Monday, April 22, 2013
Need to know: Wild still have work to do
By Scott Burnside
So, maybe we were a bit hasty in assuming the Minnesota Wild were locks to make the playoffs.
After a lackluster 4-1 loss Sunday night to the lowly Calgary Flames, the Wild woke up Monday to find that they'd sunk into a tie with the Columbus Blue Jackets for the final two playoff berths in the Western Conference, with the Detroit Red Wings just three points back with a game in hand.
Now, credit Joey MacDonald, who was stellar for the Flames, stopping 34 of 35 shots. But, come on, these are the Flames -- a team long banished from playoff contention. The Wild's offense, never the team's strong suit and less so with Dany Heatley out with injury, continues to sputter. Minnesota has only three wins in its past 11 games and has gone from battling the Vancouver Canucks for the top spot in the Northwest Division to fighting for its playoff life, a fall that is mindful of the Wild's great descent from the top of the standings midway through last season to a 12th-place finish in the conference.
During this 11-game span, the Wild have been outscored 33-19. Sorry, that won't cut it.
Even though Zach Parise and linemate Mikko Koivu combined for 15 shots Sunday, the Wild are going to need more finish or this season is going to end quickly, whether they make the playoffs or not.
The Wild still control their destiny in the race against the surging Blue Jackets (who came up with a huge 4-3 road win Sunday against the San Jose Sharks) and with the Red Wings, Dallas Stars and Phoenix Coyotes lurking in the weeds. The fact that the Wild play the Edmonton Oilers and Colorado Avalanche down the stretch (along with the Los Angeles Kings) should help pave the way to their first postseason berth in five years.
Of course, we would have thought that heading into Sunday's game, too.