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Five reasons Wild clinched playoff berth

by Dan Myers

The Minnesota Wild are heading to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third consecutive season after clinching a berth Tuesday in a 2-1 win against the Chicago Blackhawks.

It's the first time the Wild have qualified for the playoffs in three straight seasons, the sixth time overall in their 14 seasons. Minnesota is 25-7-2 since Jan. 27.

Here are five reasons the Wild clinched a playoff berth:

1. Dubnyk's brilliance

Devan Dubnyk
Goalie - MIN
RECORD: 36-13-4
GAA: 2.04 | SVP: .930
The Wild were a battered and beaten group the morning of Jan. 14. They had lost 7-2 to the Pittsburgh Penguins the night before, and at 18-19-5, Minnesota was third from the bottom in the Western Conference standings.

Later that day, general manager Chuck Fletcher traded a third-round pick in the 2015 NHL Draft to the Arizona Coyotes for goaltender Devan Dubnyk. The rest is history.

Dubnyk has started every game since and is 27-8-2 with a 1.73 goals-against average and a .938 save percentage with five shutouts. Over that span, the Wild have had two multigame losing streaks (Jan. 19 and 20; April 2-6, three games) and lost by more than one goal twice (3-1, Jan. 19 at the Columbus Blue Jackets; 2-0 vs. the Winnipeg Jets on Monday).

In the 42 games before Dubnyk's arrival, Wild goaltenders gave up 121 goals (2.88 per game). In the 38 games since, they have allowed 65 goals.

2. Elite penalty kill

No team in the NHL has a better penalty kill than Minnesota's. That's been especially true during the second half of the season.

Since the All-Star break, the Wild are 86 of 94 (91.5 percent) on the penalty kill.

For the season, the Wild lead the League at 86.5 percent, including 87.8 percent on home ice.

3. Parise leading the way

Despite missing nearly two weeks with a concussion in November, then another three games to mourn the death of his father in January, forward Zach Parise reached 30 goals for the sixth time in his career; it's the first time in three seasons with the Wild.

Though Parise's numbers aren't gaudy, his consistency has been a boon for Minnesota, which is scoring 2.77 goals per game, equal to its highest average ever (2005-06).

Parise doesn't have a hat trick and has scored two goals in a game five times, but he's never gone more than five games without a goal or more than four games without a point.

His plus-21 rating is his best since he was plus-24 with the New Jersey Devils in 2009-10 and his 10 power-play goals lead the Wild.

4. Winning on the road

When they acquired Dubnyk, the Wild were 8-13-0 in road games.

Minnesota has lost once in regulation on the road since the Dubnyk trade, going 15-1-2 over that span. The Wild have won 11 consecutive road games since a 3-2 loss to the Vancouver Canucks on Feb. 16, the longest road winning streak in the NHL since the San Jose Sharks won 10 in a row in 2007.

The Wild have already set team records for road victories (23) and road points (48) in a season, and they still have two games left away from Xcel Energy Center.

5. Dumba's emergence

At the beginning of the season, defenseman Matt Dumba was competing for playing time. Even when he was in the lineup, he wasn't on the ice very much.

Over his first 20 games, Dumba had one goal and three assists and was minus-4 while averaging 12:30 of ice time. At the end of November, Dumba was sent down to Iowa of the American Hockey League so he could get more minutes and play in all situations.

With injures along their blue line, the Wild recalled Dumba in mid-January. In the 36 games since, Dumba has seven goals and four assists, is plus-17 and has played an average of 16:14 in time on ice.

Dumba was especially good during a crucial stretch of games between Feb. 18 and March 10 when the Wild were without defenseman Jared Spurgeon. Dumba moved up to the Wild's second defensive pairing and fit right in, scoring four goals and accumulating a plus-13 in nearly 19 minutes per game. The Wild went 9-2-0 over that span, including road wins against the Calgary Flames, Nashville Predators and Washington Capitals.

Now with a healthy complement of defensemen, having a guy like Dumba playing on their third defensive pairing offers the Wild the kind of depth few teams have.

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