Tuesday, January 14, 2014

A Total Team Effort

Different faces have stepped up for the Wild in 2014. Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Lets go back in time two weeks ago. The Wild played abysmal hockey against the St. Louis Blues at home in a 2-0 defeat. They closed out the year on a six game losing streak, lost several key players to injury (Zach Parise, Josh Harding, Jared Spurgeon and Mikko Koivu), and it appeared that Mike Yeo would be the next coach in the NHL to lose his job.

But somehow in 2014, the team has turned the tables and has gone back to their winning ways from October and November. They have won five out of their six games in January, with the lone loss coming to Colorado on Saturday. This all done without the like of Parise, Harding, Spurgeon, and Koivu.

The wins might not be the prettiest looking games (see stat sheets from Washington and Los Angeles games), but they are indeed winning games. Something they could not do to save their lives at the end of December.

Every night, it has been a different player who has stepped up for the team in the month of January. Rather than the usual suspects, it has mainly been Minnesota's crop of prospects who have made big time contributions while their more established players have been out.

The games and the player who stepped up the most in that game are as follows:

January 2 vs Buffalo: Mikko Koivu (2 assists, last game before injuring foot)
January 4 vs Washington: Ryan Suter (1st Wild d-man to register a hat trick)
January 7 at Los Angeles: Nino Niederreiter (game tying goal and SO winner)
January 9 at Phoenix: Justin Fontaine (first career hat trick)
January 11 vs Colorado: Charlie Coyle (scored both Wild goals)
January 12 vs Nashville: Darcy Kuemper (first career shutout)

Its also worth noting that in the past two games, Dany Heatley and Jason Zucker have been absolutely buzzing. They have a combined six points and a +/- rating of +7.

Great teams are the ones who get contributions from everyone on the roster. Obviously the Wild are not a great team yet, but the fact they are getting contributions from many different players is a sign in the right direction.

The even more promising news is that the Wild are now separating themselves from Phoenix and Dallas, the ninth and tenth place teams in the West. This was almost unthinkable at the beginning of January.

All it took was a total team effort.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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