The Minnesota Wild could win the Stanley Cup. It’s an interesting statement to make, but it’s certainly true – just as it’s true for quite a few teams in, on or around the bubble. But the Minnesota Wild really could win the Cup this year.
It’s been an interesting year in St. Paul. The Wild enjoyed a great first month, then they suffered through a bout of the mumps and had some holiday trouble with momentum. And then February and March came with all the injury woes. Through it all, Minnesota kept it together and the Wild kept in the post-season picture. They endured.
That endurance speaks to the depth of the franchise and the preparedness of the players, which in turn speaks to why the Wild could win the Stanley Cup.
Start with goaltending. Minnesota has every reason to be confident in Devan Dubnyk. Tonight’s action notwithstanding, Dubnyk has the second best save percentage in the National Hockey League and the second best goals against average. He has six shutouts. The 28-year-old has taken the Wild from a place of goaltending uncertainty to a place of goaltending confidence, which has opened things up considerably. The downside is his lack of playoff experience.
Minnesota averages 2.81 goals per game, which puts them in the middle of the pack. The difference has been how they play five-on-five. They’re eight overall in five-on-five with a 1.16 goals for/against, which puts them in some pretty good company. Their possession game is on-point, too, if one is interested in looking at advanced statistics.
While their power play isn’t good (15.6 percent, good for 28th overall), they do have the best penalty kill in the league and they’re phenomenal in terms of containing shots. They allow just 27.4 shots on goal per game, which puts them fourth overall, and they’re lights-out when they score first in the game. This speaks to their ability to hold leads and get things done.
They aren’t as effective when trailing, which is another weak point because they don’t really have the knack for rallying. They’re a protect-and-defend team with offensive bright spots, with seven players with goals in the double-digits. Zach Parise currently heads the way, with Nino Neiderreiter putting up good numbers as well.
So yes, the Minnesota Wild really could win the Stanley Cup this year. They’re a solid team. They have their weaknesses and the post-season could rip their problems wide open, but they’ve also got enough depth and passion to fire through any adversity. And they’ve got Dubnyk, who could very well turn the tide with a star-making playoff performance.