The Wild followed up their embarrassing mini-series effort in Denver with three straight victories at home. During this most recent homestand, Minnesota racked up six out of six possible points, with two wins against the Ducks and one versus the Blues. They currently sit seventh in the NHL standings in terms of points percentage and are still keeping pace with the Avalanche and Golden Knights in the Honda West Division.
This recent stretch of games wasn’t pretty for Minnesota, but they found a way to get things done. Despite being outshot 47-78 at 5-on-5, the Wild got by with their strong goaltending and a suddenly functional power play. The team looked gassed but used emotional boosts provided by the returns of Marcus Johansson and Matt Dumba to propel them into this much-needed three-day break.
There was plenty to take away from this mid-season homestand, but a few things stand out among the rest. The Wild could have easily gotten further off track after the losses to Colorado, but these important factors kept them on course.
Cam Talbot is Paying Off
It’s only been half a season, but it appears the Alabama-Huntsville alumni is everything the Wild expected when they signed him as a free agent this off-season. The veteran goaltender’s steady presence was a huge blessing throughout this homestand and a major reason why they went undefeated. Talbot started all three games and faced 92 total shots while recording a .967 save percentage (SV%). Overall the play of the 33-year-old goalie was probably the biggest reason why the Wild won three straight and extended their potentially historic home winning streak.
Talbot’s only halfway through the first year of his three-year deal that carries a $3.67 million average annual value, but he’s already showing great returns. His .924 SV% and 9-5-1 overall record indicate that he already feels comfortable playing behind this team’s defense. Nothing is set in stone, but the early results suggest that the front office found an excellent goalie to tandem with their young netminder Kaapo Kähkönen.
Home Sweet Home
The Wild are currently riding the longest active home winning streak in the NHL with 11 victories in a row. They are only one shy from tying their franchise record of 12 set in 2016-17 but need six more in order to tie the all-time record of 17 set by the 1992-93 Penguins. With the next scheduled home games being against the Avs, it’ll be interesting to see if this team is capable of pushing this streak into milestone territory.
It’s been a strange start to the season, with only a limited amount fans allowed to be in attendance. Nevertheless, Minnesota’s found ways to generate emotion and produce consistent results on home ice. Over the course of these past 11 games at Excel Energy Center, they’ve outscored their opposition 35 to 14 and controlled play with their 56.87 expected goals for percentage (xGF%). On top of the high-scoring offense and stout defense, the Wild got ridiculously good goaltending from both netminders. The tandem of Talbot and Kähkönen compiled a massive .954 save percentage.
This level of play at home is exceptional and could be the difference at the season’s end when it comes to playoff seeding. And with more time that passes, we will see more people allowed into arenas, which should help tilt the home-ice advantage in their favor even more. Still, regardless of what happens next, fans of this team can take solace in the fact that they witnessed one of the most dominant stretches of play in franchise history.
Cold Streak Snapped
After a six-game drought, Kirill Kaprizov finally tallied the 11th goal of his Calder Trophy campaign. He currently leads the rookie scoring race and the Wild with 27 total points. He’s been relatively quiet since recording his first career hat trick against the Coyotes earlier in March. This recent cold streak has corresponded with a few bad performances by the Wild and implies that a lot of the team’s confidence flows through his production.
So far this season, Kaprizov has failed to register a point in 13 out of their 32 games played. Whenever this happens, things tend to go poorly for the Wild. In those 13 games, they went 4-9, with a decent chunk of those losses being from lesser teams like the Sharks, Ducks, and Coyotes. If Minnesota hopes to make a deep push into the postseason, they will need to help support their top offensive weapon with competent linemates and advantageous deployments.
Tying the franchise record for most wins at home would be an amazing accomplishment, but it shouldn’t be the team’s main focus at the moment. If the Wild plan on remaining in the conversation with the top teams in the Honda West, they will need to take some of the magic they’ve created at the Excel Energy Center out on the road. It won’t be easy, with 11 of their next 19 games being away from the State of Hockey, but this team’s depth should help guide them through.
The data in this article was provided by Natural Stat Trick, Cap Friendly, and NHL.com.
27 years old. Subjective hockey analysis backed with objective reasoning. Currently covering the Minnesota Wild, but my favorite team is the San Jose Sharks. Never went to J school. Check out my personal blog that covers all things NHL FarsideHockey.com