Sure, we’re only two games in to the 2015-16 regular season, but if the Minnesota Wild’s pair of wins over the last week are indicative of what is in store this year, then the land of 10,000 lakes should prep for yet another dramatic slate ahead.
The Wild kicked it into high gear during the third period of its opener against the Colorado Avalanche last Thursday night, in what was one of the best come-from-behind victories in franchise history (which I was fortunate enough to witness first-hand). Again, during their home opener Saturday, the defense, led by Devan Dubnyk, held on for another gritty divisional win over the St. Louis Blues, but barely.
The Wild will not play again until Thursday, when it begins a three game road-trip out west starting with the surprising Arizona Coyotes, the struggling Los Angeles Kings on Friday, and finally wrapping it up Monday with the always competitive Anaheim Ducks.
Before we get there, let’s take a look at some key notes following a quick 2-0 start to the season.
“Character, skill, and pride”
Sorry, that really was a quote from Pierre McGuire. That being said, Zach Parise is good – we could end the discussion right there. Entering the year, one of the biggest questions swirling the Wild would be which of the aging forward vets could see a considerable decline in their play? With Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek and Zach Parise all on the wrong side of 30, it doesn’t seem early on that it will be the latter. Tied for the league lead in goals scored with four, Parise’s off to the races early.
Oh Charlie, my Charlie
Has there been a brighter member of the youth party for Minnesota than Charlie Coyle in the early going? A two-goal performance on Saturday, and a heckuva back-check against Colorado’s Matt Duchene that led to a Thomas Vanek tying goal last Thursday certainly has me (one of his bigger critics) jumping on the Coyle choo-choo train. He’s shown a solid mix of skill, awareness and tenacity in his game all at once, something that has been missing on a consistent basis in years past.
Something that Minnesota would surely like (and need) to correct sooner than later is their tendency to play only a period or two of a complete game. We saw it opening night when the Avalanche had their way with the Wild for nearly half of regulation before Parise reminded his teammates the season had started, and again Saturday during a St. Louis onslaught in the third period which saw the Wild outshot, 13-1. After shaking off some rust during a tough outing in Denver, Dubnyk rebounded nicely in Game 2 of the season, stopping 12 of those 13 third period shots. They’ll have to bring their complete A game against a “Wile E” Coyote team and desperate Kings squad on Thursday and Friday.
A win is a win no matter how pretty or ugly. Yes it is early and a long season, but in a conference that simply gets better and better each year, the Wild have to win their games against teams like the Avalanche and the upcoming Coyotes anyway they can, whether that means playing just one period to do it or not. Making sure they get in the playoffs is any team’s first task.
What has stood out to you thus far in the 2015-16 season?