ANAHEIM, Calif. – A reign of dominance over the opposition isn’t a prerequisite for admission to the playoffs, but stringing together wins certainly doesn’t hurt.
And amid a staccato start to the season for the Wild, a run longer than its season-best four-game win streak seems to be just the push the team needs — a boost it now has the chance to ignite after a feel-good 3-2 overtime win Friday over the Ducks.
“I think you need them,” coach Bruce Boudreau said, “because it’s eight to 10 games over .500 that you need to be to make the playoffs.”
Of the 12 teams that owned the top three spots in each division ahead of Saturday’s games, all but one club (the Devils) had boasted a win streak of at least four games. Half had rattled off five or more victories in a row.
Conversely, 12 of the 15 teams stuck below the playoff cutline had a two- or three-game run as their best stretch of the season.
These snapshots of success may fade to footnotes by April, but they do seem to emphasize one key attribute the NHL’s pacesetters have in common.
And that is what the Wild is seeking.
“Right now we’re up and down, but a lot of it is not playing that consistent game the way we want to play,” winger Jason Zucker said. “If we played 10 games the right way and we went 0-10, we’re not going to be happy, but at least we’re playing the right way. Right now, [Friday] night, we played the right way for most of that game and we were able to get the win and that was a huge win for us. We had four lines going the whole game.
“So if we’re playing consistently the way we want to play, we know we’re going to have success. It’s just a matter of doing it consistently.”
A rhythm is also indicative of another vital ingredient, and that’s confidence.
The value of that attitude was apparent last season when the Wild amassed a team-record 12-game win streak in December — a run that helped propel the team to 49 wins and 106 points, both franchise highs.
“No matter what, you know you’re going to beat the other team,” winger Nino Niederreiter said. “Doesn’t matter if you’re down 2-0 or up 2-0, and that’s the feeling we had.”
This season’s version of the Wild hasn’t captured that mind-set yet, Boudreau said, because that caliber of confidence stems from a run of at least five or six games. But each streak must start at some point, and maybe the triumph over the Ducks is the catalyst.
Not only did the Wild prove it can persevere late in a game, as it overcame a tying goal by the Ducks to pocket a pair of points via overtime unlike the third-period meltdown that happened at the start of the road swing during a 5-2 loss to the Kings, but the team was solid for much of the game all over the ice.
And if it can get by the Sharks Sunday in the trip finale, the schedule could help the Wild find a groove with its ensuing three games at Xcel Energy Center, where the team is 8-3-2 and in the midst of a six-game point streak (5-0-1 since Nov. 14).
“If we compete like the way we did [Friday] and skate like the way we did [Friday],” Niederreiter said, “I think good things can happen.”