Michael Rand started RandBall with hopes that he could convince the world to love jumpsuits as much as he does. So far, he's only succeeded in using the word "redacted" a lot. He welcomes suggestions, news tips, links of pure genius, and pictures of pets in Halloween costumes here, though he already knows he will regret that last part.
Follow Randball on Twitter
Two weeks ago, we did a post on how the NHL standings do not accurately reflect how a team has played. Teams get credit for shootout wins and overtime wins, while shootout losses and overtime losses simply get dumped into the "overtime" pile in the standings and look like ties. But just because you got two points for a shootout win doesn't mean you really "won." And just because you got a point for losing in overtime doesn't mean you tied.
So we came up with a new format that more honestly depicts a team's record and strength. Shootout wins become ties. Shootout losses become ties. Overtime wins stay wins. Overtime losses become losses. As such, the Wild is not really 37-25-11, which looks pretty good. The Wild really has 30 wins (regulation or OT), 29 losses (regulation or OT) and 14 ties (any game that went into a shootout). We can quibble about how all the points add up, and we can quibble over whether teams would play differently if the scoring system was different, but that is at least a more accurate reality than the one presented in the daily standings.
Basically, Minnesota is one game above .500. It is still in prime position to make it into the playoffs, likely as the first wild card in the West, largely on the strength of stealing extra points where it could. The Wild has gone to a shootout 14 times, second-most in the West, and it has earned 21 points in those games (seven shootout wins, seven shootout losses). It also has four points from four overtime losses.
We bring this up in the context of the Timberwolves right now and risk the ire of those commenters because both teams had home games against inferior but not terrible opponents last night. The Wolves drilled the Hawks, putting them back at .500 on the season at 35-35. The Wild tumbled against Vancouver, bringing Minnesota to that record you see above.
The Wolves have virtually no chance of making the playoffs. They have made their own bed to a large extent by blowing leads and falling in close games, but they have also been undone by the brutal Western Conference. In some years, a .500 record would be good enough to at least challenge for a playoff spot. This year it won't even be very close. We still think this roster needs a moderate overhaul rather than modest tweaks for next season, but that doesn't change this year's record.
The Wild is a near-certainty to make the playoffs. The team has navigated some tough luck while adding new pieces and developing young players. But the same could be said about the Wolves. At the end of the day, these are two teams having two very similar seasons but with fairly different perceptions.
With 16 games remaining in last year's labor-shortened season, the Wild had a record of 20-10-2. Minnesota was cruising toward a playoff spot, riding a seven-game winning streak.
And then things started to fall apart. The Wild endured a 4-8-1 stretch that had them teetering on the brink of missing the playoffs altogether, then won two of its final three to sneak in as a No. 8 seed before getting hammered by Chicago. In seven of those losses down the stretch, Minnesota scored one goal or fewer.
It's simple, but when this team struggles it's usually because the offense can't put the puck in the net. That's what makes the recent stretch this year particularly vexing. Minnesota hasn't topped three goals in a game in any of its last 12. It's still managed to bank 16 points in that stretch, a testament to goaltending and at least extending games into overtime to steal points.
But with eight of its next 11 games still on the road before finishing up with three at home -- two of those home games against Boston and St. Louis, among the finest teams in the NHL -- the Wild will need to break out of old habits and put some pucks in the net. Minnesota is still in good shape playoffs-wise, with an 83 percent chance of making it. But that number could slip, and if it does, the offense will be the likely culprit.
A mere 2 1/2 weeks ago, the numbers we looked at still favored the Timberwolves against the Wild when it came to the question of which was more likely to make the playoffs. The Wolves were at 60 percent. The Wild were below 50 percent.
If the last few weeks were politics, however, the Wolves' recent stretch would be the equivalent of a sex scandal while the Wild has been staying the course and kissing babies.
Now, unlike certain elections these numbers aren't yet locked in stone. But we are still ready to concede to commenters Rocket, Clarence Swamptown and co. that yes, this year's Wild is in a much better place than this year's Timberwolves.
What it comes down to, really, is the ability to win close games and the ability to withstand injuries. While the Wolves at their best are more dominant than the Wild at their best, that isn't what adds up over the course of 80-plus games. What matters is how many games you can win when you are not at your best -- when you are not getting maximum production, when key players are injured, or both.
It should also be noted that the NBA's Western Conference is tougher than the NHL's West, thus giving the Wild a somewhat more favorable path, but we would not say that is the most significant factor in their respective rise and fall.
Regular readers of this blog know we probably spend two, three, four … maybe 10 times as much space on the Timberwolves as we do on the Wild. It’s not that we don’t like hockey. When you grow up in Grand Forks, N.D., it’s pretty much in your DNA.
Rather, our writing preference is often a function of many things: typically beat writer Michael Russo would write a 3,000-word blog post, leaving very left uncovered … we flat-out enjoy the NBA more than the NHL, though not by much … and we often find the Wolves more INTERESTING, even if they are not necessarily BETTER.
