Winning a must for Wild to stay afloat in Western Conference

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 16, 2013 - 11:55 PM

The Wild’s recent success hasn’t translated into any big move up the standings because of a conference loaded with good teams.

hide

Jason Pominville, left, of the Minnesota Wild celebrates his goal with teammates Mikael Granlund (64) and Nino Niederreiter (22) while Jay Harrison of the Carolina Hurricanes looks on in the first period at the PNC Arena in Raleigh, N.C., on Saturday, Nov. 9, 2013. Minnesota won, 3-2, in a shootout. (Chris Seward/Raleigh News & Observer/MCT)

There’s a white marker board next to the Wild players lounge that lists the Western Conference standings.

It’s updated daily by the training staff, yet it seems like it never changes. In a large way, it’s a constant reminder to players that they better not take the foot off the gas.

“Gosh, it feels like we keep winning and keep getting points and we don’t move up,” Wild leading scorer Zach Parise said. “Everyone above us keeps winning. Our division’s tough. The West is hard. I mean, is the cutoff to make the playoffs going to be over 100 points?”

It sure looks like it.

The Wild is off to its best start in franchise history, accumulating 28 points in its first 20 games. It has gained points in 11 of its past 12 games (9-1-2) heading into Sunday’s clash against Minnesota’s neighbors from the north, the Winnipeg Jets.

Yet despite such a hot streak, despite winning nine of its past 10 games at Xcel Energy Center, despite being on pace for 114 points, the team found itself barely clinging to sixth place in the West prior going into Saturday.

That was one point ahead of St. Louis, which had played three fewer games, and Los Angeles.

To put what’s going on in the West in perspective, the eighth-place Kings are on pace for 110 points this season. In contrast with the Eastern Conference, eighth-place Ottawa and ninth-place Carolina were on pace for 86 points Saturday.

When the 2011-12 Stanley Cup champion Kings finished eighth, they did so with … 95 points.

“I’ve never seen anything like this,” coach Mike Yeo said.

Same with captain Mikko Koivu. This is Koivu’s ninth NHL season, meaning he has played during the entire shootout era or three-point game era or loser point era.

But this is ridiculous, he said.

“Even with the way we’re playing, you look at the standings, and we’re [three] points from ninth place and two or three points from second or third and [four] points from first,” Koivu said. “I don’t know. You just get used to it. It’s been tight in the West for so many years, but this feels different.

“The Eastern Conference, I don’t know what’s going on over there, but it always seems like their gaps are a lot bigger and it doesn’t take nearly as much points to make the playoffs.”

The reason the Western Conference’s eighth-place team was on pace to need 24.4 more points than the Eastern Conference’s eighth-place team as of Saturday is simple: every team in the NHL plays teams from the other conference twice per season under a new scheduling format in realignment, and the West has had supremacy over the East a quarter’s way into this season.

Entering Saturday, the West was 79-34-13 (.679 points percentage) against the East. The top nine teams in the West were 59-16-10 (.753 points percentage) against the East, so those teams have been picking off points left and right.

This is why Koivu has avoided looking at the locker room’s white marker board as if it were an eclipse that would blind him.

“You just can’t worry about it,” Koivu said. “When you’ve been in the league a long time, you learn that you try not to think about things you can’t control. You’re better to leave it and not think about the standings. If you do, mentally it can just drag you down.”

  • related content

  • Michael Russo's Sunday Insider: Cap hurts swap meet

    Sunday November 17, 2013

    The salary cap hinders teams’ abilities to find suitable trade partners.

  • Wild-Winnipeg game preview

    Saturday November 16, 2013

    wild gameday7 P.M. VS. winnipeg • XCEL • FSN, 100.3-FMPreview: The Wild, winners of five in a row at home...

  • The Wild's week ahead

    Saturday November 16, 2013

    THE WILD’S WEEK AHEADSunday: vs. Winnipeg, 7 p.m. (FSN)Tuesday: at Montreal, 6:30 p.m. (FSN)Wednesday: at Ottawa, 6:30 p.m. (FSN+)Saturday: at...

