Jack Dawkins The Hockey Writers
Wild’s Late Streak Secures Spot in Proposed 2020 NHL Playoffs
Since Feb. 1, the Minnesota Wild are 12-6-1. It’s a short span of time, but that’s a standing point percentage of .658. If the Wild had been able to maintain that points percentage over the course of the entire season, they would have been the second-ranked team in the entire Western Conference.
This stretch of strong play saw them climbing their way towards the wild-card hunt when the season was paused. With the 24-team playoff system approved by the NHLPA, the Wild find themselves in the postseason and poised to make some noise.
Kevin Fiala Was on Fire
Kevin Fiala has been a huge part of this stretch. In the 19 games since Feb. 1, he has 14 goals and 12 assists, with four game-winning goals. His first 45 games this season were not nearly as impressive.
|KEVIN FIALA 2019-20||Goals||Assists||Points||Shots||Sh%||A:TOI|
|First 45 Games||9||19||28||96||9.4||14:33|
|Last 19 Games||14||12||26||79||17.7||17:26|
Fiala’s ice time increased by almost three minutes per game and his per-game shot rate nearly doubled from 2.13 to 4.16. Combine that with his increased shooting percentage and Fiala was scoring at a 1.36 points per game clip. Over an 82-game season, that would be a 112-point pace.
Fiala was HOT.
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The whole team was playing well, but nobody was quite as impactful as Fiala, and his production was a catalyst that helped propel the team to the wins they collected during this period.
Galchenyuk Gets a Real Chance
Alex Galchenyuk’s stint with the Pittsburgh Penguins went poorly. There’s no other way to really describe it. His ice time was dropped to the lowest average of his entire career. His point production was the worst it has ever been at any point in his professional career. It was just a disaster. When he came over to Minnesota as part of the Jason Zucker deal, it almost felt like he was a throw-in salary dump to make room for Zucker’s contract.
But when Galchenyuk took to the ice in a Wild uniform he looked like a player with a new lease on life. He looked like his old self, to the tune of seven points through 14 games playing mostly center for the Wild’s third line. Since acquiring him, the Wild achieved a 9-4-1 record and they are undefeated when he scores a point.
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If the Wild can get beyond the 24-team phase of the NHL post season, they will likely get to see a lot of what kind of impact Galchenyuk can have on the team. The longer the Wild are in the playoffs, the more games he plays, and, the more success the team has with him, the better his chances are of being re-signed at season’s end.
Can Stalock Stay Hot?
Alex Stalock is not a new face in the NHL. He’s not even really a new face with the Wild. The Minnesota native has been a member of the Wild since he was signed as a free agent on July 1, 2016. In that time he has remained the backup in Devan Dubnyk’s shadow.
Prior to this season he had amassed a record of 17-19-7 with a save percentage of .907 and 2.84 goals-against average. Those are acceptable numbers for an NHL backup, even if they’re a little uninspiring. That’s what makes the emergence of the 32-year-old netminder, this season, so unique.
|Month||GP||W||L||T/O||GA||SA||SV||SV%||GAA||SO||PIM||TOI||EV GA||PP GA||SH GA|
Stalock’s record up to Feb. 1 was 11-8-3. That’s 25 points of a possible 44, or a .568 points percentage. His record from Feb. 1 to the season stoppage however, was 9-3-1. That’s 19 points out of a possible 26 or a .730 points percentage. His individual stats also trended upward:
|ALEX STALOCK||Games Played||Save %||Goals Against Average|
Not only was the team scoring more and playing better in front of him, but Stalock did his part too in helping the Wild achieve their 12-6-1 run since Feb. 1. It is fortunate for the Wild that Stalock stepped up to the plate, because Dubnyk had simply not been getting the job done this season.
After effectively losing his starting net, Dubnyk was relegated to only six games since Feb. 1. In those games he has posted a 3-3-0 record with a save percentage of only .882. Dubnyk’s season prior to February was not anything to really write home about either. His 9-12-2 record with a .893 save percentage had some calling for a rebuild before 2019 had even become 2020.
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In spite of everything, the Wild found a way to claw their way back into a position for the postseason. When the season came grinding to a halt, the Wild were riding a hot streak and had brought themselves to within one point of a wild-card spot. That grit and determination has paid off with a trip to the 24-team postseason and a chance to make the playoffs and take a shot at winning the Stanley Cup.
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