ST. LOUIS – Since it spanned October and November, a string of seven in a row on the road — the most consecutive in franchise history — likely fell too early on the calendar to define the Wild’s season.
But the stretch certainly would be telling, revealing more about the team’s identity and its potential.
And on the brink of the finale of this trek, Sunday afternoon in St. Louis against the Blues, more than a few insights have emerged, but one is particularly clear.
The Wild is a competitive bunch that has developed a knack for winning.
“When they’re on top of their game,” coach Bruce Boudreau said, “they’re a hard team to play against.”
After sealing a winning record on this road swing by dispatching the Ducks 5-1 Friday, an outcome that improved it to 4-2 during the seven-game challenge and 10-4-2 overall, the Wild ranked second in the Western Conference and fourth in the NHL.
Only the Lightning (25) and Predators (24) boasted a better point total than the Wild’s 22.
It also sat second in the Central Division, three points up on the Jets and Stars, five ahead of the Avalanche and seven in front of the Blues and Blackhawks.
Overall, the Wild won nine of its past 11 games.
Much can change with 66 games to go, but what fueled the team’s recent prowess on the road could continue to be a catalyst.
Its offensive leaders set the tone.
Winger Mikael Granlund leads the group in goals (nine) and points (17) after four goals and eight assists through the first six road games of this test — including two goals and an assist against the Ducks.
His reunion with winger Jason Zucker and center Eric Staal has been a fruitful one, with Zucker ending a seven-game drought Friday with his fifth goal of the season.
The line of Zach Parise, captain Mikko Koivu and Nino Niederreiter is another one recently reassembled after starting the season together, and it, too, has clicked. Niederreiter shook off his scoring funk, securing his first goal in 28 games in a 3-1 win over the Kings on Thursday; Parise has three goals on this road segment, while Koivu has accrued five assists.
“At the beginning of the year, it wasn’t working because they weren’t ready,” Boudreau said. “A couple older guys, it takes their legs a little bit longer. But now you can see them starting to generate some good energy.”
There’s also been no shortage of secondary scoring, from the bottom six and the defense.
Rookie Jordan Greenway chipped in his second NHL goal Friday, his fourth point since he rejoined the team at the outset of this road stretch following a stint in the minors.
“My confidence is going up every game,” Greenway said.
The blue line has been especially active, chipping in seven goals in the past six games and racking up 17 points during that span.
Jonas Brodin’s partnership with Jared Spurgeon was the latest to shine, as the duo combined for four points against the Ducks while each finished a plus-4 — a career high for Brodin.
“We’re starting to get to know each other a little better on the ice,” Brodin said.
Add in steady goaltending from Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock, a tandem that has surrendered just one goal three times during these past six road games, and the Wild has been able to rally when falling behind — to the tune of 7-3-1 this season when giving up the first goal — or pull away after scoring first, which it did Friday for just the fifth time.
“We’re getting contributions up and down the lineup,” center Eric Fehr said. “We’re playing a hard game. We’re hard on pucks. We’re physical. We’re not making it easy on teams, that’s for sure.”
And the Wild seems to be enjoying the process as much as the result.
Being on the road this much has given players more time to bond with each other, in the locker room and away from the rink, and there’s an upbeat mood around the group.
“The best teams have a lot of camaraderie and are really close, and I feel we have a close group,” Zucker said. “Whether I go to eat with Ryan Suter or Jordan Greenway, we’re having fun and we feel we can get along really well.”
That vibe, combined with the production on the ice, has made this business trip a resounding success.
But it can become even more significant if it ends up as being just a preview of what’s to come for the Wild.
“We gotta keep our foot on the pedal,” Zucker said, “and play well and keep pushing.”