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Wild hits halfway mark of the season in New Year's Eve defeat

Minnesota aims to pick up its pace in an effort to get back to the postseason

by Dan Myers @mnwildscribe /

ST. PAUL -- The Wild's game Tuesday against the Toronto Maple Leafs closed out the 2019 portion of the team's 2019-20 docket, but it also served as the official halfway mark of the campaign.

Minnesota has played 41 games and it has 41 games remaining. And if the Wild wants to snap its Stanley Cup Playoffs drought at one, it must find a way to secure more points in the second half than in the first.

Asked for his assessment of the team's first half, captain Mikko Koivu, who returned from a 12-game absence on Tuesday, channeled Bill Parcells old saying, 'you are what your record says you are.'

"Even the start of the season, I think the results weren't what we wanted, but for the most part, whole season, I think we have been playing pretty well and it's the timely goals, it's the momentums in the game that we need to learn from, and I think we did," Koivu said. "From the early season to the midway and after that for the first half. Now, we just have to find that again. Especially, here at home. It's going to be a long stretch that we're, for the most part, we're home a lot." 

Video: Locker room postgame vs Toronto

Wild coach Bruce Boudreau shared his target with the team over the weekend, the number of points he believes it will take to reach the postseason. He's usually right around the correct number.

And while he won't share that number with the media, it's not too difficult to figure out. He has admitted that the Wild must be at least 10 games over .500 to hit that target. 

After a 3-1 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs on New Year's Eve, the Wild will enter 2020 two games over .500. That pace won't be good enough, but the good news is, the Wild plays more games at home than it does on the road in the second half. When you take into account the Wild's 1-6-0 start to the season, Minnesota has actually played well above that 10-game pace for the past eight weeks or so. 

Video: TOR@MIN: Dubnyk uses his pad to rob Kapanen

The Wild enters the second half with five overtime/shootout losses on its ledger, a number that is generally in line with other teams around the League.

If you double that, and assume the Wild finishes with 10 overtime/shootout losses, that leaves 72 games concluding either in regulation, or in the Wild's favor. 

A final record of 41-31-10 would meet Boudreau's 10-game requirement, but in an ultra-competitive Western Conference, would 92 points be enough? 

Let's pretend for a moment that reaching 92 points is enough to secure one of the conference's two wild card positions. That would mean the Wild would need to finish 22-14-5 to reach that benchmark, a seemingly reasonable record considering Minnesota will play 24 of its final 41 at Xcel Energy Center. 

Video: Bruce Boudreau postgame vs Toronto

"I was pretty mad after the first period, but you have three days now to build them up and it doesn't get easier. You get Winnipeg, Calgary, Calgary, I think," Boudreau said. "But we're at least in our own conference that if you win, you do see progress in there. Hopefully we just bounce back and win 25 games in the new year and we'll be right there."

Until the start of this current homestand, that looked like a sure game-changer for the Wild, which had lost just twice in regulation in its first 14 games. That total has been doubled against the Islanders and Maple Leafs, and now Minnesota will sit and stew on things until this weekend, when it hosts Winnipeg and Calgary in a back-to-back set on Saturday and Sunday. 

"You look short term. The first half of the year is over now," said Wild defenseman Ryan Suter. "We have a few days before the next game, and it's a home game, we're going to be well-rested and we'll have no excuses to not come out and play hard and play the right way."

Like last season, when its home record was the main factor which kept the Wild outside the postseason, its home record is likely again to decide the team's playoff fate. 

Video: TOR@MIN: Suter wires a wrister by Andersen for PPG

"We have to reset here and find the mojo back that brought us that confidence that we were tough to beat at home," Koivu said. "We gotta find that again."

Like last season, when its home record was the main factor which kept the Wild outside the postseason, its home record is likely again to decide the team's playoff fate. 

Minnesota survived its first-half gauntlet of a road-heavy schedule, but now it must, as Boudreau often says, make hay when the sun is shining at home. 

"We have no choice. We have to. We've got to play better at home than we have the last couple," said Wild forward Zach Parise. "We talked before these home games started that to get ourselves at least back to get a chance to get into that mix.

"We've got to start taking care of it now that the opportunity's there. we've got to start winning here."


Postgame Hat Trick: Maple Leafs 4, Wild 1

Video: MIN Recap: Suter scores lone goal in Wild's 4-1 loss

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