Last week, we discussed how the Wild have found themselves atop the NHL, despite every expert and stat based analysis saying they shouldn’t be. The answer was simple. The Wild have bought in to Mike Yeo’s system, and they have found that it works more than it doesn’t. The Wild have seen what happens when they play the system (they win) and what happens when they don’t (they lose). With a growing sample of games, the players are in, the organization is in, and the fans are in.
Clearly, though, no team can possibly continue to have this unexpected success with the number of injuries the Wild have endured. First line forward Guillaume Latendresse is out with a concussion. Top pairing d-man Marek Zidlicky is out with the same. Top defensive prospect Marco Scandella spent time out with a concussion. Fellow defensive corps members Justin Falk, Greg Zanon, and Mike Lundin have all missed time with various injuries.
After the game against the Sharks on Tuesday, the Wild find themselves without top six forward Devin Setoguchi and hard hitting utility man Cal Clutterbuck, as well as A and A1 goalies Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding.
In their places has come a host of role players from the depth of the organization. Matt Hackett stoned the Sharks in relief of Harding, stopping all 34 shots he faced, and earned himself his first NHL start against the LA Kings. Defensemen have been recalled so many times from Houston that Kris Fredheim had to be signed to fill the roster. Forwards like Warren Peters, Cody Almond, and now Jeff Taffe and Casey Wellman are being asked to fill large gaps left in the Wild lineup.
Still, the Wild just keep winning.
With national media on both sides of the border starting to come around, the Wild simply insert the new player into a role and continue to win games. CBC.ca finally has the Wild at the top of the league in their power rankings, the first major organization to do so. Craig Custance from ESPN.com wrote at length about the Wild and their game, noting that Yeo hates his team being called “passive.” Yahoo’s Puck Daddy spoke with Kyle Brodziak about the team’s success and the doubters.
Minnesota sports fans are holding on tight to the success. With nothing else to cling to, they aren’t going to let go easily. They keep being told that the Wild will fall apart, and yet they keep their faith in the “Church of Yeo” and their faith continues to be rewarded. If there is any doubt the Wild fanbase is fired up, look at the number of Twitter accounts popping up surrounding inside jokes in the fan base.
@SignBrodziak – With Brodziak being in a contract year, the fans want him locked up.
@ChurchofYeo – An account ridiculing non-believers and extolling fans to “believe or be defeated.”
@DanysTurtleneck – Sharing in the solid play from Dany Heatley from the persepctive of his undershirt.
If these accounts don’t show that Minnesota fans were desperate for some success, nothing does. No one inside the borders of Minnesota is ready to accept anything but victory. So far, no matter what the NHL throws at them, the Wild continue to find a way to deliver. It isn’t flashy, but it certainly isn’t boring (looking at you Kelly Chase). It’s solid hockey, and it is getting the results.
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