Well, well, well how the turntables.
We apologize for using one of the most painfully funny lines spoken by Steve Carell’s character Michael Scott in the hit mockumentary sitcom series “The Office.” In this scenario, it was too damn good to pass.
The Minnesota Wild have totally flipped the script in their pursuit for first place in the Central Division.
Hear us out for a split second: On Feb. 16, the Wild were in fourth, 10 points behind the division-leading Stars. At that juncture, Winnipeg was two points back of Dallas, in prime position to tie up a playoff spot.
Then Minnesota got hot – rather, its goaltending became close to impenetrable – and the Jets faltered. The Wild are 8-0-2 in their last 10 dating to a Feb. 17 shootout win vs. the Stars while Winnipeg is 2-5-2.
Entering Wednesday’s meeting at Canada Life Centre, the teams have traded places in the standings.
Hence, the turntables, or if you’re uncultured (winky face), how the tables have turned.
Incredibly, Minnesota’s 10-game point streak, which is tied for the longest-active run in the NHL and third longest in franchise history, can be pinned entirely on the Wild’s performance between the pipes.
And it doesn’t matter which netminder is guarding the twine. They’re both surging.
Since Feb. 17, Marc-Andre Fleury and Filip Gustavsson have carried the Wild, although the latter has done the bulk of lifting. In three games, Fleury is 3-0 with a 0.98 goals-against average and .961 save percentage. Gustavsson has recorded a 1.10 GAA and .962 SV% in seven starts, compiling a 5-0-2 mark.
Unsurprisingly, the one Wild skater that’s prospered in that stretch is superstar Kirill Kaprizov.
Kaprizov has ripped 49 shots on goal and has eight genos during Minnesota’s red-hot spell – he’s accounted for a staggering 42.1% of the Wild’s goals his last 10 times out. For context, that’s the highest percent of a club’s goals since Feb. 17. Connor McDavid has the second-highest tally, at 26.1%. Sheesh!
As for the rest of Minnesota’s offense, it’s been non-existent – the Wild are averaging 2.1 goals per game in their upswing in the standings, lowering their season average to 2.73. But not for a lack of trying.
Take for example, forwards Matt Boldy and Joel Eriksson Ek. They’ve contributed a goal apiece as the Wild rush to the front of the Central, an improbable reality as they’ve flicked 32 and 29 shots on net.
Something’s got to give sooner than later with that level of effort.
More pregame notes
– Very few players across the league are as frustrated as Boldy and Eriksson Ek. Jack Hughes of the Devils and Nazem Kadri of the Flames have thrown 37 and 34 pucks at the net yet potted just one since Feb. 17. Florida’s Matthew Tkachuk and St. Louis’ Jordan Kyrou own a geno apiece, too, in spite of 32, 31 shots.
– Minnesota has a quick turnaround after playing in St. Paul on Tuesday. Fortunately, it’s had its share of luck traveling for the second game of a back-to-back set in 2022-23. The Wild are 4-1-1 in such skates – only New Jersey (4-0-0) and Carolina (2-0-0) boast a better point percentage. Boston is tied (6-2-0; .750).
– The Wild seem to have Winnipeg’s number this season. They dominated the first two matchups, outscoring the Jets 10-2 despite an almost even number of shots on goal (67 vs. 61), thanks in part to the power play. Minnesota has capitalized three out of six times with the man advantage whereas Winnipeg is 0-for-4. Two more wins against the Jets would secure the first series sweep for the Wild since 2018-19.
Statistics courtesy Sportradar