Monday, January 16, 2017

The Game: Sustainable?

By Nick

It's official: The Wild is for real.

Really, the B2B sweeps against the Habs and Rangers AND Stars and Blackhawks should be all we need to know.  But there's a whole host of other statistics in support of their overall good-ness this season if those don't do it for you.

So, because we're Minnesota sports fans, why aren't we happier?  Because Minnesota sports teams have provided us with a lifetime of failing despite the statistics and other empirical evidence.

Okay, fair enough, right? So let's focus on that: is this sustainable?

I'd say the offense is sustainable.  They are getting contributions from so many different sources that, even if you assume some of them would fall off, it seems unlikely they all will.  I'm prepared to say that Staal will continue to have a positive influence on Coyle, for example.  I don't think Staal is just on a hot streak.  And Parise is still working on getting up to plane.  And Pommer might get hot.  I know, I know.  But, in a season filled with crazy shit so far, why not?

.940/1.78 seems like it can not be sustained.  But he's not making crazy, acrobatic - desperate - saves.  He's economical.  He's not getting rattled.  He's strong mentally.  Nevertheless, last season, the best save percentage (at least 40 GP) in the league was .930 (Brian Elliott).  Ben Bishop put up the best GAA, with a 2.06.  Ironically, both of those guys are struggling this season.  If Duby does continue this play for the rest of the season, we better hope that same fate doesn't await him next season.  In 2014-2015 Price put up the best spct and GAA, with a .933 and 1.96, respectively.  In other words, Duby can come back towards (if not entirely to) earth, stats-wise, and still continue to be the backbone of this team.

I think overall team defense is sustainable.  Last night Dumba and Scandella were a hot mess for two periods, and then got it together.  Even Suter had an off game (LA).  In other words, they're not all playing out of their minds every night - which wouldn't be sustainable.  This team is built on defensive buy-in, always has been.  That hasn't changed under Boudreau.  With the defensively-responsible forwards we have I don't see that attitude changing in the room - especially with all these Ws backing up that mindset.

Coaching is sustainable.  It has to be.  Before the seasons started we all wondered how Boudreau had managed all those division championships, and whether he'd be able to do it here.  To me it seems the answer is that he is a premier in-game bench manager, and he is willing to alter his overall strategy depending on the make-up of the team and it's current macro trend.

Injuries frankly are not sustainable.  The Wild is healthy right now.  Teams just don't go extended periods of time without suffering some injuries.  Odds are that our depth will again be tested before the season is out.

The bottom line for me is that there is no rational reason to doubt the Wild's ability to keep this going.  Maybe not at a .726 pace, but enough to contend for the division title.  Our collective psyche is really the biggest reason we don't think that's possible.  That may be irrational, but it is definitely founded in historical context.  Do we have the balls to set aside decades of disappointment and heartache to get behind this team, raise the expectations and let our hearts run free?  I just don't know.

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