ST. PAUL -- Not even the curse of Minnesota sports can keep the Wild out of the NHL playoffs this season.
As of Tuesday afternoon, April 20, the third-place Wild (28-13-3, 59 points) were 14 points clear of the fourth-place Arizona Coyotes (20-21-5, 45) and 15 points clear of the fifth-place St. Louis Blues (19-18-6, 44) in the eight-team West Coast division.
In other words, with 12 games left in the regular season, the Wild are essentially a lock to make the playoffs. Not that coach Dean Evason wants his team looking too far down the road.
“We don’t talk about standings,” Evason said. “We talk about the next game and getting prepared to play that. The guys have done a great job with that.”
Perhaps that’s why the Wild have been so successful at banking points as of late. In the past week alone, they have scored crucial wins over both the Coyotes and San Jose Sharks, ensuring that neither team makes up ground in the division.
“We don’t want to be a team that’s waiting down to the last game to get in,” Wild winger Marcus Foligno said. “We want to have games in hand and be sitting comfortable going into the playoffs. That’s the biggest thing. Just that attitude and that mindset. We know games are dwindling down here.
“I think we’re clicking right now, and I don’t even think we’re at our peak yet. There’s some lulls in our game that we need to figure out. Just trying to get ready and fine-tune it before playoffs start.”
In the meantime, the Wild are doing all the right things to make sure they enter the playoffs on a high note. They boast an impressive 7-2-1 record over the past 10 games, and their power play finally seems to have come alive, converting on 15 of the past 34 chances. That’s significant considering the Wild had the worst power play in the league for a prolonged stretch this season.
“We just kept plugging away at it,” Evason said of the recent success on the power play. “We’re doing some good things as far as getting pucks to the net. We’re scoring some dirty goals. It helps. We’re obviously happy with it.”
In that same breath, Evason made sure to mention that the Wild still have room for improvement. They have struggled mightily with turnovers over the past week and they need to clean that up before the playoffs get underway.
“There are parts of our game that we can continue to improve on,” winger Jordan Greenway said. “There are areas that we can continue to get better at, and I think that’s our focus. We want to go into the playoffs moving in the right direction and feeling confident about our game. That’s our focus right now. Just continuing to build on what we have going.”