AP Photo: John Locher

Top Seed in Honda West Still Within Reach for Wild with Six Games Remaining

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There are six games remaining in the Minnesota Wild season and we’ve known for some time that their 2021 wouldn’t end when the schedule did. This is a playoff team and this postseason, no matter how long it lasts, has more hope than past years. We’ve never had a Wild team with the high-end playmaking talent and ability to put the puck in the net that this one has..

But before we get our shovelers too far ahead of the Zamboni, there are a half-dozen games that remain in the regular season and the #1 seed in the Honda West is still within reach. Shit will get real real tonight when the Wild faceoff against the current division leader, the Vegas Golden Knights at 7 PM, in game-one of a two-game series that will start Monday and finish Wednesday.



Tall Task

The oddsmakers aren’t giving the Minnesota Wild a very good chance of climbing over Vegas and Colorado to steal the division. BetOnline.ag has them +3300 on Monday morning while the Golden Knights and Avalanche sit at -225 and +160, respectively.

But what the gambling community is really telling the Wild is, “we don’t think you can sweep Vegas this week”. A Minnesota sweep of the Golden Knights would turn the Honda West on its head and send us it into a 3-way, 4-game sprint for division supremacy. The winner’s prize will get to cleanup the division scraps in round one of the NHL Playoffs.

Playoff format adds fuel to fire

The NHL’s pandemic playoff format pins division foes against each other in round one, (#1 seed vs #4 seed) and (#2 seed vs #3 seed). That’s a big deal in the West, where you see a large drop-off after the 3rd-place team (see standings above). Winning the division means landing St. Louis or Phoenix in the first round. Finishing 2nd or 3rd means facing one of the other top-3.

Schedules

The Colorado Avalanche have BY FAR the easiest schedule of the three teams at the top of the West. They also have one game in hand over the Wild and Golden Knights, meaning they’ll play seven games over the next two weeks while the other two are limited to six. Of those seven games, just one will be played against a playoff-caliber opponent. Six of them will be played on the road, however.

While the Av’s finish their season vs guys who’d rather be holding golf clubs than hockey sticks, the Wild, Blues and Golden Knights will spend the final games of the 2021 season beating the shit out of each other. The most desperate could be St. Louis, whose playoff lives are on the line. They’ll spend the rest of their regular season days trying to knock off the top-3 teams in the West, while trying to stay ahead of Arizona, who is still nipping at their heels..



Buckle up. The race heats up tonight.

For the Minnesota Wild to climb over Vegas, they MUST sweep this week’s series and that starts by winning tonight. That would bring the two teams within two points of each other, with four games remaining on both sides. Getting home-ice advantage vs the Avalanche by earning the #2 seed is still possible with a split but a lot of that depends on how they play out west for the next two weeks.

No matter what, we’re going to get a fun ramp-up to the playoffs.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan