To start at the top with the player who has flourished the most in Bruce Boudreau’s system, Mikael Granlund, who at 59 games in has long passed last years season point total of 44 pts. and is currently sitting at 55 pts. (leading the team). The switch to the wing position has given Granlund so much more flexibility and from a productivity perspective we are seeing flashes of what he was able to do when he played in Finland. When you see him skate he looks so much more comfortable in comparison to when he first joined the team and I was constantly worried about him getting crunched in the corner.
Moving down the list we have more of our young core reaping the benefits of the new offensive scheme.
The young stars have really progressed under Bruce in contrast to the plateau that they had hit under Mike Yeo. But what is possibly the biggest indicator of how the Wild are doing is when you look at their (+/-) column. For the NHL league leaders of this category, the Wild have 7 of the top 10 Players with the highest Plus/Minus Rating:
To dive into more of the story behind this stat, I want to highlight 2 categories: Goals For and Goals Against.
Goals For: Now what is very interesting with this stat is you would think that we might have some elite goal scorers on the Wild just based off how high that Plus/Minus is. And with the Wild ranking in 3rd in Goals For that would make sense. But that is not the case. With our points leader, Mikael Granlund, 59 games in he comes in at #12 in on the leader board. From there you have to slide down to #36 to find our next Wild leader in Mikko Koivu (46 pts.). In the top 50 the Wild have only 5 players in the total points column and to compare that to the highest scoring team in the league – the Penguins have 3 players in the top 11 before you even see Granlund on the leader board (Crosby, Malkin, and Kessel). What that tells us is that the Wild have made up those points in the middle lines and this provides a strong representation of the depth that the Minnesota Wild currently have. Unreal!
Goals Against: Now I can’t really go much farther without talking about Devan Dubnyk, the biggest catalyst in why the teammate’s plus/minus is able to stay so high above an even zero. Dubnyk leads the league in GAA (2.01), Wins (32), and Save Percentage (93.3%). But I think what this also illustrates is the Mike Yeo legacy of 2 way hockey is still ingrained in this team and still provides the support for Dubnyk on the defensive side as well as the offensive side as illustrated above. When we look around the league, the team we have to worry about with this category is the Washington Capitals led by Braden Holtby who is the leader in Shutouts with 7 and is tied with Dubnyk with a GAA of 2.01.
Is there No One Else?! The two teams I highlighted that give the Wild a run for their money statistically this season are the Capitals and the Penguins. But since both of those teams are in the East they have no effect on the Wild’s trip to the Stanley Cup. The only teams that have a shot at beating the Wild are the Sharks and of course, the Blackhawks. Edmonton has been an awesome story this year but I think they are a little too young and while they will be in the mix in the future have some maturing to do before they make the big jump. The Sharks have a strong veteran staff sprinkled with young talent and all the Blackhawks ever have to do is get back into the playoffs to make a run for the Cup.
– Joey Almars