The trick in evaluating a one-game sample size like the Wild offered in an 8-3 drubbing of division-leading Colorado on Wednesday is trying to distill the meaning without drawing too many conclusions.
Here's where I settle in regards to that game: It means the Wild absolutely can win in the playoffs, though we shouldn't expect that just because of one game.
That was a different gear than we have seen from the Wild against Colorado this season and it continued a critical power play trend that is perhaps even more important as the postseason approaches next month.
I talked about both of those ideas on Thursday's Daily Delivery podcast.
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The Wild was 2-5 against Colorado heading into that final matchup of the season Wednesday. The last three of those meetings were losses by a combined 16-5 score. And with the way the playoffs are set up this season, it is a virtual certainty the Wild will have to face the Avs at some point in the first or second round (likely the second) to keep advancing.
So a lopsided win (the second for the Wild against Colorado in addition to a 6-2 victory earlier this year) should bolster Minnesota's confidence.
The power play, though, is the even bigger deal. At one point this season the Wild was 5 for 74 with a man advantage — a dismal 6.8% success rate. Minnesota was dominating 5 on 5 play and has had a stingy penalty kill, allowing it to climb in the standings even with those perplexing power play struggles.
But if you want to win in the playoffs, 5 on 5 isn't going to cut it.
"It helps," captain Jared Spurgeon said of the team's power play rejuvenation. "Obviously, at the start of the year we were scoring goals at even strength and that was carrying us. As the season goes on, the games get tighter. You're going to need one on the power play when you get those chances."
The Wild didn't just get one Wednesday. Four times Minnesota scored in five power play chances, meaning the Wild is now 13 for its last 48 — a 27.1% success rate that would be good for second in NHL behind just Carolina if it was its full-season number.
Now: When a team was once among the worst on the power play is now among the best, it is fair to wonder which is the truest indicator of future results. The answer is almost certainly somewhere in the middle, but the skill on this team suggests that it should be closer to the 27.1% mark than the 6.8% mark going forward.
That would make the Wild a threat against not only Vegas — the Wild's most likely first round playoff opponent, and a team Minnesota has defeated four consecutive times — but against Colorado as well.
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