The Minnesota Wild is the hottest team in the NHL right now. With eight regular season games remaining, the team is all but guaranteed to be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs when they start in a few weeks.

But how did they get there? The team was left for dead in late January. They were in 11th place in the Western Conference at the NHL’s All-Star break, and there were no signs that a turnaround was coming. Fans were calling for coach Mike Yeo to be let go.

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The Wild won six straight games and eight of nine to get started on making a run for a playoff spot. After Tuesday’s shootout win over the New York Islanders, the Wild won its 10th straight road game. They’re five points ahead of the first team out of the playoffs, the L.A. Kings. Here are eight reasons why the Wild will not only get to the playoffs, but make a run once they do.

(credit: Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

(credit: Bruce Kluckhohn/NHLI via Getty Images)

Devan Dubnyk Saved The Team’s Season

Devan Dubnyk’s job is to make saves, but little did he know that coming to the Wild in a trade would pretty much save the team’s season. They acquired him after an ugly 7-2 loss to Pittbsurgh, and he’s started every game since. He’s had five shutouts and single-handedly won them games by keeping the puck out of the net. In 31 starts, Dubnyk is 24-6-1 for the Wild. He made 37 saves in Tuesday night’s win.

(credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

(credit: Jeff Gross/Getty Images)

Defense Playing Better In Front Of Dubnyk

Since acquiring Dubnyk, the Wild are scoring more frequently and they’re keeping the puck out of their own net. He’s got a .937 save percentage and a 1.74 goals against average, largely because he’s not seeing a ton of shots in every game. The team as a whole has played better and with more freedom now that it has a confident goaltender.

(credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

(credit: Elsa/Getty Images)

Thomas Vanek Scoring More

Thomas Vanek admitted to starting the season slow, but the veteran has come on recently. He scored Monday night and has 19 goals on the season. He needs one more goal to have 10 straight seasons of at least 20 goals. Vanek is also approaching 300 goals for his career. If Vanek can stay hot, it can go a long way towards a playoff run for the Wild.

(credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

(credit: Doug Pensinger/Getty Images)

Playoffs Are All About Match-Ups

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Once your spot in the playoffs is solidified, nothing else really matters. Hockey is the one sport where it’s not unusual for a No. 8 seed to beat at No. 1 seed in the playoffs. If the Wild can get a team in the first round that it matches up well against, it has as good a chance as any team to make a playoff run. More importantly, they should be a tough out for any opponent with the season on the line.

(credit: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

(credit: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

Wild Is Best Team In NHL Since All-Star Break

Entering Tuesday night’s game against the Islanders, the Wild is the best team in the NHL. Since getting Dubnyk, the Wild has scored 96 goals and allowed 54, and that plus-42 rating leads the NHL. The team is also 24-6-2 with him in net. It’s a team that’s come a long way thanks to a confident group behind a hot goaltender.

(credit: CBS)

(credit: CBS)

Zach Parise Being Well… Zach Parise

Devan Dubnyk might have saved the Wild’s season, but Zach Parise is the face of the franchise. He’s living up to the title, leading the team in scoring with 57 points on the season. That mark includes 29 goals. Parise scored Tuesday night to get the Wild tied with the Islanders 2-1, then scored the only goal in the shootout to get the win. Parise is the leader the Wild needs to make a playoff run.

Team Is Getting Healthy Again

The Wild is still missing a few key pieces, but the team’s overall health has gotten better and it’s led to more wins. Dubnyk has not shown signs of fatigue despite 32 straight starts. Some injured players are back, while the return of guys like Matt Cooke and Jason Zucker isn’t far behind.

 

(credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

(credit: Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Record Win Streak On The Road

The Minnesota Wild already has a franchise record 46 points in road games in a single season, so it’s a team that’s not afraid to go into a hostile environment. It also has won 10 straight road games, another franchise record, and is 14-1-2 on the road since Jan. 15.

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It was hard to imagine the Minnesota Wild in the playoffs two months ago. Now a historic stretch has them on the verge of the postseason, with most teams not wanting to face them. It’s amazing what a confident goaltender can do for an entire team. And with five straight home games starting Friday against the Calgary Flames, the team’s fate is in its own hands the rest of the season.