What does a team have to do to make a dent in the Western Conference playoff race?
The Minnesota Wild is the hottest team in the NHL, winners of five straight entering a week that feels like a make-or-break for the season. Mike Yeo's club hosts Vancouver on Monday before traveling to Winnipeg for a back-to-back against the Jets on Tuesday. Then they return to St. Paul Thursday to play former Gopher Nick Bjugstad and Florida; the week wraps up with a third home game against Carolina on Saturday.
But even with five wins in a row the Wild remains five points out of a wild-card spot in the West. Vancouver and Calgary, tied with 61 points, currently own the seventh and eighth seeds.
Minnesota's charge up the standings is so tight that a regulation loss to Vancouver combined with a Calgary win at San Jose would have them seven points out of the race. On the other hand, a win in regulation would have them just three points back.
"That’s just the reality when you're chasing as many teams as we were,'' Yeo said Sunday, according to the Star Tribune. "Somebody's going to be winning. We've been able to pass a few teams and make up a little bit of ground, and we also have some games in hand. We knew with where we were three weeks ago, when you're chasing that many teams, it wasn’t like we were just going to go win five games in a row and all of a sudden be where we need to be. We put ourselves in a pretty deep hole, and it takes a lot of time to get out of that.''
So what are the Wild's playoff chances? Wild Xtra says Minnesota's playoff hopes have doubled since last Monday, going from an 18 percent chance to a 36 percent chance.
Dubnyk the best of the best
Devan Dubnyk has been a brick wall in nine starts since the Wild traded for him last month, and his efforts with back-to-back shutouts over the Blackhawks and Avalanche earned him the NHL's First Star of the Week, the league announced Monday.
According to Yahoo, the goalie is 7-1-0 with a 1.31 goals-against average and a .948 save percentage. On top of that, Elias notes that he's the fastest goalie to four shutouts with a team since the NHL expansion era began in 1967.
Darcy Kuemper was recalled from his conditioning stint in Iowa and will be with the pro team on Monday. It's possible he'll start Tuesday to give Dubnyk a rest.