The Minnesota Wild are on fire. They’re one of the hottest teams in the NHL, and there is no sign that a losing streak is coming any time soon.

The Wild set a franchise record in December with 12 straight victories. They would’ve gained more national attention if not for Columbus nearly tying the NHL record of 17 straight wins. But more importantly, they’ve won 17 of their last 19 games and are third in the NHL with 61 points.

The Wild took over the top spot in the Western Conference after beating the Chicago Blackhawks 3-2 Sunday night. But we’re still waiting for the skid the team seems to go through every season, typically in late January.

Here are four reasons why they’re winning consistently, and why it could lead to a deep playoff run.

(credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

(credit: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)

Great Goaltending

You don’t have to dig too deep to figure out why the Wild are one of the best teams in the NHL right now. They’re getting great goaltending, in fact, some of the best in the league. Devan Dubnyk is one of three to represent the Wild in the NHL All-Star Game, and his ability to keep the puck out of his own net is a big reason why the Wild have won 17 of its past 19 games. He leads the NHL with a 1.78 goals against average and also is the league’s best with a .940 save percentage.

Bruce Boudreau is also giving him just enough rest to where he stays sharp. He has started 33 of the Wild’s 42 games and is 23-7-3. As long as he can see the puck, Dubnyk will likely stop it. The Wild will need solid goaltending the rest of the way if it wants home ice in at least one playoff series and is looking to make a Stanley Cup run.

Balanced Scoring Attack

Another reason for the Wild’s hot streak? They’re one of the most balanced teams in the NHL when it comes to scoring. Through 42 games, the Wild’s top six scorers are separated by a total of five goals. Eric Staal is the leading scorer at 39 points, which includes a team-high 15 goals. Charlie Coyle and Mikko Koivu each have 13, Nino Niederreiter has 12, Jason Zucker has 11 and Mikael Granlund has 10. Granlund also leads the team with 25 assists.

The Wild has become a lot tougher to defend because there’s not one guy to key on and try to shut down. When one guy is having an off night, a couple others step up and take over. The mark of a great hockey team isn’t one that has a star that fills the stat sheet, it’s having depth and the confidence that multiple lines can score.

Bruce Boudreau Not Afraid To Change Things In-Game

Bruce Boudreau made it known before the season started that he was in charge as head coach of the Wild, but that he wanted players in his locker room to be comfortable. That’s both with themselves and with each other, and maybe more imporantly, he wants them to believe in themselves. Boudreau hasn’t been afraid to make changes in-game if something isn’t working. He makes adjustments on the fly if he doesn’t like what he is seeing on the ice. There’s no guarantee that if you’re on the top line one game, you’ll be there the next night.

That allows for players to push each other and play harder for each other. One guy knows that if he has an off night, he might be moved back to allow for somebody else who is on a hot streak or is playing harder. So far, Boudreau has been excellent at pushing the right buttons.

Wild Third In Goal Differential, Solid On Special Teams

The concept seems pretty simple on the surface, but the Wild have had a great season so far because they’re scoring a lot more goals than they are giving up. The Wild is currently third in the NHL in goal differential with 137 goals scored and just 90 allowed. The only teams better are the Washington Capitals and the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Wild has also been solid on special teams most of the year. Their power play is at 20.2 percent, which is in the top half of the league at 13th. Their penalty kill is sixth in the NHL at 84.9 percent. You almost never want to take penalties, but having great goaltending and that kind of success when you’re a player down allows you to play more aggressive on the ice. You’re not afraid to take some chances in the event that if you do take a penalty, it won’t result in giving up a goal.

The Wild now has a unique opportunity to create some distance in the Western Conference. They have five of their last seven games in January at home, including the next four. That starts Tuesday night against the New Jersey Devils. The Wild is 14-4 this season at Xcel Energy Center, so there’s no place like home.

Comments