The playoffs are just around the corner now and the Minnesota Wild have done all they can to get prepared for it. From adding Nicolas Deslauriers, Jacob Middleton, and Tyson Jost to the move everyone had their eyes on, the addition of Marc-André Fleury. When the playoffs start, teams usually step up in terms of their compete level, some players thrive while others struggle.
The majority of the Wild’s roster is pulling their weight already and will elevate their game when the postseason comes around. However, there are a few players who will need to find a way to improve their game towards the end of the regular season and when the playoffs start to help the Wild make a hopeful Stanley Cup run.
Nick Bjugstad has been a curious case for the Wild all season long. He’s played in 44 of their 69 games so far this season as he missed 14 games between January and February while he dealt with an upper-body injury. When he came back from that, he played about a month before he was a healthy scratch to make room for the new additions to the roster. With the recent injury to Matt Boldy, Bjugstad was able to jump back into the lineup, but it’s hard to say how long he’ll remain there.
He’s struggled to attain any points this season, as he only has five goals and 11 points in 44 games. In the last ten games, he’s recorded two points. However, the fourth line he’s filled in on has had a significant number of scoring chances throughout the season, they have just struggled to beat the goaltender. As a veteran with 11 years of experience and three years of experience in the playoffs, they’ll need him to step up in both points and leadership. The younger players will be looking to him and the other veterans for guidance as the playoffs roll on.
Brandon Duhaime is still a rookie but he had such a great start to the season, so it’s understandable to want to see the same in the postseason. He had a few runs with a decent amount of points to get to his current number of 16 points in 67 games played. For the last couple of months, he’s had trouble finding the back of the net and hasn’t registered a point since Mar. 21. He hasn’t scored a goal in even longer; his last goal was on Feb. 20 in their win over the Edmonton Oilers.
They won’t be looking to him for leadership as he’s only in his first season, but any production they can get from their younger players in the playoffs will be a bonus. His line is also responsible for the majority of the Wild’s physicality and as everyone has seen in the last few weeks, that is still an important part of the game. Depending on who they face in the playoffs, they’ll need Duhaime’s physicality as well as his speed to catch their opponents off guard and hopefully score some points in the process.
Wild’s Jordan Greenway
It was difficult to pick a third player for this list and Jordan Greenway barely made it into this final spot. He’s had a rough but decent season, he’s 10 points behind his career-high from last season but he’s dealt with three injuries that caused him to miss 11 games. Since his return from his most recent injury, he’s played very consistently and has shown some confidence in his game. He’s had four points in the last five games including three assists in their win over the Washington Capitals.
The Wild will need him to keep up that consistency and confidence as the season nears its end and the postseason gets underway. That confidence can trickle down to other players and even though Greenway doesn’t have 10 or more years of experience, he has been with the Wild for five seasons now and has a veteran presence that can be an advantage for them moving forward.
Wild’s Minor Issues
There are a few players who don’t need to step up their game necessarily but do need to fix one major part of it. Those players are Kirill Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala, and Mats Zuccarello and their problem has been giveaways. Throughout the NHL, the highest scorers tend to have a higher number of giveaways, and these three fall right into that category.
Kaprizov has the highest number with 63 giveaways in 68 games, with Fiala and Zuccarello, the numbers drop off quite a bit from his. Fiala has 38 giveaways in 69 games and Zuccarello has 36 giveaways in 61 games. It hasn’t hindered the Wild horribly during the regular season, but in the playoffs, they can’t give up the puck like that to their opponents. If they can’t fix that issue by then, their goaltenders may have their work cut out for them.
Wild’s Roster Overall
Thankfully for the Wild, their injury situation seems to be taking care of itself. While Boldy, Jon Merrill, and recently injured Matt Dumba aren’t returning right away, the outcome for each player seems more hopeful than originally thought. Their teammates are pushing their way through without them, but having them back would be a big plus. Of course, the team as a whole can always improve no matter how well they play, but overall they’re doing pretty well. They have a few minor details they need to fine-tune but if they can play as they did against the Colorado Avalanche, they should do well once the playoffs get underway.