Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Game 32 Is the Key


At this point last season, things were going well for the Minnesota Wild. They had completed 31 games, and amassed a record of 20-8-3. They had gone on winning streaks of 5, 5 and 7 games, and climbed to the top of the NHL standings. True, they had started out slowly, getting out to a 4-3-3 record in their first ten games, but that could be attributed to the new coach at least a little bit.

The 2013 Wild has written a very similar story. 4-5-1 in the first 10 games, now sitting at 19-10-2 after 31 games. And, while they're not at the top of the league, their ascension to the top of the division has been stirring. Not only that, but the overall sentiment among Wild fans appears to be that last year felt more synthetic than this year. For whatever that's worth.

So I got to wondering when the beginning of the end occurred for the Wild last season. We all know how it ended, and that injuries either were the issue or precipitated it. And it just so turns out that it was in game 32, at home against Chicago, which the Blackhawks won 4-3 in a shootout, was the game in which Mikko got injured. At that point the Wild had already lost Setoguchi, Latendresse and Bouchard (even if he hadn't officially been diagnosed with the concussion yet), meaning Mikko was the fouth top six forward - and inarguably most important/least replaceable - to go down.

The Wild this season has been blessedly healthy (knock wood), all things considered. Whether your bar for injuries is a somewhat pedestrian Bruins level (Johnny Boychuk) or the extreme insanity Senators level (Spezza, Karlsson, Anderson, Michalek), the Wild has to be counting its lucky stars. Again, knock wood, and hopefully that doesn't change.

So this was the point last season that the end began. Mikko went down and that was just too much for this team to take. This season they're deeper, more talented, more cohesive and more-focused. Hopefully, they emerge from tomorrow night's game more healthy, too.

Some more comparisons between this and last season-to-date (through 31 games):

Regulation and OT Wins:
Last year: 13 (65% of total wins)
This year: 16 (84% of total wins)

Last year: 43
This year: 40

Percentage of available points (points / (games x 2)):
Last year: 69.35%
This year: 64.52%

Goals differential:
Last year: 80 GF 66 GA +14
This year: 86 GF 75 GA +11

Overtime record:
Last year: 1-2
This year: 2-1

Shootout record:
Last year: 4-1
This year: 3-1

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