The Vikings started the season 5-0 and the Wild is on an 11-game win streak. As euphoria envelops Wild Nation (OK, so there is no such thing as Wild Nation) here are some random comparisons of the two 2016 giddy periods.
- The Vikings started with five consecutive wins despite having lost starting QB Teddy Bridgewater (replaced capably by Sam Bradford), RB Adrian Peterson and LT Matt Kalil. The injury bug, especially on the offensive line, hit hard from there and played a factor in the team’s decline. The Wild, somewhat typical for an NHL team, had key players like Zach Parise, Marco Scandella and Erik Haula miss some time … but it’s probably safe to say that devastating knee injuries don’t often happen in the NHL. Still, there are two Wild players – goalie Devan Dubnyk and defenseman Ryan Suter – who would be irreplaceable. And they’ve typically been able to play through their minor injuries.
- The Vikings offense is third-worst in the NFL. It was pretty obvious during their five-game win streak that they’d have a hard time rushing, and eventually it was their Achilles’ heel. The Wild started the season with the league’s best offense through a handful of games, but that wasn’t sustainable. What was sustainable was consistent scoring from the top two lines. The team has settled in at a three goals-per-game clip, good enough for fourth in the league, despite an average power play.
- The Vikings’ win streak was fueled by an outstanding defense that pressured quarterbacks and caused turnovers. Eventually those two factors faded, perhaps done in by an offense that didn’t help control the ball very much. The Wild has the NHL’s best defense (1.94), best (statistical) goalie and arguably the best group of defensemen. Falling apart in January (which has been known to happen) seems unlikely this year.
- Vikings coach Mike Zimmer is determined to work himself into the ground. Things ain’t going well? Work longer hours. Wild coach Bruce Boudreau picks his spots for hard practices (OK, so he’s only had a couple) and calmly diminishes ice time during games for players who aren’t “on.” And he's not spending sleepless nights diagraming "Omaha triple left dee right slant 300 forecheck third man high on two." There’s likely less room for panic under the man who speaks softly but carries a big stick.
- Hockey isn’t rocket science. Football thinks it is. There are never enough hours in a day to scheme, draw up plays, make everything as complicated as possible, have players study playbooks and call audibles at the line of scrimmage. And then coaches take the blame for losses. Hockey is a game of bounces. Whoever gets the best bounces wins. And if you’re a better team, have better skill, or better strength, or better goaltending, you get better bounces. And if you lose … well, there’s another game tomorrow night.