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Our weekly Minnesota Sports Ramble blogs are released on Tuesday (Minnesota Wild related) and Thursday (Minnesota Timberwolves related). The first and third Fridays feature content from our non-active pro sports teams, the Vikings and Twins respectively at the moment.
The Wild win four of five against good and bad opponents, Dubnyk impresses, and more in our latest. Wild analyst Peter Ripka, along with new contributor Jeff Hartfiel, answer questions from Rambling On god-king Erik Ritland.
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Typical Wild: last article we were talking about a swoon, and now the Wild have won four of five. What are a few things they’ve been doing right to get back to their winning ways?
Peter: As is often the case with this team, the biggest reason they have been warming up is their defense. The forwards are doing a great job providing back pressure on back checks, the defense has limited grade-A scoring chances, and Dubnyk is back to good Dubs.
Jeff: They are executing their game plan and playing a full sixty minutes. Skating, back checking, fore checking, defense, passing, and shooting have all been working. The Wild have shown that when execute they can beat anybody in the league.
What players have been catapulting the Wild to victory?
Peter: The easy answer would be Dubnyk. The biggest player, though, is Coyle. He has been a beast since he was put back at center. He was our best forward on Thursday against the Jets.
Jeff: The Wild both win and lose as a team. The Coyle/Kunin/Parise line hassparked them on their current win streak. Zucker has put the puck in the back of the net a few times as well. To keep this positive run going we need three or four lines rolling so you aren't just relying on the one. The hope is for consistent play.
Of their wins against the Leafs, Senators, Habs, and Jets, which impressed you the most?
Peter: They each had their story lines. Their resilience against the Leafs was impressive, considering that they came back after being down by two about five minutes into the game. They were playing against Toronto's third-string goalie, however, so that had something to do with it.
The Ottawa game was a must-win, as they just aren't a very good team. The story line of the Habs game was Dubnyk, who played phenomenally and deserved the shut out.
The Jets game was the most impressive. For the first two periods they completely dominated one of the top teams in the NHL and the team that eliminated them last season.
Jeff: Two of their wins impressed me. The Maple Leafs game was really strong. Anytime you can beat one of the better teams in the league, especially to jump start a little win streak, will boost team confidence. They did that in the win in Toronto.
Then there was the Jets game. That's our third victory against one of the best teams in the league, and the biggest factor is they are in our division.
Charlie Coyle has flourished at Center. If he stays there will his improved play continue?
Peter: Coyle needs to stay at center. His body and skating style fits that position better. If he stays healthy he'll continue to trend up.
Jeff: One of Coyle's biggest issues is consistency. He goes through stretches where he looks amazing. He uses his big frame, is strong with back checking, finds the open guy, and shoots well. His shift to center has only helped him flourish.
Jason Zucker has been on something of a skid, but he scored two against the Jets, including the game-winner. Is he back? How much of an impact can he have if playing to his ability, how can he do it, and do you think he will?
Peter: It is one game, so it's hard to say he's back. He's one of the biggest cogs for our success. He needs to play more simply, as he did against the Jets, and use his speed to create space for himself and his linemates. He can snap out of his funk if he keeps his game simple and goes to dirty areas. But he's always been streaky.
Jeff: He is a pure goal scorer and he needs the puck, so if he wants to continue his role he needs to find an open spot and set up and shoot. He needs to be more selfish and shoot more often when he gets the puck, as it is what he does best. When he scores it opens things up for his line mates Granlund and Staal, which could make that line just as dangerous as last year.
Any other thoughts about the last few Wild games? On how they can continue to be successful?
Peter: Their success is completely dependent on goaltending. I am concerned about that because Dubnyk has a history of coming back soft after his All-Star appearances. If they can win games against bottom feeders and build their confidence they will be successful. Staal and Granlund stepping up will also be a big benefit. Speaking of Granlund, he seems to be playing with a nagging lower body injury. The All-Star break and bye week will do him very well.
Jeff: Like I said earlier, if the Wild come out and execute their game plan they can beat anyone. It's getting everyone on the same page playing together that is the issue, in addition to getting scoring from every line. If the defense plays a good game in front of Dubby he will take care of his end, something he has shown since he was acquired.
Peter Ripka is the original Rambling On podcast co-host and has been a contributor since its inception. He’s currently the Wild analyst, a position he’s held for several years. A Wild and Twins season ticket holder, his writing combines the passion of a fan and the insight of a beat writer.