Most of us Minnesotans follow at least one sport. We follow our favorite team(s) by several means like watching them on television, listening to them on the radio or following the team through our mobile devices. Some would rather attend a live sporting event in person to cheer on their favorite team(s).
On January 13th, the Minnesota Wild were in need of salvation.
With a lukewarm 18-19-5 record, the Wild seemed destined to join the Twins, Vikings and Timberwolves in Minnesota pro sports purgatory by missing out on the playoffs in the 2014-2015 season.
And then an angel named Dubnyk arrived from Arizona.
The Wild acquired 28-year old Saskatchewan native Devan Dubnyk from the Arizona Coyotes a week before the All-Star break. Dubnyk, a journeyman goaltender, has been Minnesota hockey’s personal savior since heading north, resurrecting Mike Yeo’s underachieving squad from the depths of mediocrity and restoring the faith of Wild fans.
Since January 15th, Dubnyk has started every game for the streaking Wild. Through March 7th, he’s gone 18-3-1 with a .940 save percentage and a 1.60 GAA, while pitching 5 shutouts from between the pipes. As a result of Dubnyk’s stalwart netminding, with fewer than 20 games remaining on their schedule, the Wild are poised to capture a playoff spot when the regular season concludes about a month from now.
Here’s a graph depicting just how dramatic a difference Dubnyk has made for the Wild (Click to make it big):
As you can see from the data, with Dubnyk’s arrival Minnesota seemed to be born again, and their results on the ice have been remarkable. Since #40 first donned a red and green jersey on January 15th, the Wild’s wins have stacked up (18) while their losses have been few and far between (2 regular, plus 3 in overtime).
This second half regular season surge might be just the beginning of bigger things for the Wild this year. Historically, top notch goaltending is a key part of the formula for teams who’ve found success in the playoffs. Minnesota has a very talented roster of skaters and, if they can stay on track and lock up a decent seed for the postseason, may set out on a spirited run at hockey’s holy grail: Lord Stanley’s Cup.
Dubnyk has started two games after the chart above was created –a loss to the Avalanche and a dominant victory over the New Jersey Devils.
Image by: Brent Lee
Well, Minnesota sports fans, it sure has been tough to be us the past few weeks. 2015 has not been kind to the Land of 10,000 Lakes, not one bit. Since December 30th, the Wild, Timberwolves, and Gopher Men’s Hockey and Basketball are a collective 3-22. No, your eyes do not deceive you — four teams, three with relatively high expectations, only netting three wins in just over two weeks.
Unless you were one of the lucky 18,000 to be at last night’s home playoff game for the Minnesota Wild, you likely did not see the new on-ice projection system the Xcel Energy Center installed. The pregame debut was a fitting time to get the crowd pumped up as the team undoubtedly needed their fans more than ever in this 2014 season, down 2-0 to the Chicago Blackhawks in their second round series. The projection seemed to have worked as the Wild dominated the third period and went on to a 4-0 victory. If you haven’t seen the projection system yet, check out the video below, because this technology is extremely awesome.
The Minnesota Wild winning a Game 7 in overtime on the road versus the division foe Colorado Avalanche was without a doubt one of the best hockey games I’ve ever witnessed. Sure I’ve seen a lot of dandies, but this one was really special. In fact, the Wild became the first team in NHL history to win a Game 7 after scoring four game-tying goals.
Four times Wild fans had to watch their team go down by a goal — four times Wild fans got to see their team fight back and tie the game (a little late-game magic back in Colorado’s face finally eh?) — until just five minutes into overtime, Nino Niederreiter put the game away and the Wild into the second round of the playoffs.
Mikael Granlund is one of my favorite players in the NHL. I might have met him once — I may also claim to be his friend (I’m not). He is a young, dynamic skillful player who has an unbelievably high ceiling — like name in the Xcel Energy Center rafters high. I love to watch this kid play.
To start this playoff series, Granlund was coming back from an “upper body injury” suffered at the end of the regular season — he finally asserted himself in a big way in this series. After not making much noise in Game 1, Granlund followed up his good Game 2 performance with an excellent Game 3 performance. Wild fans will remember this game with reverence, Granlund besting the mighty performance of Semyon Varlamov, sparking life into the Wild in the 2014 playoff season.
You might have stayed up super late in order to watch ‘Blood Moon 2014‘ Or maybe you were too busy finishing up your income taxes. Or you were catching up on HBO’s Game of Thrones or Netflix’s House of Cards or enjoying the premiere of FX’s Fargo TV series.
Whatever the case, you were really busy. And because of your busyness, you didn’t have the time to stay abreast of the last week of Minnesota sports news.
Well, technically, the Wild locked up a playoff berth with the Phoenix Coyotes losing last night — but that’s too anti-climatic. So let’s make this more dramatic and say the Wild paved their own path to the playoffs by earning two points against the Boston Bruins, the team with the most points in the NHL, with an unforgettable home win in a shootout.