No team in the NHL seems to realize this more than the Minnesota Wild. The Wild have won five straight games and currently find themselves in the seventh spot in the Western Conference with 75 points.
In running off five straight wins, the Wild also extended their lead for the Wild Card to seven points over the Dallas Stars. On Saturday night, the two will go at it in Dallas so if the Wild can continue to play the way they are playing right now, another two important points should be more than within reach for one of the league's hottest clubs.
When looking at their five straight victories, one will notice that they certainly did not make it easy on themselves. Every game was extremely tight and the Wild never won by more than three goals.
One of the biggest reasons why the team has won five straight is because of the play of their young netminder Darcy Kuemper. During the team's winning streak, Kuemper has played in three of the games and has allowed just three goals on 54 shots with one shutout.
When Kuemper is between the pipes, all the team does is win hockey games. On the season, Kuemper is 11-3-2 with a 2.19 goals against average, a .924 save percentage and two shutouts, which certainly is not bad for a goaltender that is just 23 years old.
While Kuemper has been a big part of the team's success during their current five-game wining streak, he could not have done it without the play of the team in front of him. In their last five games, the Wild have allowed just six goals and for the most part, have really been able to quiet the opposition down.
The team is not allowing a lot of shots, is keeping everything to the outside, is allowing their goaltenders to see the puck and more importantly, is doing a good job of slowing down their opponents. While the Flames are not known for having a high-octane offense, the Wild excelled in keeping them in the neutral zone last night and did a good job of limiting their scoring opportunities.
Another reason why the Wild are playing well is because they know that they need the points and it is something that their head coach, Mike Yeo, stresses every single day. After last night's 3-2 win over the Calgary Flames, the Wild do not play again until Saturday night, which means that they will go five days without having an opportunity to pick-up points in the standings.
In talking with Brian Hall at Fox Sports North last night after his team's victory, Yeo explained that there is no such thing as having a lead in the standings anymore.
With just over a month to play in the season and a lot of games on their docket, the Wild are going to have to continue to play this way if they want to clinch a playoff spot in the Western Conference. With upcoming games against playoff teams such as the St. Louis Blues (3), Boston Bruins (2), Detroit Red Wings (2), Pittsburgh Penguins (1), Los Angeles Kings (1), and Chicago Blackhawks (1), that is not going to be easy to accomplish.
"The cushion to me is nothing and that's the thing. It means nothing to me because it's not about where the people are behind you. To me it's much more of a race of what you need to get to. We have to make sure we keep pushing to get to the number of points that we need to get."
The Wild must continue to follow Yeo's lead and pick-up points whenever they can because if they can do that, they should find themselves in the postseason come April.