As if things in Minnesota couldn’t get any tougher after facing Central Division foe, St. Louis, in a grudge match this past weekend, Minnesota now has a very tough four games ahead of them, three of which are against division leaders.
First on the schedule, Montreal, rolls into St. Paul, tied for first with Tampa in the Atlantic Division and the NHL as a whole. For Minnesota, this will be a game to fully get a taste of what kind of team they actually have. The one advantage the Wild take into this one is that it is at home where they are nearly unbeatable, 7-2-1. However, the power play needs to strike if they are going to have any success against Montreal Wednesday night.
Friday night, the quack attack comes back to St. Paul, as they fly in as the Pacific Division leaders. The two have played once in Anaheim already, with Anaheim pulling off a 2-1 victory over Minnesota. These two squads have a history that dates back to their playoff meeting in 2003, but the rosters have changed a bit since then. The Ducks hold two of the NHL’s top 10 goal scorers, Corey Perry and Matt Beleskey, so the Wild defense will have their hands full. Oh and one can’t forget about Ryan Getzlaf, Ryan Kesler, and former Minnesota Wild forward Dany Heatley. Anaheim probably has the most well rounded roster in the NHL to this point of the season, so for Minnesota to pull off a victory here, they will have to play their “the puck is ours and only ours” style of game come Friday night.
Probably the biggest surprise in the league this season is the New York Islanders. Seeing them near the top of the Metropolitan Division is something I think nobody thought we would see at this point of the season. Led by a crop of young talent and their captain, John Tavares, the Islanders roll into St. Paul next Tuesday with three games between now and then, and could reach the 2o win mark by the time they hit the ice at Xcel Energy Center.
Finally, Minnesota will travel out west to play San Jose in the “Shark Tank,” where Minnesota usually has trouble finding ways to win. The Sharks are struggling to meet the standards of their fans being just one game above 500 in 25 games played this season. No game in the NHL is ever said to be easy, but this probably is the least difficult challenge that Minnesota has in front of them over their next four games. However, winning on the road and in the Shark Tank is no easy task, and never has been for Minnesota.
These next four contests for Minnesota could establish them as one of the elite in the NHL, or they could have a lot of work to do after these four games, but I would expect Minnesota to pick up at least two victories out of these next four tough contests, considering that three of them will be played on home ice.