The long awaited return of Wild hockey is over as the boys hit the ice this afternoon in a tune up game vs Colorado.
It is a new season for everyone involved and what to expect is still unknown. What we do know is that when we last saw the Wild they were playing their best hockey of the season and every night was a playoff atmosphere as they were in and out of the top eight in the Western Conference nearly every other night it seemed.
Kevin Fiala was on an absolute tear, ripping off 14 goals and 26 points in the last 18 Wild games, including 7 goals and 14 points in the last eight. To say he was scorching is an understatement.
Alex Stalock had secured the top spot in the Wild crease while Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon were anchoring the Wild defense as they have done for so long. Matt Dumba was starting to look more like the player we have come to know prior to his season ending pectoral tear back in December of 2018.
But a lot has changed in the past five months with the quarantine and uncertainty that followed all the way to how we got to where we are today as teams compete within the NHL bubble.
Throw in the expanded rosters for camp purposes and the intriguing position of Kaapo Kahkonen who won top goaltender honors in the AHL this season. There is no question that the Wild goaltending was below average all season long and if it had been just marginally closer to the numbers of previous years the Wild, it can be argued, would have been solidly in playoff position.
Throw in the fact that Kaapo played very well in his limited work with the big club this season, combined with the short play-in series, he just might be the x-factor. Oh and there is that little fact that if the Wild lose their play-in series with Vancouver they have the shot at the first pick in the draft.
Food for thought on all counts.
We all hope that this completion of the 2019-20 season comes off without many hitches, as we have seen with baseball in the first week of their return. Not to compare the two sports by any means as I believe baseball had very little plan as to how to handle this, while Gary Bettman and his NHL leadership team thought this through each and every step of the way.
To health and safety for all involved and great to see our great game back on the ice!