got experience being deep in the playoffs, which can be a real positive. Kuemps and his personality and his situation as far as being part of our future is going to play into it. He shows signs of being a guy that could be not only a good goalie, but a really good goalie in the playoffs because of his mental makeup, because of how he’s handled pressure, because how he’s been able to stay focused and stay in the short term and not get too wrapped up in what’s happened.”
If it’s not goaltending that’s cause for concern, Minnesota’s remaining schedule may be. After tonight’s game, the Wild face a daunting four-game road trip to St. Louis, Phoenix, Los Angeles, and Chicago, before returning home to play Pittsburgh. And that’s not all, because home games against Boston and St. Louis are also on the slate.
Granted, it’s not like Minnesota has to run the table to get into the postseason. Not even close. With a six-point lead over ninth-place Dallas, a record of, say, 4-6-0 would almost certainly do the trick. Beating the Canucks tonight would be a good place to start.