There’s something strange brewing with the Minnesota Wild record this season. This isn’t something caused by a special elixir, spell, or hex but it is causing much distress in the state of hockey. Head Coach Mike Yeo, fans and players alike are all scratching their heads trying to figure out why there seems to be two different hockey teams that represent the Saintly City.
The home version has been wildly successful boasting one of the league’s best home records while playing at Xcel Energy Center. Away from St. Paul, the Wild have one of the league’s worst road records. The club will need to straighten this out as soon as possible. Their disappointing road record has weighed the club down. Minnesota currently sits in eighth place in the Western Conference. Losing games on the road has led the Wild to drop in the playoff race. If things don’t turn around soon the club may fall out of contention.
Dr. Jekyll at Home and Mr. Hyde on the Road
The difference between the Wild’s home and away records has been mind-boggling. At home, the Wild have winning down to a science with a 13-3-2 record. Their thirteen wins are tied for second-best in the league with the Boston Bruins and St. Louis Blues. Only the Pittsburgh Penguins have more wins at home this season with fourteen. The phrase ‘there’s no place like home’ has rung true for the Wild who have surpassed expectations in St. Paul.
Josh Harding is now 13-1-0 at home this season and is the only goalie in @mnwild/North Stars history to win 13 of his first 14 home games.
— NHL (@NHL) December 9, 2013
Meanwhile, the story on the road has been a lot different for the Wild. Minnesota has struggled as the visiting team where they only have a 6-8-3 record. This gives the Wild the twenty-first best road record in the league. The Wild continued their losing record on the road in a recent game against the San Jose Sharks but bounced back last night with a shootout win against the Colorado Avalanche.
— FOX Sports North (@fsnorth) December 13, 2013
This difference between home and away defies all logic given some of the successes that the club has had this season. To put this in perspective, let’s have a look at the points that the Wild have earned this season. Minnesota has obtained a total of twenty-eight points at home out of a possible thirty-six. In contrast, the Wild have just fifteen points out of a possible thirty-four on the road. The club has played one more game at home than it has on the road at this point in the season. However, this single game does not account for the growing gap between the Wild’s home and away records.
The Great Goal Differential
A possible explanation for Minnesota’s wildly different home and away records is their goal differential. Goal differential compares the total goals scored to the goals scored against. A positive number means the club has scored more goals than it has allowed while a negative number indicates a deficit.
At home, the goal differential for Minnesota has been top-notch where the club is a +16. The Wild have scored forty-eight goals in St. Paul while only allowing thirty-two. Minnesota has also been successful on the power play at home. Led by forwards Zach Parise and Jason Pominville, the Wild have twelve power play goals at home this season.
By contrast, the Wild have scored just twenty-nine times away from St. Paul. This puts the club in twenty-eighth place in the league in goals scored on the road. Minnesota has also allowed forty-five goals. This gives the club a road goal differential of a -16.
This deficit isn’t due to the club’s power play while on the visiting side. Minnesota has the ninth best road power play in the league at a 19.6% efficiency rate. However, some of the blame for the club’s road woes can be pinned on the penalty kill. The Wild have one of the league-worst penalty kill units on the road that sits at 75.8% efficiency. This is good for twenty-fifth place in the NHL.
In looking at the Wild’s goal differential statistics, one can gain a better understanding of why there is a difference between the club’s home and away records. The success that the Wild have had in this regard at home has been completely negated by their failures on the road. Other statistics don’t capture the way the Wild are living at different extremes at home and on the road this season quite like goal differential. The Wild will need to drastically improve their record on the road as the club enters the second half of the season.
Confidence is so important in hockey. It explains why goal scorers like Wild forward Jason Pominville embark on goal-scoring stretches and why defensemen like Ryan Suter can log big minutes playing consistent hockey. On the flip side, a lack of confidence can be brutal to watch and cause a lot of distress for players and fans alike.
While there is no magic potion or spell that explains the difference between the Wild’s home and away record, perhaps the key issue here is that of confidence. Having established a winning record at home, the Wild are in a groove at the Xcel Energy Center with the backing of the home crowd. The team has prepared well and they’ve been rewarded with a successful winning formula in St. Paul.
By contrast, the Wild have gotten into a rut on the road where they’ve had a lot of trouble initiating a winning record. While this is an issue the Wild will need to overcome to be successful, this problem is common with other squads in the NHL. There are many other teams in the Western Conference having similar disparities between home and road records – some have already started to turn it around.
[See Also: Dallas Stars Bring Road Mentality Home]
As the season has progressed, the Wild have owned their home and road reputations more and more. This has led to the expectations of winning in St. Paul and the feeling that a loss is more likely than a win on the road.
The squad obviously likes the position it has established at home and their success has delighted Wild fans across the state of hockey. However, the team needs to work on reversing the losing trend on the road. This is especially true today as the Wild’s position has dropped in the Western Conference. There isn’t much separation at the moment between the Wild and its competition. Now is the time to end these road woes and work toward another playoff berth.
Tim joined The Hockey Writers in July 2013. He began his tenure with THW by covering the Minnesota Wild and he now writes on the Buffalo Sabres. Tim completed his undergraduate and graduate work at the University at Buffalo. In addition, he is a published historian and a Baltimore Orioles Contributing Writer for LegendsOnDeck.com. Tim’s work for THW has been featured on sites such as Yahoo.com. Follow him on Twitter @TOHockeyTHW