Minnesota Hockey Magazine

Getting In Is Not Enough

Kuemper
Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper made 27 saves against the Red Wings on Saturday afternoon. (MHM Photo/ Jeff Wegge)

 

Last season, a season shortened by the National Hockey League lockout, the Minnesota Wild had to win their last game of the season to secure themselves the eighth seed in the Western Conference and clinch a spot in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Through 71 games this season, the Wild (36-24-11) have 83 points and are in playoff position with 11 games left on their schedule with eight points separating them from the Dallas Stars (32-26-11), who have 75 points with 13 games left to play.

Wild coach Mike Yeo said that there is a “big time” difference in the way he was coaching last year, just trying to make the playoffs, and this season, as they are already in playoff position.

“We’re trying to build for something,” Yeo said. “We don’t want to just make the playoffs, we want to do something in the playoffs.”

With the eighth seed in last year’s playoffs, the Wild were defeated in five games by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks.

“We’re not satisfied with just being in a playoff position,” Yeo said. “We want to be a team, every night, that goes out and dictates the game, controls the play and we want to carry that momentum in the playoffs … We have to work to build that for sure.”

Wild captain Mikko Koivu said that they don’t look too far past the next game on the schedule.

“You’ve got to go game-by-game,” Koivu said after a 3-2 loss to the Detroit Red Wings on Saturday. “You can’t look beyond it, you can’t look too far ahead. You’ve got to play the right way and get ready for the next one.”

Koivu has 41 points (nine goals, 32 assists) this season in 54 games played.

So far in the month of March, the Wild have dropped seven of 10 games, but have gotten at least one point in the standings in five games. Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who stopped 27-of-30 Detroit shots on Saturday, said he thinks the atmosphere in the locker room is pretty good.

“We could easily be getting down on ourselves,” Kuemper said. “We’ve been playing good but it’s just a break here, a break there. It’s kind of breaking us right now but no time to feel sorry for ourselves. We’ve just got to keep sticking to what works.”

Kuemper has a .922 save percentage and allows 2.26 goals per game on average with a 12-6-4 record for the Wild.