The Wild’s on a roll now.
You’ve got to hand it to Mike Yeo and his Wild. In late November, the Wild coach wanted to stop any semblance of a December swoon by saying, “It’s the same story. Here we are again.”
He lambasted his team for the third straight postgame presser after it blew a three-goal, third-period lead in an overtime loss to Dallas.
Two days later, at practice, Yeo went loco in a calculated way to wake up his troops. Only a coach confident his message is going to get across would take this risky route.
In eight games since, the Wild has allowed nine goals.
To put that in perspective, the Wild has scored 11 goals in the past two games after Thursday’s 5-2 win over the Rangers.
The Wild is now 6-0-3 in its past nine (15 of a possible 18 points) heading into Saturday’s game in Nashville, where the Wild won three times in the last six weeks of last season.
Mikko Koivu, after four points against Vancouver, scored two goals and an assist, Matt Dumba and Jason Pominville scored power-play goals, Chris Porter scored one goal, Ryan Suter had two assists and Devan Dubnyk made 21 saves.
The Wild, after going 3 for 5 against Vancouver on the power play, went 2 for 3 tonight.
The Wild has the NHL’s second-best power play at home at 27.8 percent. Now, if it could only get it going on the road, where it ranks 26th at 12.8 percent. This is nothing new and Yeo has joked the last couple days that the Wild needs to stop changing its plan on the road (the joke being the Wild doesn’t obviously have different plans).
What’s weird though? I looked this up in a spurt of insomnia earlier today at about 4:30 a.m.: Last year when the Wild went 14-1-1 on the road between Jan. 27 and clinching a playoff spot April 7 in Chicago, the Wild's power play went 1 for 27. So its road power play didn’t even cause its demise last season. In fact, the Wild was the best road team in the league after Dubnyk’s Jan. 13 arrival.
Now, after tonight’s game, Yeo was so, so predictable.
Even though the Wild is gobbling up points and scoring goals and gaining separation on the teams outside the playoff bubble (seven up on Colorado), Yeo doesn’t want his team to get complacent with Nashville, Dallas, Montreal, Pittsburgh, Detroit and St. Louis coming up.
He didn’t like the way the Wild gave up the two goals against tonight, saying it was too easy.
“We have seen some parts of our game that could easily go the other way right now,” Yeo said. “We can easily start to lose some habits, to lose some detail, to start to get a little too comfortable and against the opponents that we have coming up, we can’t let that happen.”
Please read the final gamer on startribune.com/wild for some great Dubnyk stuff after the game, anecdotes about the penalty shot and the nasty cut he had on his left cheek and how it occurred.
As I wrote in my file at the buzzer gamer, the Wild made the iron ring so many times, you would have thought players were collecting holiday donations in front of a Target.
But the Wild stuck with it, didn’t get frustrated and scored five times in a game it easily could have had a lot more.
“I had a pretty good feeling on the bench tonight all night,” Yeo said. “We were getting great chances. Certainly could have had a few more goals tonight the way things were bouncing. For whatever reason, felt pretty confident back there. Guys had a pretty good focus tonight. It’s not always just the focus, you can pick up off their emotions and how they’re into the game and reacting to different things that are happening in the game, so wasn’t a lot of stress for us back there.”
With the Rangers playing in Winnipeg on Friday, coach Alain Vigneault chose to give Henrik Lundqvist the night off and start backup, Antti Raanta, the former Blackhawk whom the Wild once pursued as a European free agent.
Raanta’s night was over by the 13:49 mark after Marco Scandella’s blistering, knuckling slap shot from the right circle struck him on the helmet protecting his forehead.
Lundqvist, who was 15-6-3 with a 2.14 goals-against average and .933 save percentage, entered to play the rest of the game.
A lot of people asked me on Twitter what would have happened if Lundqvist got hurt. The way it works now in the NHL, each team is responsible for providing the opponent a list of local goalies in the area who could be called in the case of an emergency. It’s then up to that team to get in touch with a goalie if an injury occurs. The Rangers did get one of the local on-call goalies to the game tonight and gave him the customary $500 and team jersey.
Jarret Stoll made his Wild debut and won 11 of 15 faceoffs. Defenseman Tyson Strachan was reassigned after the game.
It’s been a fun couple games for the players.
Pominville said the offense gives guys confidence.
“When you’re not getting on board or you’re not creating as much offensively, confidence tends to go away. Mikko’s a pretty good example of it. He went through a tough stretch. Now he gets a big game and follows it up with another big game. Kind of the same thing for me early on.”
Zach Parise and Pominville extended their point streaks to six games tonight. Pominville has a point in eight of the past nine games.
That’s it for moi. My editor, Chris Miller, is covering practice for me Friday as I work on my Sunday package and fly to Nashville.
Also, go to malepatternpodcasts.com for today’s latest podcast. Lots of Wild talk and the first half hour was with special guest Kenny Albert.
By the way, the Wild will host a free, open outdoor practice on Tuesday, Dec. 29 at the Backyard outdoor ice rink at Braemar Arena in Edina. Caribou Coffee will provide free coffee samples to event spectators. The Wild’s practice is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. and last approximately 45 minutes. Fans are encouraged to arrive early as space is limited.
Talk to you Saturday.