Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Halfway Home

Photo: Hannah Foslien/Getty Images
Happy New Year everyone. For those doing some New Year's resolutions can we all agree the Wild should be working for more goals? I kid I kid.

The official halfway mark of the season came Sunday against the Islanders. After last night's game against St. Louis, the Wild are now 20-17-5 with 45 points. That puts them fifth in the Central Division and 10th and the Western Conference. They are currently riding a six game losing streak, in which all six games have been lost in regulation (so no points have been accumulated).

For the Wild, it literally has been a roller coaster first half. They were flying high in October/November as they jockeyed with St. Louis and Chicago for the top spot in the division. But since December rolled around, the team has been a free fall, culminating in that six game losing streak where they have played just abysmal hockey.

Positively, Josh Harding has been outstanding. 18 wins, 1.66 GAA and .933 SV% have put him in the talk for the Vezina trophy. He has taken the starting goaltender position away from Niklas Backstrom and doesn't appear to be giving it back. Also worth noting that Mikael Granlund (15 points in 29 games) and Jared Spurgeon (53.8% Fenwick For) have had great first halves for the Wild.

We could sit here all day and go through negatives. Obviously right now, more bigger ones that come to mind is the injury to Zach Parise, Niklas Backstrom, and the countless games where the team has given little to no effort. These negatives have lead the Wild to a fight with Nashville and Winnipeg for the basement in the Central Division.

There are also many questions as we move ahead in the second half. Can the Wild start scoring consistently again? Will Josh Harding be able to sustain his first half success? Will the team try and make a roster move to give them a spark? Will Mike Yeo still be employed in April?

Heading into the second half, the Wild are arguably playing the worst hockey of any team in the NHL. But they have a lot of veteran and young talent which can help them get out of this dry spell. They are still far from being out of the playoff picture. Things can still go right this season.

They open 2014 tomorrow night at home against the punchless Buffalo Sabres. It should be a tough test, but it can be a great confidence boost for this team if they can pull out a victory.

Lets all hope they can start 2014 with a win. Otherwise, we are going to be in for a long second half.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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