Buried at or near the bottom of the NHL standings have sat the Minnesota Wild (9-11-2) all season, but was a 3-2 victory over the visiting Colorado Avalanche Thursday night another signal that the State of Hockey's professional team is about to begin a climb up the standings?
Minnesota built a 2-0 lead early in the second period on goals by Mats Zuccarello and Jordan Greenway only to see it slip away on back-to-back goals by Avs rookie sensation Cale Makar. But with Alex Stalock steady in net, the Wild got the go-ahead, game-deciding goal from Jason Zucker with 10:02 left in the third period.
The Wild are 5-2-2 in November and have claimed points in four consecutive games. Their solid play dates back to late-October, where inconsistency, as explained by Wild.com's Dan Myers, plagued them.
"A lack of finish in Nashville spoiled a great start in an eventual 4-0 loss to the Predators on Oct. 20.
A rotten third period ruined a great 40 minutes in a 6-3 loss in Dallas.
The Wild outshot the defending Stanley Cup champs 36-26 but lost 2-1 in St. Louis 24 hours after that.
A bad first period put the Wild behind the eight ball in San Jose, but it nearly rallied anyway."
All things considered, the Wild are trending in the right direction, and after another three-game road trip they'll finally start getting consistent home games. Entering play Friday, Minnesota has played just eight games at Xcel Energy Center (5-1-2) compared to 14 on the road (4-10-0).
"We've been playing pretty good now for a length of time," said Wild coach Bruce Boudreau. "I mean, we're obviously going into maybe the best team in the NHL's building (Boston on Saturday), so it'll be a great test for us. But if we could ever put a little run together while we're doing all these road games, I'm hoping we're going to be pretty successful when we start getting a lot of home games in a row. So we'll see how it goes."
From Nov. 29 to Feb. 15, the Wild will play 23 of 33 games in St. Paul, and if their early season home record (5-1-2) is any indication of things to come – and if they have their home swagger back after a brutal 16-18-7 home record last season – it will be their best opportunity to make some hay in the standings.
Only the Calgary Flames have played as many road games as Minnesota, but they've done it through 25 games compared to Minnesota's 22.
Talking about the playoffs for a team with only 20 points seems crazy, but the Wild are just six points out of a wild-card spot and eight points behind Dallas for third in the Central Division. It ain't pretty, but it's certainly not impossible.
Up next: Wild at Boston, Saturday at 6 p.m.