That said, we put in pretty close to a full 60 minutes of ice time with the Wild last night, and anyone else who did so has no other choice but to be impressed. That level of being impressed can vary anywhere from cautious and temporary to delusional and all-in, but a 4-2 victory at Anaheim – the team with the most points in the NHL, and a very tough beat at home – was notable in both result and the manner in which it happened.
The Wild didn’t just score four times. The Wild moved the puck wonderfully in an up-and-down, back-and-forth, entertaining game. Minnesota hit three goalposts – all of them in the second period while clinging to a 2-1 lead – but was not deterred or discouraged. Instead, the Wild kept pushing and built a 4-1 cushion in the third period.
Mike Rupp attempted to let Anaheim back in the game with the dumbest of dumb penalties – a double-minor while trying to prove a tough-guy point midway through the third, a move that would have been better-suited for the final two minutes (or not at all). It almost worked, as the Ducks scored on their first power play and clanged the post on their second, but the Wild survived that and a dominant stretch by Anaheim in the final few minutes.
For the first 50 minutes, the majority of the chances and the better of the play went to Minnesota. That is flat-out impressive. If the team’s early run in 2014 was built more on smoke, mirrors and goaltending, the same cannot be said for last night. And no matter how you carve it up, they have earned five points in the past three games against some of the West’s best teams (Chicago, San Jose and Anaheim).
That doesn’t mean they will do damage in the playoffs. That doesn’t even mean they will make the playoffs, as even that will remain tenuous, we imagine, through much of the regular season. But it does make the Wild interesting and worthy of our attention – enough so to bump those beloved Timberwolves from the top of the blog this morning.
The Wolves are not in a playoff position in the NBA right now. The Wild, however, is.
But if you had to bet on one of the two to make it, you would be better off betting on the Wolves -- at least according to some projections.
The Hollinger Power Rankings at ESPN.com project the Wolves will finish with 46 victories -- finishing with a 26-15 record in the back half of the season -- and says they have a better than 60 percent chance of making the playoffs.
The Wild, according to Sports Club Stats, have just a 46.5 percent chance of making the postseason even though they are currently in the No. 8 spot in the West.
Do with that information what you will.
|Arts (1)||Books (1)|
|Movies (3)||Music (6)|
|Hobbies (1)||Fishing (1)|
|Society (2)||Crime (1)|
|Sports (523)||Baseball (1)|
|Professional baseball (753)||Basketball (8)|
|College basketball (6)||Football (1)|
|College football (118)||Professional football (538)|
|Technology (1)||Food and drink (14)|
|Politics (1)||Transportation (1)|
|Employment (1)||Career development (1)|
|Cooking (2)||Pets (1)|
|Vikings (1045)||Men (3)|
|Games (1)||Gambling (1)|
|Commercial (1)||Animals (3)|
|Dogs (3)||Gripes (1)|
|Newspapers (1)||Beer (6)|
|Minnesota wine retailers (1)||Wine retail + marketing (1)|
|Bad driving (1)||Commuting (1)|
|Family activities (1)||Style (2)|
|Pregnancy (1)||Car buying (1)|
|Retirement (1)||Shopping (1)|
|Chickens (2)||Fruit and berries (1)|
|Weather (1)||Internet (2)|
|Twitter (2)||Video games (2)|
|Web pick (1)||YouTube (1)|
|Birds in the backyard (1)||Business trends (2)|
|Loopholes (1)||Problems on the job (1)|
|The rich get richer (1)||Airlines (1)|
|Midwest getaways (1)||Road trips (1)|
|Skiing (1)||Travel deals (1)|
|Wisconsin (3)||Gopher road games (1)|
|TCF Bank Stadium (1)||NCAA: football (121)|
|Basketball on TV (2)||Gophers coaches (1)|
|Frozen Four (11)||North Dakota (1)|
|College hockey (20)||Fantasy football (12)|
|Golf (84)||Minnesota state tournaments (20)|
|Preps (8)||Soccer (90)|
|WNBA (16)||Wild news (6)|
|Wolves news (361)||NFC (2)|
|Super Bowl (1)||Vikings coaches (1)|
|Behind the scenes (3)||Celebrities (1)|
|Dance (1)||Local TV and radio (2)|
|Ex-players (1)||Injury report (2)|
|Baseball wisdom (1)||Target Field (251)|
|Twins fans (768)||Twins game coverage (17)|
|Twins management (3)||Twins offense (1)|
|Twins pitching (3)||NBA playoffs (1)|
|Wolves draft news (1)||Wolves guards (1)|
|Wolves players (9)||Values and morals (2)|
|Miscreants (1)||Wild coaching (43)|
|Wild game coverage (2)||Wild off-season news (1)|
|Wild player moves (3)||Wild pregame skate (1)|
|Wild trade news (1)||Movies (1)|
|Ortonville (2)||Brad Childress (1)|
|Stillwater (1)||Television (2)|
|NHL news (93)||Outdoors Women (1)|
|Olympics (2)||Olympic hockey (1)|
|Glen Perkins (1)||Health + Beauty (1)|
|Beer (2)||Wine (1)|
|Public safety (1)||Gophers (200)|