Sunday, October 23, 2011

Wild after eight games: on track, on time

Well, folks, the Minnesota Wild's first western Canadian road trip is now history. And, it didn't turn out all that bad. Could have been better, but in reality, any time you can pull 3 of a possible 4 points in the standings out of the Alberta/BC meatgrinder, you've done relatively well.

Now, granted, the Edmonton game was 1.2 seconds away from disaster, and the Vancouver Canucks should give Marco Scandella a bonus, for that nicely-timed screen he threw in front of his own goalie at the end of overtime yesterday -- but that is why they actually play the games.

The season is 10 per cent over. Yes, folks, the Wild have played 1/8th of their schedule already. (Has anybody noticed?) And, for those who worry about such things, the playoff race is already on. For every point earned now is virtually worth a point and a half come March, and the playoff drive.

The Wild are no better, and no worse, than most teams in the Western Conference, with 18 goals for, and 20 goals against. Four games have already gone to overtime, and the 1-0-3 record after 60 minutes have already been played means that the Wild are actually staying with it thru the end of regulation time, something which could not be said frequently the last two seasons.

The Wild open their new week in 7th place in the West -- actually, tied for 6th place, but thanks to yesterday's Canucks win, Vancouver has one more win (4-3-1) that the Wild (3-2-3) -- with four of the next five games at home (Anaheim, Detroit, Vancouver, St. Louis) and the lone road game at Detroit (which works to the Wild's advantage, as three of the four Wild-Red Wings games will have been played by Nov. 2).

The Wild are starting to be banged up, as injuries to Guillaume Latendresse (groin) and Greg Zanon (groin) held them out of Saturday's game at Rogers Arena. Throw in Mikko Koivu's skate-slicing episode in Edmonton Thursday night, and Mike Lundin's imminent return off his season-opening back spasms (Lundin has yet to play a regular-season game in Iron Range Red), portends that the roster will continue to be in flux for the forseeable future.

This team is slowly -- SLOWLY -- coming around to the philosophies of head coach Mike Yeo, despite falling into their old habits all too frequently (such as the third period of the Vancouver game, where they did not have a shot on goal for over 15 minutes). The fact of the matter is that when they play as the coaches want them to, they win. When they don't, they lose. The road ahead is a long, winding journey, as we've all seen already, and it will definitely not be an easy journey to take.

But, for now, this train is on track and on time for the playoffs. We'll see if they can stay on schedule.

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