In their third game of the season, the Minnesota Wild defeated the Arizona Coyotes 4-3, advancing to a 3-0 record this season. This makes the Wild one of only five undefeated teams.
While the season is nowhere close to being over, this early success is a promising sign for Minnesota. Over the past three games, this team has done many things right, and has already come far from where they started in Colorado. Here are five reasons Minnesota has been able to go 3-0.
1. Zach Parise
Without a doubt, Zach Parise is the biggest reason the Minnesota Wild have been able to win every game so far. Hockey might be a team sport, but Parise has put this team on his back multiple times already.
In the Wild’s season opener against the Colorado Avalanche, Minnesota started out looking a bit disastrous. After allowing three goals in the first period and one in the second, the Wild trailed by three goals heading into the third period. But that was clearly not a problem for Parise, who proceeded to score three goals and lift his team to victory.
As if a hat trick in the opening game of the season wasn’t impressive enough, Parise has gone on to score five goals in three games so far, making him the NHL goal-scoring leader at the moment. Parise’s scoring abilities combined with his leadership have made him an indispensable part of this team. Minnesota may have only played three games so far, but there’s no questioning how big of an impact Parise has, and will continue to have on this team’s success.
2. Thomas Vanek
I don’t think anyone would’ve expected Thomas Vanek to be a big reason for the Minnesota Wild’s success this season, but Vanek seems to have rediscovered his scoring touch.
While Vanek hasn’t contributed on the same level as Parise, he has been a key factor in two of the three Wild wins so far this season. In the season opener against Colorado, Vanek added the tying goal late in the Wild’s third period rally. It may not have been the game-winner, but without Vanek’s goal, it’s questionable whether the Wild would’ve been able to get the win. Vanek also netted a goal in Minnesota’s game against the Coyotes, a game in which every goal was needed for the Wild.
So far, Vanek has a point in each of the three games the Wild have played, which is a promising start for a guy who had a previously disappointing year. Vanek’s improved play has definitely had a big impact on the Wild’s undefeated record.
3. Power Play
Last season, the Minnesota Wild had the fourth-worst power play in the league. This year, they seem to have turned things around.
Currently, the Wild have the second-best power play percentage behind only the Colorado Avalanche (who probably have that high of a power play ranking only because the Wild gave them so many power play goals in the season opener). While the season is still young, it’s clear this team’s power play is drastically better than it was last year.
Minnesota must keep up this power play success if they are going to continue to be successful, but the positive start is a step in the right direction.
4. Penalty Kill
On the other hand, the Wild’s penalty kill hasn’t been as impressive, but it has improved and that’s what matters.
In the Wild’s season opener against Colorado, the Avalanche scored on every power play opportunity they were given. When Minnesota played the St. Louis Blues in their home opener, the Wild gave the Blues three power play opportunities, one of which they scored on. Most recently, the Wild took on the Arizona Coyotes. The Coyotes had seven power play opportunities, but Minnesota managed to keep them to only one power play goal.
Okay, so this isn’t the penalty-killing squad of last season, but it’s getting there. If the Wild had continued to play like they did in their season opener, there’s no way this team would be 3-0.
5. The Young Guys
Veterans like Vanek, Parise, Pominville and Koivu have been a huge reason for Minnesota’s success, but the Wild’s young players are not to be forgotten. From Charlie Coyle to Mikael Granlund, Minnesota’s youth has been equally responsible for the Wild’s early season success.
Coyle and Granlund have already found a way to put pucks in the net, while players like Zucker and Niederreiter have been actively involved with creating chances for their teammates. This season, the Wild haven’t had to take time to adjust to many new faces or young players that previously had never spent time in the NHL. Almost all of Minnesota’s young players have a significant amount of experience under them. This has lead to solid play coming from every part of the team.
The Minnesota Wild still have a lot to work on. Their 3-0 record has been partly due to skill and partly to luck. There have been times this team played sloppily and undisciplined, but there have also been times when this team played clean, quick, organized hockey. The season is long, and the Wild have a ways to go, but this team has already improved immensely since Game 1. Now Minnesota has the task of carrying their early season success into the rest of the season.
Alli covers the Minnesota Wild and has been a contributing writer with THW since August 2014. She is currently a journalism and sports management student at the University of Minnesota. For all of your Minnesota Wild news and updates, follow her on twitter: @allibaker23