The past six Wild seasons finished with the team in the playoffs, but how it reached that point was different each year.
From clinching to the circumstances that sealed the deal, the Wild has used a variety of methods to tie for the second-longest active postseason streak in the NHL. And players are drawing on that experience as they continue to vie for a berth despite sitting out of a spot with only five games remaining.
“What matters is you get in,” winger Jason Zucker said. “That’s it. It doesn’t matter how you do it.”
2013: 3-1 win over Colorado in Game 48 for 55 points.
With the NHL lockout not getting resolved until January, the season was trimmed to 48 games and the Wild needed every single one to advance — ending a four-year drought in dramatic fashion.
It was jostling with Columbus for the final seed and although the Blue Jackets had won earlier in the day to move two points ahead, the Wild could snag the last invite if it won in Denver since it held the tiebreaker.
Winger Zach Parise opened the scoring, a Devin Setoguchi power play goal re-established a Wild lead and Pierre-Marc Bouchard buried an empty-netter with four seconds to go.
“It’s a hard building to play in,” Parise said. “It was a hard game. That was a nerve-racking one.”
2014: 4-3 shootout win over Boston in Game 80 for 96 points.
Before the Wild outlasted the Bruins to continue a late-season surge, its postseason plans were locked up with a Coyotes loss. This result continued a 5-0-1 run that included triumphs over top teams in Pittsburgh and Los Angeles — perhaps an omen of the Wild’s ensuing first-round win over the Avalanche.
“We were playing really good hockey,” Parise said.
2015: 2-1 win over Chicago in Game 80 for 98 points.
After three failed attempts to clinch on home ice, the Wild capitalized on a change of scenery and booked its postseason ticket in Chicago. That the group persevered on the road wasn’t exactly surprising, since this was the team’s 11th consecutive victory away from Xcel Energy Center — a torrid stretch led by goalie Devan Dubnyk. He helped spur a second-half turnaround after arriving in January in a trade from the Coyotes.
“First time we had lost three in a row in months,” Dubnyk said. “We went in Chicago [and] played great.”
Although the Wild split the final two games of the season, it went on to dispatch the Blues in the first round in six games.
“We came roaring into that playoff,” Zucker said. “We knew we were winning that series.”
2016: 3-0 loss to San Jose in Game 81 for 87 points.
Despite suffering its fourth consecutive setback, the Wild still secured a playoff spot thanks to an Avalanche loss. It limped into the postseason, finishing the regular season in a five-game rut, but the damage from that slide was mitigated by a 4-0 win on the road over Colorado — which was battling with the Wild for seeding — in Game 76.
“That gave us a cushion,” Dubnyk said.
2017: 4-2 loss to Vancouver in Game 74 for 94 points.
This is the earliest the Wild has advanced in franchise history, a nod to a dominant first half that had the team in contention for the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top point-getter. But a March swoon interrupted that momentum. The team dropped nine of 11 after it fell to the Canucks, nabbing a berth because of a Los Angeles loss.
“That was probably the one season that it was pretty close to a guarantee throughout the year that we were going to be in,” Dubnyk said.
2018: 3-0 win over Edmonton in Game 79 for 98 points.
A Wild victory coupled with an Avalanche defeat was the combination that clicked, and this accomplishment came amid up-and-down play. The Wild had just two winning streaks of three or more games after Jan. 1 but was competitive enough to slot third in the Central Division.
“That shows you how close it is,” Parise said.
And with this season’s team chasing the Avalanche and Coyotes for the second wild-card spot in the Western Conference, the Wild could be in store for another photo finish — a possibility it’s certainly become familiar with over the years.
“It just seems to come down to the wire,” Dubnyk said.