The Wild find themselves all alone at the top of the powerful Central Division. Joe from Hockey Wilderness answers a few questions about how it's all going down.
Copper and Blue: There's Devan Dubnyk, just doing his thing in Minnesota with a .936 SV%. Looking back, it's hilarious to think that a third round pick was all it cost to pick him up from the Coyotes back in 2015. What has this done for your team's confidence? Is anyone worried about the goaltending position for the next five years?
Hockey Wilderness: Devan Dubnyk has been playing at such a high level that when he let his first 3 GA game happen, it was a cause for concern for a week around here. But, the Wild plays so confidently in front of him that when Darcy Kuemper comes in to games, that same, warm and fuzzy feeling is gone. With Dubnyk playing like he has, doubt people are worrisome about him. It's what's behind him. Goaltending depth is not a strength of this team. Kuemper isn't very good and Alex Stalock in Iowa hasn't fared any better.
Copper and Blue: Forward Zach Parise is ninth in team scoring with 22 points (8-14-22) in 39 games. At age 32, he's got eight more years on his deal. Is he a potential buyout candidate?
Hockey Wilderness: There's too many years, to much left on the contract to consider him for a buyout. That, and Parise still has productive seasons left. He's struggling this season, but I expect him to rebound eventually. That said, come lockout in 2020, the hope is an amnesty buyout.
Copper and Blue: Tell us about an underrated member of this year's Minnesota Wild.
Hockey Wilderness: We've been banging the drum for Nino Niederreiter for a couple seasons now. The former 3rd overall pick of the Islanders, who was swapped for Cal Clutterbuck, is on the last year of his deal. He's on pace for a career season, and just doesn't disappoint in all three zones on the ice.
Hockey Wilderness: Jason Zucker is another player on pace to break his career highs. His speed, and playmaking ability along side captain Mikko Koivu and Mikael Granlund has helped propel that line as one of the best in the league in terms of production while also taking heavy defensive zone starts.
Copper and Blue: The Wild are allowing an average of 2.23 goals per game, which is second only to only the Washington Capitals (2.08). How much of this is through the hard work of the defence? How much is it through the goaltending?
Hockey Wilderness: Look at all the Corsi and Fenwick stats and you think the Wild's season is a house of cards. But what Minnesota does well is control scoring chances. The middle, high-danger areas of the ice are locked down and it forces Dubnyk to just have to make save on shots from relatively low danger areas. Dubnyk also is picking up his defense when they do break down. So it's become a very symbiotic relationship.
Copper and Blue: Finally, this team looks like it could make some serious noise in the playoffs. Second in goals allowed, fourth in goals scored, and some stellar goaltending could go a long way. If there's one complaint with the 2016-17 Minnesota Wild, what is it?
Hockey Wilderness: It has to be the multi goal leads given up. This has been a relatively new trend. During the 12 game winning streak, you could almost bank on the Wild giving up two goals or fewer. More recently, the Wild have gotten out to 2 and even 4 goal leads, only to have those leads disappear. They've found a way to win most of those games despite it, and they returned to that defensively responsible team in a 5-1 win over St. Louis right before the All-Star break. So let's hope that lull has passed.
Thanks again to Joe from Hockey Wilderness for his time!
The Oilers host the Wild tonight at 7 PM.