Minnesota Wild fans have been waiting something to cheer about. The last time their team won a playoff series was in 2003 when the team made their sole run to the Western Conference Championship. This year, the volume inside Xcel Energy Center should come as a surprise to no one, but the Wild’s dominance on home ice may surprise.
It may surprise, but it has become undeniable. Even the New York Daily News is touting their home-ice abilities, saying, “The Minnesota Wild have turned their home ice into a deafening, discouraging place for opponents to play in the playoffs.”
On the surface, the team has been great at home. They’re 5-0 in St. Paul and are only one of two teams remaining who haven’t yet lost at home — the other being Chicago. Minnesota has always been good on home ice, but they’ve never been dominant the way Chicago or Anaheim have in recent years. During the regular season, Minnesota was 26-10-5 in St. Paul, which, while very respectable, is only fifth best in the Western Conference.
This postseason in Xcel the Wild have outshot Chicago 49-39 through two games (outshooting them 100-83 in the series), they outhit them 44-15 (113-62 in the series), have a 55.6% success rate in the faceoff circle (51.5% in the series), and they’ve outscored Chicago 8-2.
Overall in the playoffs, they’ve currently allowed the fewest goals against at home of active teams (5), they’re tied for the second most goals scored at home (16 — and Chicago is number one), and they’re tied for first in power play goals against at home, having allowed just one.
On the surface, the stats look great. But is Minnesota actually as frightening as they have looked on home ice recently?
Shutting Down the Stars
Minnesota has faced two high-power offenses so far in the postseason. Colorado and Chicago both boast serious offensive threats, including Matt Duchene, Gabriel Landeskog, Ryan O’Reilly, Nathan MacKinnon, Paul Stastny, Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Patrick Sharp, and Marian Hossa. That’s nine elite or near-elite forwards who should give any opposing coach pause.
Shutting down the top-6 of the opposition has been key to the Wild’s success at home. We could look at fancy stats (and will), but let’s just look at the raw totals, the actual impact have these players had on the scoreboard. Clearly, for both Colorado and Chicago, those players must have an impact or their team will not win.
Between those nine forwards, they have played 25 player games against Minnesota on the players’ home ice and 21 player games against Minnesota in St. Paul. At home, they’ve combined for 14 goals and 26 assists. In Minnesota, they’ve combined for three goals and six assists.
This is a little abstract, but per player, that averages to .67 goals per game and 1.24 assists per game at home. Spreading that stat over nine players paints an ugly picture for the Wild’s ability to control elite talent on the road. However, at home, it’s a different story. Per player, the average in Minnesota is .14 goals per game and .29 assists per game.
What Fancy Stats You Have
Let’s take a brief look at the Corsi for and Fenwick for percentages to see if it paints a similar picture. I’m going to take the percentage across all five home games the Wild have played.
Their overall Corsi for is 56.6%. So, at large, they’re creating more offense opportunities than their opponents. That actually improves if you just look at their Corsi for during 5-on-5. It’s 58.2%. The Fenwick actually plays out more favorably for the Wild. The Wild’s overall Fenwick for at home is 58.6%. During 5-on-5 that jumps up to 60.8%. Sixty percent will win you games. (Stats via Extra Skater.)
The Wild have been dominant at home in almost any light, especially the one stat that really matters at the end of the day: they’re 5-0. After tying up the series at 2-2 with a 4-2 Game 4 win, they’re back in the series. But they’ve got to bring some of that home-ice energy on the road if they want to see the Western Conference Championship for the first time in 11 years. The road numbers are not as pretty. With Friday’s win forcing a Game 6 in Minnesota, it’s hard to imagine that this series doesn’t go to seven games with Chicago and Minnesota both winning their next home game.
Dustin Nelson writes about news and the Minnesota Wild for The Hockey Writers.