According to the Elias Sports Bureau, the Wild and Blue Jackets, the first NHL teams in history with concurrent win streaks of at least 12 games, will be the first teams in North American pro sports history to put 12+ game win streaks on the line when they meet Saturday at 5 p.m. at Xcel Energy Center.
On Feb. 29, 2000, the Los Angeles Lakers and Portland Trailblazers carried 11-game win streaks into an NBA game. Lakers won.
Saturday will be the first time two NHL teams have met with 7+ game win streaks.
The Wild has won a franchise-record 12 games in a row and is a franchise-best 13-0-1 in its past 14. The Blue Jackets have won a franchise-record 14-game winning streak (tied for fourth-longest in NHL history) and are a franchise-best 15-0-1 in their past 16. The Wild’s 13-3 at home and can set a new franchise record with a ninth consecutive home win. But the Blue Jackets are sensational on the road. They have two regulation losses and have allowed 33 goals in 16 games.
The Wild’s 7-3-3 in its past 13 games against Columbus at home. … The Wild is 12-3-1 against the East after going 13-16-3 against the conference last season.
But Wild coach Bruce Boudreau is without a doubt trying to keep the Wild focused. In fact, it almost felt like Wild players were given talking points because every single player just happened to know Saturday's clash was "Game 36."
And, I mean every player mentioned it's just Game 36.
I'm no sleuth, but then Boudreau coincidentally opened his press scrum with this accurate gem:
"It’s not the Super Bowl, it’s not the Stanley Cup. It’s Game 36," Boudreau said. "It’s got a good, little storyline, but that’s all it is. … I hope that’s the way they’re taking it.”
Charlie Coyle echoed that: "You only get two more points out of this one. It’s the same as every other game. We’re going to treat it as that. We’re going to try to keep the same focus that we’ve had this winning streak. I think that’s the only way to approach it."
Jason Zucker echoed that: "For us, looking at the game, you can't look at it as a crazy, big game. For us, it’s game 36. This isn’t going to make or break our year, that’s for sure."
Matt Dumba echoed that: "We can't really focus on it in that sense. We just have to approach it as another game. We need those two points to be where we want to be at the end of the season and project ourselves to places that we want to go. They’re just kind of in our way, so we’ve just got to take care of that."
Nino Niederreiter echoed that: "End of the day, season wise, it’s game 36. We have a lot of games ahead of us to make the playoffs, so we’ve got to take it as just another game. ... One of those teams get to keep the streak alive and end the year with a nice streak."
The Blue Jackets definitely took a different tack.
"Both teams deserve a lot of credit and they should feel good about what they’ve brought here, where they’re at," coach John Tortorella said. "We know there’s a streak, we know there’s a streak over there. I’m glad we're going to have an opportunity to play in this type of game.
"I want our guys to revel in it. I think we have to play better. I don’t think we’ve been on top of our game. We have won, but I don’t think we’ve outplayed teams by any means the last little while."
But, Tortorella said, "Athletes look to hang their hat on something, and in a grind of a season, certainly not even close to anything of playoffs, it’s a good game to be involved in. They're feeling good about themselves, we’re feeling good about ourselves. Let’s play, and it’ll be fun.
"It’s fun to be part of something like this in January when you still have the dog days ahead of you here."
What's neat about both teams is they're both getting great goaltending, great D and great balance. Boudreau said they've got the same blue print.
The Blue Jackets lead the NHL with 3.44 goals per game; the Wild’s fourth – and first in the Western Conference – with 3.14. The Wild leads the NHL with 2.00 goals against per game; the Blue Jackets are second at 2.06.
The Wild's the best second-period team in the league, the Blue Jackets are the best third-period team.
Blue Jackets have the best power play, Wild has one of the best penalty kills.
Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, winner of 10 straight and 12-0-2 in his past 14 starts, is 9-4-2 with a 2.18 goals-against average and .926 save percentage all-time vs. Columbus. Blue Jackets goalie Sergei Bobrovsky, winner of 12 straight and 13-0-1 in his past 14 starts, is 5-2 all-time vs. the Wild with a 1.68 goals-against average and .938 save percentage.
But everybody's contributing.
Dumba: "Everyone’s been contributing. It really hasn’t been any set line, grouping, guy. it’s really been a group effort. Everyone having success and everyone accepting each other.
Niederreiter: "The fun thing about the winning streak is not one line is contributing to all the wins. It feels like every night another guy's stepping up."
Boudreau: "I think it’s been great. I think it’s the only way to win. You can win for short periods of time with one line and one great defenseman, but if you look at the teams that win everything, it’s a team effort. When you get everybody contribute, I think it’s really special."
Zucker: "That’s the reason why these things can happen is because everybody’s going. If you have one line that you're relying on night in and night out, that line’s going to get shutdown at some point. So you need other guys to step up, and we’ve had a lpot of guys do that throughout this stretch here."