The Wild's rise from ashes to the NHL's most dangerous team mostly has stuck to a one-theme narrative. The headline has been reprinted so many times that it's become remarkably routine.
Devan Dubnyk saves the day.
Rinse and repeat.
Enough can't be written about Dubnyk's jumper-cable impact, the way he has come in and sparked a team back to life and spread confidence to all corners of the locker room. That kind of performance in sports is something to behold.
If Dubnyk wins the Oscar for his work in a leading role, three members of his supporting cast deserve more than a passing mention for overcoming a start that contributed to the heaping pile of mess.
Mikko Koivu is playing his best hockey in a long time. Thomas Vanek is providing scoring pop. And Ryan Suter looks like Ryan Suter again.
"Their play speaks for itself," coach Mike Yeo said.
Actually, their statistics before the All-Star break compared with their production after the break tell the story nicely. Suter was minus-24 in a 21-game stretch through Jan. 19. He's plus-21 in his past 31 games. Vanek is tied for the team lead in goals (11) and tied with Koivu for second-most points (21) since the break.
All three were minus players before the break. They're all plus players since.
Same guys, night-and-day difference.
"I would say that their game went to another level the second half of the season," Yeo said.
So the question becomes why, or how? Yeo mentioned a number of extenuating circumstances that hurt their performance, but he also believes the criticism of those veterans became unfair.
"I would argue that when they were a lightning rod for criticism, I don't think their play was as bad as a lot of people were saying," he said. "When your team is not winning, eyes are going to go on those guys before anybody else."
That's probably true. They weren't good, though. No way around that.
Suter appeared exhausted from logging so many minutes. Vanek seemed disinterested. And Koivu looked a step or two slow.
And they heard about it. Some wanted Vanek benched and/or given a one-way ticket elsewhere. Others pined for Suter to play fewer minutes. A certain buzzcut columnist joined the chorus that foolishly called for Koivu's removal as captain, a knee-jerk reaction if there ever was one.
In truth, all three players performed below their standards while dealing with issues that probably contributed to their poor play. Suter was grieving his father's death and encountered the mumps outbreak that hit the locker room.
Vanek had his embarrassing gambling losses become public while trying to fit into a new team. And Koivu was slowed by a couple of leg injuries.
Whether those things were excuses or explanations, the cumulative effect made for a miserable first half that prompted a Hail Mary trade for Dubnyk.
Coincidence or not, their turnaround happened simultaneously and was aided by a few key developments. Suter was able to play more reasonable minutes once the defensive corps finally became healthier.
Suter has averaged nearly 1½ minutes less in ice time since the break. He's logged 30-plus minutes only six times during this run, which means he's fresher.
Vanek's offensive output clicked once he found stability on the third line. He seems to trust linemates Charlie Coyle and Justin Fontaine and has chemistry with them, and he's not facing top defensive pairings on that line. He's in the right role now.
Same goes for Koivu, who anchors the Wild's big-boy line of himself, Nino Niederreiter and newcomer Chris Stewart. That's an interesting combination that has worked perhaps better than Yeo even envisioned.
Koivu never will relent on his defense-first mentality. That's just who he is as a player. But he's also provided an offensive threat in the second half, too.
Maybe that stems from him feeling healthy again. Or perhaps shows that he feels comfortable enough with his linemates' defensive focus that he's willing to look for his own offense more.
Whatever the case, he looks like the Koivu of old.
"I definitely feel like he's playing as good as I have seen him ever play in my time here," Yeo said.
A lot has changed in two months. Everything feels different, and Dubnyk deserves the lion's share of credit for that. He saved their season.
The about-face by three veterans shouldn't go unnoticed in that discussion, too.