Tha Sports Junkies 101

Can the Wild, Boudreau help each other get over the hump?

Can the Wild, Boudreau help each other get over the hump? Dinur/via

Team, Coach both looking for first Stanley Cup Final visit, championship


To say that the Minnesota Wild are rolling right now is a vast understatement.

Thursday night they defeated the New York Islanders 6-4 in St. Paul to extend their franchise-record winning streak to 12 games. That winning streak has vaulted them to the second best point total in the Western Conference, just one point behind the Chicago Blackhawksdespite playing three fewer games.

A big part of the Wild’s success this season has been the job head coach Bruce Boudreau has done. Under Boudreau, Minnesota has compiled the second-best goal differential in the NHL, as well as the second-fewest goals allowed and regulation losses.

Then again, a team doing well in the regular season under Boudreau is nothing new.

The 61-year-old amassed an impressive 409-192-80 record in 681 games with the Washington Capitals and Anaheim Ducks during his nine-year coaching career prior to taking over behind the Wild bench this season. He has the second-highest winning percentage of coaches who have coached at least 100 games in the NHL.

Since he started coaching in the league, Boudreau has won 50 or more games four times and 40 or more games six times. In fact, in every season that he has been the coach for the full 82 games, Boudreau’s teams have won at least 46 games and totaled no less than 103 points.

Another impressive stat in Boudreau’s resume is that his teams have won the division in all but one of his seasons behind the bench (2011-12 when he was fired by Washington then hired by Anaheim).

He is also very familiar with long winning streaks. When Minnesota won it’s 10th straight game on December 23, Boudreau became the first head coach in NHL history to lead three different teams to winning streaks of at least 10 games.

When you look at those numbers, it’s easy to see why the Wild went after the man known as “Gabby”, especially when you look at their history.

Since joining the league in the 2000-01 season, Minnesota has enjoyed some success. They’ve made seven trips to the postseason in 15 seasons, including each of the last four. In 2003, their first time in the playoffs, they had a Cinderella run that took them to the Conference Final before being swept by Anaheim.

Since then, however, they have not been able to surpass the second round. In fact, they’ve made it to the second round only two times since 2003 and have only four series wins in their history.

Part of the reason the Wild have been quick outs in the playoffs has been because their position in the division sets them up with some of the better teams in the conference.

Minnesota has finished no higher than fourth in the division since the league changed the playoff seeding and format prior to the 2013-14 season. They haven’t finished in the top two of their division in an 82-game season since winning the Northwest Division back in 2007-08, their only division title.

So, when you look at the Wild’s play and current place in the Central Division, it’s easy to see why Minnesota maybe dreaming of a deep playoff run. However, for a man with as much regular season success as Boudreau has amassed, he has his own well-documented postseason demons.

Like the Wild, Boudreau has reached a Conference Final only once in his career (2015 with the Ducks). He also has the unfortunate distinction of being the coach with the most Game 7 losses in a career (7). And it was Game 7s that cost him his job in Anaheim.

From 2012-13 to 2015-16, the Ducks team made the playoffs each year. However, each year they lost a Game 7 at home after holding a 3-2 series lead.

At some point, though, this disappointment has to end for Boudreau and Minnesota, right? This season, “Gabby’s” team has been succeeding because of two key components that championship teams have: goaltending and defense.

The Wild are tied with the Columbus Blue Jackets (who have a modest 14-game winning streak themselves) for the fewest goals allowed this season (how’s that for a potential Stanley Cup Final?). Minnesota is just slightly ahead of Columbus, though, in goals against per game average.

The Wild also boast the league’s fifth-best penalty killing unit, with an 85.6% efficiency. The key to their defensive prowess this season has been the play of goalie Devan Dubnyk.

Dubnyk currently leads all goaltenders in goals against average (1.67), save percentage (.944), and shutouts (5). He’s also second in wins with 19, only behind the Blue Jackets’ Sergei Bobrovsky.

When you have a solid defense and goaltender, not only can you make the playoffs, but you can also make a long run.

Now, all this talk about the playoffs is a bit premature since we’re still not at the halfway point of the season yet. However, it’s hard to not see Minnesota above the playoff line once the season ends in April the way they’ve been playing.

Of course, the thing isn’t making the playoffs-it’s making a deep run. The way things stand now, the Wild and Boudreau seem to have everything they need to make that happen. History says they won’t, however.

Then again, in order to progress, you have to take a step forward. Getting to the postseason will be the first step for both sides. And maybe, just maybe, they can use their past disappointments as learning blocks to get over the hump and reach that coveted Stanley Cup.