Wild About the Playoffs: The Minnesota Wild's Final Playoff Push

Paul CCorrespondent IMarch 20, 2009

NEWARK, NJ - MARCH 20: Owen Nolan #11 of the Minnesota Wild takes the faceoff against the New Jersey Devils on March 20, 2009 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Hello Wild Fans! Remember back in the day, way back in November, when the Minnesota Wild were supreme? With a 14-8 record, they were at the top of their division. However, soon after that fast start, the Wild soon settled into a pattern of mediocrity.

Such mediocrity was most importantly characterized by Gaborik’s injury. Gabby has been out since December, and is looking to start playing by this Sunday. This may be the catalyst to get the Wild out of their slump of mediocrity.

Gabby has proven to be a valuable asset to Minnesota’s wins throughout the seasons when he’s healthy, and now that he’s healthy, he may be able to help them with their scoring problems.

However, the Wild should not rely upon Gabby’s return to spark their final playoff push. If they are to become a tough playoff contender, they must learn to have a team deep enough to continue without their “star” player.

Thus, the entire Minnesota Wild team must start breaking out of their mediocrity now, or else it may be too late, even when Gaborik returns.

Some obstacles unfortunately, are currently blocking the Wild’s final playoff push. The biggest obstacle is the difficulty of its upcoming schedules. Six of its next 11 games will be on the road, thus meaning that the Wild will need all the wins they can get in order to keep up with opponents.

Nine of the 10 games the Wild are playing are against Western Conference opponents, and every win propels them closer to the potentially enviable playoff spot.

If the Wild are able to gain third place, they would in all likelihood be in the best position possible. Unfortunately however, based on how well Calgary has been playing as of late, it would be more realistic to say that the best position would be either in fourth, fifth, or seventh.

Currently within the standings, the fourth place team is Vancouver, fifth place is Chicago, and seventh place is Edmonton. The Wild have the best chance at making seventh or eighth place, and seventh would be the best.

Detroit will probably run away with the Conference Championship, but San Jose will easily make second. The Wild this year have compiled a 2-2 record against San Jose, even despite the absence of Gaborik and other miscellaneous players.

Thus, to have start the playoffs against San Jose, despite being heavily favored to lose, Minnesota may actually fare better than playing against Calgary or Detroit.

I briefly highlighted this earlier, but it is incredibly important that the Wild find their ‘lil scoring niche, and start producing soon. Most recently, the Wild were shut out by the Devils 4-0, and throughout the season, have been struggling to produce.

Owen Nolan so far is the only player to go over 20 goals whereas teams such as Detroit, Washington, Pittsburgh, and Philadelphia have more than three 20+ goal scorers.

In fact, going down the scoring ranking sheet, Owen Nolan is ranked 90th in goal scoring in the NHL. Come on Minnesota, you can do better than that.

On the points list, you have to go down 38 places, in order to find the first Minnesota player. The second Minnesota player doesn’t even show up until 65 places later. Come on Minnesota, you can do better than that.

What the Wild need to do, is pick up their scoring pace in earnest urgency. If they don’t, they may not be able to score enough goals, even despite solid defense and all-star goaltender Niklas Backstrom.

The Wild in all reality, need not improve upon defense, special teams, and goaltending, but the biggest hole to fill is in production.

Despite once again being one of the most dominating defensive teams in the NHL, it is important for the Wild to realize that whichever team scores the most goals will win the hockey game, rather than the team that has the highest penalty kill rating, or whichever goalie has a lower GAA.

This year’s final playoff push should be a good one, so Wild fans, buckle into your season ticket seats, and grip your TV remotes, because these last 11 games will sure be a Wild one.