Setting The Scene:
January 14th, The Minnesota Wild have lost 4 straight, they sit in 12th place in the Western Conference, and are 9 points behind the final playoff spot. GM Chuck Fletcher makes a trade for some goalie named, Devan Dubnyk, who had played on 4 different teams in the past year (and he gave a third round pick for him). Wild fans start googling and Dubnyk soon becomes a dinner topic for many Minnesotans that evening. Wild fans are now hoping that this, 6’6” goalie from Saskatchewan, saves their season and saves their coach Mike Yeo.
The Dubnyk Era starts January 15th with 7-0 dismantling of the Buffalo Sabres, the worst team in the NHL. Dubnyk records his first shutout as a member of the Minnesota Wild and former Buffalo Sabres, Jason Pominville and Thomas Vanek register 5 points in the win.
The Climb To The Playoffs Begins:
The Wild go 2-1-1 in the final four games before the All-star break but still sit 7 points out of the playoff picture. After the All-star break a new Minnesota Wild team emerges from the thick pine tree forest, common in northern Minnesota woods, and which the Wild embrace on their team logo. The Wild go 8-0-1, in the first nine games after the All-star break, including a three game sweep on their western Canada road trip, which they have only done twice now in franchise history (western Canada roadie include Vancouver, Calgary, and Edmonton).
Through this nine game span the team hits adversity along the way. Two key players, Jason Zucker and Ryan Carter, went down with injuries, but the team keeps climbing towards the playoff race. Now sitting just 2 points back of the last playoff spot, along comes Jordan Schroeder, born and raised in the “land of 10,000 lakes,” the Wild didn’t have to do much fishing to find this kid. The Lakeville, Minnesota native, provides the speed and excitement the team lost when Zucker went down with his injury. The problems didn’t stop there for the Wild. Elite defenseman Jared Spurgeon goes down with an injury too. Young defensemen, Matt Dumba and Chris Folin step up and the Wild don’t miss a beat. They climb and climb until today, as you sit here reading this, the Wild are now back in the playoff picture, in the 2nd Wildcard spot. It is the first time they have been the playoff picture since…November 24th.
The Bottom-line Facts During The Streak:
Since January 15th, the Wild are 13-2-2 in seventeen games stretch. They are the hottest team in the NHL. They have taken 28 of 35 points possible during the hot streak. Dubnyk has .936 save percentage, 1.64 goals against average, and 5 shutouts, since coming to the team. He went from a Wild fan’s Google search, to reoccurring chant at the Xcel Energy Center. “Duby Duby Doo, we love you.” The streak has made people stop talking about firing Mike Yeo but instead has them talking about signing Dubnyk to another contract. Zach Parise continues to be great, compiling 16 points during this seventeen game run and now sits 10th in the NHL in goals with 25. Thomas Vanek is starting to look like the player we are paying 6.5 million dollars a year for (has 13 points in the last 17 games). Former University of Minnesota-Duluth Bulldog, Justin Fontaine, has found himself having a larger roll with injuries the Wild have suffered. He has taken full advantage of it, producing 6 points in the past five games. But maybe the biggest surprise of them all during the streak has been the play of the 31-year-old captain, Mikko Koivu. 17 points, including 13 assists, during the streak, making him look like the dime-dishing Fin; he was when he was younger.
The streak that the Wild are on now is starting to sound like what some big shot Hollywood director would write, if he was trying to win an Oscar for “Best Sports Film” (not sure if that’s a real category). Dubnyk has meant so much to the Wild he should be consider for his own award, the Vezina Trophy. He is proving to his doubters from around the league that he can be an elite goalie at the NHL level. He has the Wild looking like true contenders again for the Stanley Cup. The movie like story in Minny is just about to hit its’ climax but there is more work to be done for this scenario to have a storybook ending. The Wild aren’t satisfied with the 2nd Wildcard spot (but will take if it means being in the playoffs or not). Their next tasks are passing the Jets and Blackhawks, and contend for the third spot in the Central Division. Currently, they are 2 points behind the Jets, with two games in hand, and 6 points behind the Blackhawks, with one game in hand. The Wild have twenty-three games left in their regular-season and they look to continue their hot streak tonight against Edmonton. No surprise here, Dubnyk will get his 18th start in a row tonight and will look to continue his perfect record against his former team this season (5-0). The plot has thickened, now what is the ending going to look like?