The Minnesota Wild started the season out in dramatic fashion, beating the Colorado Avalanche with a Zach Parise hat trick, overpowering the St. Louis Blues in their home opener, and then escaping some last-minute chaos to defeat the Arizona Coyotes. When you take a look back at all of these games, they seem to have one thing in common: luck.
In each of Minnesota’s first three games this season, the Wild have gotten lucky and found a way to eek out a win. On the team’s recent West Coast road trip, it seemed Minnesota’s luck finally ran out. The previously undefeated Wild dropped their first game of the season to the Los Angeles Kings in overtime, and then again failed to find a way to win against the Anaheim Ducks.
The First Victory
Luck was common in the Wild’s three wins; Desperation was common in the two losses.
When the Wild faced both the Kings and the Ducks, neither team had won yet this season. These teams were desperate for that first victory, and maybe the Wild took that for granted. Maybe the Wild figured they didn’t need to play as hard as they had in the previous three games because these teams hadn’t won yet, and Minnesota certainly wasn’t going to be the team to give them their first victory.
But desperate teams always seem to come out strong, and Minnesota was outmatched in both games. Sub-par defense and a lack of offense failed to push the team to victory, and Minnesota’s perfect record ended at three games.
While two losses (one in overtime) are certainly not the end of the world, the Wild need to find a way to get back on track, stop giving winless teams their first victory and dropping games they could easily win. Thursday night, Minnesota is set to face the Columbus Blue Jackets, a team that is 0-7 so far this season. The Blue Jackets provide the Wild with the perfect opportunity to rebound, but only if Minnesota takes this game seriously. The Blue Jackets may be winless, but that doesn’t mean this is going to be an easy game.
The Wild and the Blue Jackets are familiar foes – the two have faced off 50 times since their inaugural season in 2000. Out of those 50 games, the Wild have accumulated a record of 23-19-8. Even more promising for Minnesota is the team’s record at the X. When playing Columbus at home, the Wild have a 16-6-4 record. Thursday’s game will be only the Wild’s second at the Xcel Energy Center; a home crowd and favorable past record might be just what Minnesota needs to get back on the winning track.
Minnesota will need to rely on veterans like Mikko Koivu, Ryan Suter, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek, who have statistically performed well against the Blue Jackets in the past. The Wild captain has 26 points in 29 games, while Suter is close behind with 25 points in 48 games. Pominville has gathered 13 points in 14 games, while Vanek has 9 points in 14 games. Goaltender Devan Dubnyk has also been strong in the past against Columbus, earning a record of 7-4-2.
The Wild have everything pointing in their favor: a better record, solid stats and an energetic home crowd. Nonetheless, the Blue Jackets are coming off an 0-4 loss to the New York Islanders, and there’s no doubt this team will be looking for redemption. The Wild must keep their composure and not be fooled into thinking Columbus will be an easy opponent. If the Wild can play just as hard as they did in their first three games of the season, this team should have no problem getting back on track.
What do you think: will Minnesota be able to get back on a winning streak against the Blue Jackets?
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