For one, they signed defenceman Jonas Brodin to a six year contract extension on Sunday. The deal was worth $25 million and keeps the Swede in the fold where he belongs. The Wild have been playing Brodin with Ryan Suter on the top defensive pairing and he’s looked sharp through three seasons in Minnesota.
That bit of housekeeping is one of many reasons to be excited if you’re a Wild fan.
The play of goalie Darcy Kuemper is another. The 24-year-old has two starts under his belt thus far and two wins to show for himself. Oh, and two shutouts. That makes Kuemper the youngest goalie in National Hockey League history to start a season with back-to-back shutouts. What’s more, both victories came against the high-scoring Colorado Avalanche.
Two victories against the Avalanche may not seem like much, but for the Wild the two wins stand as pretty good indicators.
Along with Kuemper’s performance, the wins shine a light on how good this defensive group is. Brodin, Suter, Marco Scandella, and Jared Spurgeon have started things off hot.
This defensive prowess has really shown up on the penalty kill, where Minnesota was perfect in two games against one of the sharpest power plays in the NHL. What’s more, they limited the Avalanche to just two shots over the course of seven power plays. The Wild were ranked 27th overall last season on the kill, so they’ve got a good shot at turning those numbers around.
Offensively, the Wild got two goals out of Zach Parise and saw goals from seven different players in the two games against Colorado. Charlie Coyle, Jason Zucker, Mikael Granlund, and Nino Niederreiter were among the young guns to put the puck in the net.
These reasons for enthusiasm will be put to the test by virtue of Minnesota’s schedule, which sees things slow down pretty significantly soon. In the first 15 days of the new season, the Wild will only play in four games. Their victories from Thursday and Saturday are essential in terms of momentum, especially considering how quickly it can be zapped when you’re waiting to play.
“By the time we’re done with these two weeks, some teams may have four or five more games than us,” Spurgeon said. “It’s a strange schedule.”
The Wild have reasons to be thankful going into the 2014-2015 season and they are showing some serious signs worth taking note of, but it bears repeating that they’re only two games in. It’s enough to generate excitement, to be sure, but it’s not enough to suggest a pattern. The blocks are in play for the Wild to have one heck of a year. Now it’s time to show this sort of resolve and dominance over the long haul.