Inconsistent play from one game to the next has long been a Minnesota Wild hallmark. It's both frustrating to watch and probably unpreventable. Except that the elite teams either don't have that problem or they have it far less-frequently as the Wild does. And the Wild doesn't produce the long winning streaks, or 14 wins in 16 games kind of runs that allows the other teams to have an off-game without it feeling like a big deal.
So, last night the Wild played their patented ineffective start, rally late that falls short move. Seriously, the Wild's score should have a registered trademark sign after it. But I fear the effect to their outlook for this season will be rather more pronounced.
Current Central division standings
1. CHI 56 GP 33 W 79 PTS 115.7 projected
2. STL 52 GP 36 W 77 PTS 121.4 projected
3. COL 53 GP 34 W 73 PTS 112.9 projected
4. MIN 56 GP 29 W 64 PTS 93.7 projected
5. DAL 54 GP 24 W 57 PTS 86.5 projected
6. NAS 55 GP 24 W 56 PTS 83.5 projected
7. WPG 55 GP 25 W 55 PTS 82 projected
It's going to be very hard for the Wild to finish ahead of Colorado - assuming no major ups or downs for either team from here on out. The Avs have both games-in-hand and more wins (and ROW: 31 for COL and 23 for MIN) than the Wild does. The relative delta there means it's going to be very hard for the Wild to catch the Avs - particularly since they don't have any more head-to-head games. The Avs went 4-0-1 against the Wild this season. So Colorado owns the key tie breakers, too. But even without all that, making up nine points and five wins - with three fewer games in which to do so - is just a very tall order. Think about it. If the Avs go .500 (14-15-0) the rest of the way, they finish with 48 wins and 101 points. That means the Wild would need 38 more points from this point to finish with 102. That would mean the Wild would have to go at least 19-8 the rest of the way to pass Colorado. The Avs have won at a 64.1% pace so far this season. If they win 64% of their remaining 29 games, that gives them another 18 wins, or 36 points, for a total of 109. In order to finish with 110 points the Wild needs 46 more points, or 23 wins out of their remaining 27 games. Sure, it's possible, but anyone who wants to bet me that the Wild finishes ahead of Colorado should feel free to contact me today. In fact, just mail me the money.
The good news here is that, if I'm saying the Wild won't catch Colorado, then that same rationale has to apply downward. And, indeed, I think it will be difficult for Dallas, Nashville and Winnipeg to catch the Wild at this point. They are basically as far behind the Wild as the Wild is behind Colorado. Dallas has the best chance of the three since they have 2 games-in-hand. So it looks like the Wild is pretty much locked into a fourth place finish in the Central this season.