The Wild has now lost eight consecutive games. This streak followed a stretch of seven consecutive victories (and 12 wins in 14 outings). The natural question to ask at this point -- with Minnesota sitting with 46 points, still good enough to be top-8 in the West but no longer leading the league, conference or division -- is which team is the true characterization of what we can expect to see from the Wild for the final 44 games of the season? Is Minnesota the top-tier team that won all those games or is the reality more likely this most recent losing stretch?
The answer is yes.
That is to say, the Wild is both of those things. In fact, right now the squad is probably right about where it deserves to be when all its components -- forward talent, goaltending, system, etc. -- are combined. It seems like a disappointment that they have fallen in the standings only because they overachieved early. Expectations are a moving target, often to the detriment of a team that is hot out of the gate but can't sustain it. Big-picture, the Wild has 12 wins and 10 losses in its past 22 games. Had Minnesota mixed-and-matched wins and losses during that stretch instead of bunching them all up, fans would have been relatively pleased with the progress of the season.
So if we can trust Russo -- and we're not just saying that because he name-checked us in his post-game blog entry -- the Wild played good system hockey last night but is going through one of those weird stretches where the puck just won't find the net. Coach Mike Yeo is paid to believe in his system and his players, and it sounds as though he has faith they will be rewarded by staying the course.
If we had to make a prediction, we'd say the Wild snaps its skid tonight at home against Edmonton. And then it settles into a more familiar pattern of equilibrium for the vast majority of the rest of the season instead of these extreme up-and-down swings. It won't land Minnesota at the top or the bottom. Rather, it will likely be somewhere in the middle -- slightly above the center line -- with a chance to do some damage in the playoffs.