Dec 23, 2011, 12:34 AM EDT
To the awe of many critics, the Minnesota Wild managed a tight-rope act to the top spot in the Northwest Division through the first quarter of the season. They still remain a point ahead of the surging Vancouver Canucks, but with their sixth loss in a row, is time to get worried yet?
The scrappy team wasn’t exactly blowing opponents out when they were winning, but their offense has fallen apart without Mikko Koivu in the lineup. Their underrated captain was placed on the IR today, which is horrible news.
Minnesota has only managed seven goals in their last six games while going 0-4-2, including a 4-1 loss to the Edmonton Oilers tonight. (Dany Heatley scored what was essentially a garbage goal in the third period.)
Looking at the simplest numbers, it doesn’t seem like the problem is a lack of effort. They’ve managed at least 30 shots in all but one game (they fired 27 on the Winnipeg Jets in a 2-1 defeat that began this ugly streak). Most hockey people expected the Wild to struggle without Koivu – especially considering the team’s litany of other injuries – but it seems obvious that they have trouble winning small margin of error games without him.
My guess is that the Wild’s chances of winning their division are very slim. The Canucks are just one point behind them with two games in hand and a boatload of momentum. A playoff berth is certainly still a reasonable goal for Minnesota, though.
That being said, they’ll need to find some scoring if they want to do any damage once/if they get there.
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