October was a bit of a roller-coaster for the Minnesota Wild. After starting out the season in dominant fashion, shutting out the Colorado Avalanche twice in a row, the Wild faltered a bit on their first road trip out West. The team was handed its first two loses by the Anaheim Ducks and the reigning Stanley Cup Champions, the Los Angeles Kings. Minnesota then pulled out a win over the Arizona Coyotes and destroyed the Tampa Bay Lightning 7-2, both at home.
This crazy goal scoring didn’t continue, though, as the Wild lost in heart-breaking fashion two days later to the New York Rangers. The team also lost core players Jonas Brodin and Erik Haula during the game. Both Haula and Brodin are still currently injured and haven’t played since. On the bright side, Minnesota pulled off a come-from-behind win one night later against the Boston Bruins. The Wild then ended October on a high note, beating the San Jose Sharks 4-3 in a shootout.
The team ended the month with a 6-3-0 record.
Stars & Busts
Throughout these ups and downs over the past nine games, the Minnesota Wild have had some surprising players break out, and some others fail to impress.
Jason Zucker has most definitely been a pleasant surprise for the team so far this year. The 22-year-old spent most of the season in the American Hockey League last season with the Iowa Wild, but now that he’s made it to the NHL, he looks truly determined to prove this is where he belongs. Zucker leads the team in goals (5) and is tied for second on the team in points with six so far.
Goaltender Darcy Kuemper and defenseman Marco Scandella have also stood out this month. Kuemper, although not playing as well as he did at the beginning of the season, is still playing top notch hockey for the Wild. The netminder leads the NHL in
shutouts (3) and GAA with 1.51, as of this being written. Scandella, on the other hand, has also contributed quite a bit on the defensive front, falling behind only Ryan Suter for +/- leader at +8. The Canadian has also managed to score two goals thus far.
While the Wild has been lucky to see some of these young players break into stars, there has also been some less-than-stellar play by a couple veterans, namely Mikko Koivu and Thomas Vanek. I’ll give them the benefit of the doubt and keep my fingers crossed that they’ll both break out later in the season, but neither has contributed much as of now. Vanek has yet to score a goal and Koivu has only two in 9 games. Aside from just looking at points, both players have looked slow and tired on the ice, for the most part.
However, last night versus the San Jose Sharks, both Koivu and Vanek stepped up quite a bit. Minnesota’s captain had arguably his best game of the season so far, scoring his second goal and scoring again in the shootout to help push Minnesota to victory. Vanek, on the other hand, contributed two assists to put him at seven on the season and also make him the team leader in that category.
The Minnesota Wild still have a long way to go, but so far I’d say they’ve started out on the right foot. The team plays their first game in November this coming Saturday against the Dallas Stars.
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