Rambling On is your home for Minnesota sports talk for the common fan. Check out our daily content, and join the conversation, on Twitter or Facebook.
Our Minnesota Sports Ramble blogs are released on Tuesday (Wild), every other Thursday (Twins), and Friday (Timberwolves). Content of off-season teams released as news breaks.
The new-look Wild, an impressive victory against the Flames, and two points against the Predators in this edition. Wild analysts Peter Ripka and Jeff Hartfiel answer questions from Rambling On god-king Erik Ritland.
Thanks for your support!
Just when you thought they were down and out, the Wild are finally starting to come along and surge. What is going right for the team right now?
Peter: They are playing smart defensively and their goaltending has been solid for the most part. They are a much faster and aggressive team thanks to the infusion of young players.
Jeff: In the Wild's last three games you've seen a different team on the ice for many reasons.
Staal is playing with a sense of relief now that he has a new contract and it shows. Zucker is for is playing with a chip on his shoulder after finding out he almost got traded. It has spurred him to start putting the pick in back of net again, which is nice to see. Ek has been able to find his game as of late and has done it on a consistent basis. Then you have the new guys, Donato, Hunt, and Fiala, who are also making a difference. They came to Minnesota and were given a chance that they weren't given with previous team.
It's beginning to look like a perfect storm. The team has a newfound confidence, more appreciation, and have a happier locker room. The whole team seems to be on same page. The hope is that it stays that way and they don't become complacent.
In their last regulation victory, the Wild beat the Flames 4-2. Your thoughts?
Peter: The Flames are considered to be one of the best teams in the West, so it was a very big win for the club. The biggest takeaway from the game was when the Flames tried to get the Wild off their game by some agitating and the young players didn't bite.
Jeff: Everyone did there jobs in the Calgary game. They also made less mental mistakes.
The defense and goaltending showed up impressively, holding one of the hottest teams in the NHL to two goals. Most teams playing the Flames the past month haven't had that sort of production, as they have averaged almost five goals a game.
The top pairing of Suter and Spurgeon continued to play there game. Brodin, Hunt, and Pateryn stepped up as well. Lately Dubby has been seeing the puck a lot better, not letting soft goals in as frequently as before or at all, and it continued in this game.
The offense was also on their game, and it wassn't just one guy doing all the heavy lifting. They are all working together. Donato has been a big part of it. He is shooting from every place on the ice from every angle, and it has been contagious for everyone else on the team.
Of their two shootout losses to the Predators, which impressed you more and why?
Peter: The game in Nashville was more impressive from a team perspective. They never gave in and kept fighting back against the best team in the division. Both games were huge points that they earned.
Jeff: I didn't see a difference in the two games against Nashville. It would have been nice to get a win, but the Wild fought hard in both games. In the past when they got down they seemed to just lay down and take it, but in the Nashville games they didn't do that. They are playing hungry.
The Wild are so bad in shootouts, it's the only type of game I don't trust that they can win. In all, it's a bad thing that we lost two games to a division team. But it was good that they got a couple of points.
How well are the new-look Wild jelling? What will they have to do to keep the momentum going?
Peter: The kids they got are fitting in very well. They have the "show em what I got" mentality. They need to maintain their aggressiveness and assertiveness to continue to grow and produce.
Jeff: The moves that were made have lit a fire under the Wild. Staal and Zucker are finally clicking more, Donato clicks with whatever line he is put on, Fiala has shown he has some moves, and Hunt has been coming into his own, helping fill the void left by Dumba's absence.
As of right now, everything and everyone seems to be coming together and making it work. The big issue is: can they sustain it?
To keep this going they have to stay hungry. They can't let falling behind get them down, they have to come back and fight be resilient. If they fall back into old habits, all of this will have been for nothing.
But if this all continues, the Wild could be peaking at the right time and very possibly go into the playoffs a really hot team. I'm looking forward to watching.
Peter Ripka is the original Rambling On podcast co-host and has been a contributor since its inception. He’s currently a Wild and Twins 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.
Jeff Hartfiel is a Minnesota sports analyst specializing in the Wild and Vikings. He's been a part of Rambling On since 2018.