28 Days Later



Roughly a month ago the motley crew of the FRB Pirate Ship asked the roundtable question "What Do The Wild Need To Do In February" in order to maintain their playoff pace, and I followed that up with on a more general basis, with 4 Keys for the Rest of the Season. So now here we are, on the eve of the final February game, tomorrow night in St. Paul against Chicago, so I thought it would be prudent to see if Minnesota did the things we were thought they should do...to keep doing what they're doing.

Play For One Another:
Well, the locker room chemistry is getting a lot of attention. Mike Russo wrote about it today, I wrote about it, and it is evident, especially in the games of late where Mikko Koivu has been out. This John Madden quote sums it up best:

""We started off a little slow, but we've grown with one another, we've grown to trust one another and we enjoy being around each other...and when you get that combination, it's almost like team symmetry. There's only five guys on the ice, but it feels like six because we're working together and for each other.

It makes a huge difference when you go the extra mile for the next guy. This is quite the team."

Stay Healthy:
By and large this has happened, even getting one Marek Zidlicky back on the blueline, which increases depth back there...BUT. Mikko Koivu broke a finger a week ago, and is expected back in a few weeks. This does tie into the previous bullet point; this team, in Koivu's absence (and especially in Kyle Brodziak's recent battle with the flu), this team has really bore down to continue to play very well, going 2-1-1 in the last four games.
There are always going to be little injuries, where they keep a player out a game or two, but there hasn't been anything of tremendous significance that causes a gaping hole in the roster.

No Milk Carton Kids:
That was a key; if the secondary scoring options aside from Mikko Koivu and Martin Havlat dissipated, this team was going to be in trouble; what's happened has been an all-around effort. Just looking at the usual suspects; guys like Matt Cullen, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Antti Miettinen, Kyle Brodziak, Martin Havlat, Cal Clutterbuck, and even Mikko Koivu, these guys all have between 6(Koivu) and 9(Brodziak!) points for the month, which proves how well-rounded the scoring is on the team. John Madden also as four points, and Eric Nystrom has scored two goals in the past week, furthering the contributions.

Home and Road Split:

In the thirteen games so far, Minnesota has gone 8-4-1, getting 17 out of a possible 26 points so far. We started the month with an 11-11-2 record at The X, and I argued that they had to leave this month with a 5-3 record...at least. They've gone 5-1-1 so far, which is very impressive, with wins over LA and Anaheim, and nabbing a point against Detroit, all of whom are playoff contenders.
The road record going into this month was 14-8-3; we finished it 3-3, which still keeps the record are very good 17-11-3. This includes the thrilling win over Anaheim Friday night.
Also worth noting, is that Minnesota is now +1 in the goal differential, having outscored the opponents 31-27 with a game to go. For the stat heads, that means:
- Roughly 2.4 goals a game, while the opponents have scored just 2.07 a game.
- An average of 2.3 goals/game on the road, holding the home team 2.83. The home team goals/per also reflects an empty net goal by Jake Dowell in the 2/16 game in Chicago, and the Anze Kopitar empty-netter in the LA game Thursday. Without those two, its still a very stout 2.5/game.
- At home we've averaged 2.43 goals a game, while the opposition scores just 1.43 goals/game.
- We've gone 2-1 in shootouts as well.

That's more statistical analysis than I care to ever do.

A few observations to close this out:

- the team continues to show a resiliency to battle back; the shootout win in St. Louis being a prime example. The game is never really over until its over.
- It cannot be understated how well the goaltending's been; Nik Backstrom is rocking a 5-3-1 record, .935 save%, and a 1.44 GAA. Jose Theodore's gone 3-1, with a .929 save% and a 2.75 GAA.
- Maybe the most impressive part, which is the most pertinent tie breaker, is that six of the eight wins are in regulation, giving Minnesota 27 regulations wins. That is good for a tie for fourth in the conference- the relevance is that regulation wins is the first tie-breaker.

We'll see how February ends tomorrow night, but so far its been pretty damn good so far.

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