  • Russo's short takes

    Saturday November 16, 2013

    Isn’t it ironic, don’t you think?There was a certain irony about Ted Nolan returning as Buffalo’s interim coach on the...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Kansas City 1 Bottom 2nd Inning
San Francisco 0
Detroit 10/26/14 8:30 AM
Atlanta
Buffalo 10/26/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
St. Louis 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Kansas City
Houston 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tennessee
Minnesota 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Seattle 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Carolina
Baltimore 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Cincinnati
Miami 10/26/14 12:00 PM
Jacksonville
Chicago 10/26/14 12:00 PM
New England
Philadelphia 10/26/14 3:05 PM
Arizona
Oakland 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Cleveland
Indianapolis 10/26/14 3:25 PM
Pittsburgh
Green Bay 10/26/14 7:30 PM
New Orleans
Washington 10/27/14 7:30 PM
Dallas
New Orleans 10/30/14 7:25 PM
Carolina
Dallas 78 3rd Qtr 2:19
Orlando 61
New York 46 3rd Qtr
Toronto 38
San Antonio 29 2nd Qtr 6:01
Houston 36
Miami 30 2nd Qtr 9:08
Memphis 27
Minnesota 48 2nd Qtr 7:10
Chicago 48
Phoenix 8:00 PM
Utah
Sacramento 9:00 PM
LA Lakers
Denver 9:30 PM
Golden State
Portland 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Dallas 1 2nd Prd 5:32
New Jersey 1
Tampa Bay 1 2nd Prd
Winnipeg 0
Vancouver 8:00 PM
Colorado
Carolina 8:30 PM
Edmonton
Columbus 9:00 PM
Anaheim
Connecticut 21 FINAL
(18) East Carolina 31
Miami-Florida 30 FINAL
Virginia Tech 6
So Florida 3 3rd Qtr
Cincinnati 20
Troy 3 2nd Qtr 2:35
South Alabama 10
BYU 8:00 PM
Boise State
(6) Oregon 9:00 PM
California
North Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Rice
UAB 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Arkansas
Rutgers 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
Maryland 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Wisconsin
Texas 10/25/14 11:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
Minnesota 10/25/14 11:00 AM
Illinois
Memphis 10/25/14 11:00 AM
SMU
North Carolina 10/25/14 11:30 AM
Virginia
San Jose St 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Navy
Northern Ill 10/25/14 12:00 PM
Eastern Mich
(25) UCLA 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Colorado
Akron 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Ball State
Massachusetts 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Toledo
Ohio U 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Western Mich
Ga Southern 10/25/14 1:00 PM
Georgia State
Kent State 10/25/14 1:30 PM
Miami-Ohio
Oregon State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Stanford
Fla Atlantic 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(23) Marshall
Louisiana Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Southern Miss
(1) Miss State 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Kentucky
Georgia Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Pittsburgh
(22) West Virginia 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Oklahoma State
Texas Tech 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(10) TCU
Michigan 10/25/14 2:30 PM
(8) Michigan State
Boston College 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Wake Forest
Central Mich 10/25/14 2:30 PM
Buffalo
Vanderbilt 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Missouri
Old Dominion 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Western Ky
UNLV 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Utah State
Temple 10/25/14 4:00 PM
UCF
(15) Arizona 10/25/14 5:00 PM
Washington St
Texas-El Paso 10/25/14 6:00 PM
TX-San Antonio
Wyoming 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Colorado State
Syracuse 10/25/14 6:00 PM
(21) Clemson
Texas State 10/25/14 6:00 PM
ULM
(3) Ole Miss 10/25/14 6:15 PM
(24) LSU
(4) Alabama 10/25/14 6:30 PM
Tennessee
So Carolina 10/25/14 6:30 PM
(5) Auburn
(13) Ohio State 10/25/14 7:00 PM
Penn State
(20) USC 10/25/14 9:00 PM
(19) Utah
(14) Arizona State 10/25/14 9:45 PM
Washington
Nevada 10/25/14 10:59 PM
Hawaii
(2) Florida State 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Louisville
Troy 10/30/14 6:30 PM
Ga Southern
Cincinnati 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Tulane
Tulsa 10/31/14 7:00 PM
Memphis
Purdue 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(16) Nebraska
(17) Oklahoma 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa State
Oklahoma State 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(11) Kansas State
(10) TCU 11/1/14 2:00 AM
(22) West Virginia
Texas 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Texas Tech
Northwestern 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Iowa
Maryland 11/1/14 2:00 AM
Penn State
Houston 1 1st Half 20:00
Chicago 0
Montreal 23 0:00
Ottawa 10
Saskatchewan 8:30 PM
Calgary
Hamilton 10/25/14 3:00 PM
Toronto
Brt Columbia 10/25/14 6:00 PM
Winnipeg
Hamilton 10/31/14 6:30 PM
Ottawa
Winnipeg 11/1/14 3:00 PM
Calgary
Brt Columbia 11/1/14 6:00 PM
Edmonton
Toronto 11/2/14 11:00 AM
Montreal
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Who is your favorite Wild player?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close