A heated battle has emerged in the NHL’s Central Division, with the Minnesota Wild fighting for the top spot along with the Dallas Stars and Colorado Avalanche.
Dallas has held the top spot for much of the season, but late rallies by Minnesota and Colorado have turned this into a three-horse race, with the first-place team getting a much easier Wild Card opponent in the first round of the NHL playoffs. The second and third place teams will have to battle each other in the opening round.
For a team that has struggled to find playoff success, getting into that top spot is essential for the Wild.
There is no legal Minnesota sports betting yet, but MinnesotaBets.com keeps you posted on any legislative progress and with news about teams in the state.
As it stands, House Bill HR2000 is making its way through House committees and there is some optimism that legal wagering soon will come to Minnesota.
Back to our topic: What must the Minnesota Wild do to finish a memorable season?
Winning Division Race Would Be Key
The Stars have been excellent all season long and Colorado has put a slow start in the rearview mirror and now looks more like the defending Stanley Cup champions. It’s no surprise to see them both in the mix.
More shocking is the performance of the Wild, especially with their recent play. Minnesota has gone 6-1-3 in its last 10 games, most of which have come without Russian superstar Kirill Kaprizov. Earlier this month, we took a look at where Kaprizov stands among NHL jersey sales?
For most of the season, Kaprizov has been the Wild’s only source of offense, carrying the low-scoring Wild on his back.
No team currently in a playoff spot has fewer goals than Minnesota’s 219, so when Kaprizov was lost for a few weeks on March 8, no one could be blamed for thinking Minnesota’s division title hopes were over.
What has transpired since has been surprising, as the goals have started to come for Minnesota, which has gone 4-1-2 over their first seven games without Kaprizov. The Wild put up 30 goals in those games, more than they had scored in the previous 13 games with the star in the lineup.
Without Kaprizov to count on, everyone else has stepped up their games and contributions, a promising trend for when number 97 does indeed return to the lineup. Matt Boldy has stepped up as the leading man, with eight goals in seven games since Kaprizov’s injury.
Playoff Struggles Common for Wild
The Wild never has won the Stanley Cup since entering the NHL in 2001. In the 21 seasons before the current one, MinnesotaBets.com breaks down the playoff performance.
The Wild won’t surpass last season's total of 113 points, but they still are in the mix for that division title. Getting that seed will be essential if they hope to finally shed years of playoff failure, as a matchup against Seattle or Winnipeg would be much more enticing than having to play Dallas or Colorado.
Playoff success has not been a thing for this team, as their lone trip past the second round came in their third season when they made the conference finals in 2003. Since then, a couple trips to the second round have occurred, but never more. In fact, Minnesota hasn’t been out of the first round since 2015.
Even last season - on the heels of their best-ever regular season - the Wild couldn’t manage to get past the St. Louis Blues in the first round.
Their strong recent stretch has moved the Wild up on the odds board to win the Stanley Cup, as they currently sit at +2200 to win it all on DraftKings Sportsbook. That is tied for 11th with the Los Angeles Kings among NHL teams.
DraftKings also has odds for the division itself. As of Monday, DraftKings lists the Wild at +300, behind both Colorado (+130) and Dallas (+160).
If Minnesota wants to do some serious damage in the playoffs, or even if they want to just make it past the first round, the first step is winning the division. After that, a healthy Kaprizov combined with the team’s strong goaltending and newfound offensive finishing should give them a puncher’s chance to make this the best season in Wild history.
That would be a welcome sight for Wild fans. MinnesotaBets.com noted the Wild fanbase is among the top 10 in the NHL.