After a slight hiccup in what seemed like a team on cruise control heading into the playoffs, the Minnesota Wild have again gotten back on track. The Wild has put last week in the rear-view mirror and looked like a completely different team through 3 games this week, taking 5 of 6 points. They will have a chance to add to that total tomorrow against the Detroit Red Wings.
The recent gain of points brings into question just what the Wild’s magic number is to clinch a playoff spot. At this point, the 7th seed looks to be the best case scenario as Minnesota trails red-hot Colorado by 11 points with 12 games remaining. Chasing the Wild are the Phoenix Coyotes, who hold the 8th seed, the Dallas Stars, Vancouver Canucks and Winnipeg Jets. Those teams range from 4 points to 10 points behind the Minnesota Wild.
Unfortunately for Minnesota, the schedule to close the season is among the toughest they have had all season. They will face a cast of teams that are either powerhouses or teams fighting for their own spot in the playoffs. The elite clubs include the St. Louis Blues twice, Los Angeles, Pittsburgh Penguins, Chicago Blackhawks and Boston Bruins. As for the bubble teams, Minnesota plays against the Detroit Red Wings twice, as well as 3 of the teams chasing them in Phoenix, Vancouver and Winnipeg.
Minnesota has done themselves a huge favor this week and stockpiled points prior to facing this difficult schedule, and it allows them to have some slip-ups toward the end of the season. The outlook could be very different if the Wild continued their poor play into this week and, in classic Minnesota sports fashion, the doubt would have crept into the mind of most fans.
In order to clinch the minimum 8th seed, it looks as though Minnesota will need to finish the season with a total of 91 points. If they want to stay in the 7th spot they currently hold, 93 points will likely do the job. It may not seem like much, but the difference between the 7th and 8th seeds this year could be huge. An 8th seed likely means a first round series against St. Louis, a team poised to make a deep playoff run. A 7th seed would currently play the San Jose Sharks, a team known for rolling in the regular season only to struggle to advance in the playoffs. If your the Wild, San Jose has to be on your radar as the team you want to play first as they allow for the best chance at an upset.