On Jan. 7, the Wild was 11th in the Western Conference, and 2-4-4 in its last 10 games at the time.
That was in January. It’s now April and the Wild is in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The catalyst for Minnesota’s change in fortune? Goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
Of all the trades made this season, the Wild’s acquisition of Dubnyk from the rebuilding Arizona Coyotes could have the greatest impact in the post-season when it’s all said and done.
In a playoff-clinching situation against the Wild’s Central Division foes, the Chicago Blackhawks, Dubnyk was sharp again, making 32 saves. Minnesota got goals from Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker, returning to the lineup from a broken clavicle, less than four minutes apart in the third period for a 2-1 victory.
That’s 11 straight road victories for the Wild.
Yeo: the fact that we won 11 straight road games to get ourselves into the playoffs, I mean, that’s unbelievable
Since the middle of January, the Minnesota Wild have transformed from a team in despair to a team on a mission. Having superb goaltending helps, and Devan Dubnyk has continued his stellar play since being traded out of Arizona.
On Friday, the Wild managed enough scoring in the third period, despite playing for the second time in as many nights, to defeat the Carolina Hurricanes by a final score of 3-1. Mikael Granlund and Zach Parise scored goals less than two minutes apart in the final period to give Minnesota the lead, which it wouldn’t give up.
The Wild have won five in a row. Since the start of February, Minnesota has lost only three times.
The 28-year-old Dubnyk made 37 saves against the Hurricanes in what was his 23rd consecutive start. His current run is impressive. Then, look over to goals allowed, and he hasn’t conceded more than two goals in a game since Feb. 16. That’s a span of nine games.
The Wild move to 79 points in the Central Division.
It’ll be interesting to see how Stewart fits with his new running mates. It’s clear by both his and Fletcher’s comments that the goal is to provide a physical element and more size; it’s also likely Stewart will be a net-front presence and feed off the offense generated by Vanek (who has nine points in his last 11 games) and Koivu (12 in his last 14.)
“Adding my size and my physicality to that lineup, I think that’s something they’re looking for,” Stewart said, per the Star-Tribune. “I’m a big guy, a power forward, I have some pretty good speed and I like to play a hard-nosed game and get in the corners there and on the forecheck and create turnovers.
“It’s going to be a great challenge. I look forward to it.”
Landeskog, McLeod receive max fines for late game altercation
Colorado’s Cody McLeod and Gabriel Landeskog each received the maximum fine allowed for their actions late in the Avalanche’s 3-1 loss to the Minnesota Wild on Saturday, per the NHL’s Department of Player Safety.
McLeod’s wallet is $3,091.40 lighter for coming into the contest with 8.1 seconds left “for the purpose of starting an altercation.” McLeod fought with Charlie Coyle after knocking down Mikael Granlund immediately after the faceoff. In addition to the fine, McLeod had already been handed an unsportsmanlike conduct minor, fighting major, and 10-minute misconduct.
Landeskog was also booted in the dying seconds of the game after throwing a punch at Mikko Koivu while they were both on the bench. For his actions, Landeskog has been fined $5,000.
It’s almost hard to believe that the Dallas Stars had a 1-0 lead against the Minnesota Wild on Sunday. Things changed sharply in the third period, as the Wild crushed Dallas 6-2 overall to keep their red-hot run alive.
As much as this hot streak revolves around acquiring Devan Dubnyk, this game was largely about guys who’ve been in Minnesota a little longer.
Zach Parise (two goals) and Mikael Granlund (one goal, two assists) probably stood out the most as the Wild scored six goals in the third period, the most of any team in the NHL so far this season.
Here’s video of those six Minnesota goals:
Minnesota on a mission
The numbers all smile for the Wild, as they’ve won six in a row at home. They’ve come a long way since falling below .500 (18-19-5) following a dispiriting 7-2 loss to the Pittsburgh Penguins on Jan. 13.
This win places the Wild eight overall for at least the moment:
7. Winnipeg – 71 points in 61 games played (24 regulation/OT wins)
8. Minnesota: 69 points in 59 GP (29 ROW)
9. Calgary: 68 points in 59 GP (29 ROW)
10. San Jose: 68 points in 61 GP (28 ROW)
Parise: "it's nice to make a little movement in the standings. It felt like the longest time we were winning & not going anywhere" #mnwild
Dallas is now starting to lag behind the pack with 63 points in 60 games played. They’ve now lost three games in a row and four of their last five, a stretch that might just be deadly for a Stars team that really needs an epic run to make it to the playoffs (after doing something similar last season).
For much of this game, it seemed like these two teams were evenly matched. That changed in a stark way in the almost-brutal final 20 minutes, though.