NBCSN’s coverage of the 2020-21 NHL season continues with Thursday night’s matchup between the Vegas Golden Knights and Minnesota Wild. The Golden Knights-Wild stream coverage begins at 10:30 p.m. ET on NBCSN. You can watch the game online and on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.
We are about to get a really good idea over the next couple of weeks for exactly how good the Minnesota Wild are this season.
Even though they dropped back-to-back games to the San Jose Sharks this week (including Wednesday’s 4-2 defeat), the Wild still find themselves in a great position in the West Division playoff race. They enter Thursday’s game against the Vegas Golden Knights in third place in the division with a seven point cushion over the non-playoff teams, while also having games in hand. There is every reason to believe they are going to secure one of the four playoff spots in the division.
They have the goaltending to carry them when things are not working. Kirill Kaprizov gives them a star to build around offensively. And their defense remains rock solid. There is a lot to like about this team and the way it plays. A lot of important ingredients for a contending team are in place.
But even with all of that there is still some question as to just how good this team is and what is capable of in this division with three Stanley Cup contenders (Vegas, Colorado Avalanche, St. Louis Blues) sandwiched around them.
So far, the season has gone according to plan for the Wild. They have mostly feasted on the rebuilding teams in the division around them, owning a 16-5-1 record against the Anaheim Ducks, Arizona Coyotes, San Jose Sharks, and Los Angeles Kings. They have collected points against the teams they should be collecting points against. No complaints or issues there.
It is the other three teams (the contenders) that are going to be a challenge for them, and a good measuring stick for what they might be capable of come playoff team.
As of Thursday they are only 5-5-1 against the Avalanche, Golden Knights, and Blues, and a week ago were completely dominated in two games against the Avalanche. Their next seven games are against those three teams, starting with Thursday’s game in Vegas. They also will spend the majority of their remaining schedule playing those three teams, including seven games against the Blues, the team immediately behind them in the standings.
If the Wild can hold their own in those games, maintaining that .500 mark against them or perhaps even go slightly above it, that would almost certainly send a pretty strong message that they would not simply just be playing for the right to lose to one of them in the playoffs. It also might give the front office even more incentive to add to this roster before the trade deadline. They have some salary cap space to work with while also holding an additional first-round draft pick as a trade asset thanks to the Jason Zucker deal a year ago.
Before losing the past two games against San Jose the Wild had been one of the hottest teams in the league, winning 15 out of their previous 20 games. That includes a two-game series sweep against Vegas earlier in March.
Now we get to see how they stack up again, and against the other top teams in the division.