Welcome to the Monday edition of The Cooler, where it’s important to keep the narrative up-to-date. Let’s get to it:
*Wild general manager Paul Fenton made three significant midseason trades, including two as the deadline approached last week. Since the first of those deadline deals, one that sent Charlie Coyle to the Bruins for Ryan Donato, the Wild is on a six-game points streak — including five wins in a row snapped only by an entertaining shootout loss to the Predators on Sunday.
The popular narrative when there is a different result after a change is that the thing or things that are new are the reason for the change.
And listen: Donato has been very good, while Kevin Fiala — obtained for Mikael Granlund a week ago — has shown promise as well. It would be foolish to underestimate their impact on the Wild’s overall speed and structure — not to mention the harder to quantify impact that trades have on a team’s chemistry. If the Wild was getting stale, which I think most of us would agree is true, a shakeup can trigger a different level of effort.
All that said: Whatever you think of the impact of the new players, and however you want to attribute chemistry to the play of individuals, the thing that is above all else fueling this Wild resurgence is easy.
Devan Dubnyk was in the midst of a bad run until right before Donato arrived, and overall his season was not good at that point.
At that time, among goalies with at least 1,000 minutes played this season, Dubnyk ranked No. 30 in the NHL in goals saved above average — a stat from Natural Stat Trick that measures goalies against an average goalie. And he was No. 42 in high danger save percentage — stopping 78.8 percent of shots from high-danger areas on the ice.
He started all five games during the Wild’s winning streak, allowing just eight goals total (and never more than two in a game). His goals saved above average was 5.62 in that span — meaning he saved over five goals more than the average goalie in just five games — to rank No. 1 among all goalies. And his high-danger save percentage was a sparkling 93.8 during that span — No. 3 among all goalies and No. 1 among all goalies with at least three starts since Feb. 20.
Dubnyk entering that streak was facing 6.2 high-danger shots per game on the season. During the streak, he faced 6.4 per game. So it’s not like things got easier. He just played better.
Alex Stalock started Sunday’s back-to-back against the Predators and continued the trend by saving 10 of 11 high-danger shots he faced — a very high amount — and posting a 1.68 goals saved above average in just one game.
Long story short: This burst of great goaltending has pushed the Wild back at least to a spot where the playoffs are a coin flip proposition — and it has happened, at least lately, against some of the NHL’s best teams.
*The Minnesota Whitecaps won the regular season title in their first year in the National Women’s Hockey League and have the No. 1 overall seed in the playoffs.
*The Loons looked tentative early and gave up a too-easy set piece goal in their opener Saturday in Vancouver — enough to make me fire off a too-early text that this is the same old squad we’ve seen for the past two years. The rest of the game, which finished as a 3-2 win for Minnesota United, proved otherwise. Maybe the playoffs are within reach in Year 3?
*The Gophers women’s basketball team begins play Thursday in the Big Ten Tournament. Minnesota grabbed the No. 7 seed after a strong 7-2 second half of the season, punctuated by a lopsided win over Michigan State on Sunday. Two wins in the conference tourney — over No. 10 seed Indiana and then No. 2 seed Iowa — could make things interesting when it comes to an NCAA berth.