After hitting a rough patch for a few games, the Wild beat the Philadelphia Flyers and the Buffalo Sabres over the weekend to enter their bye week on a high note.
As of Sunday afternoon, the Wild (27-17-4, 58 points) are just clear of the Colorado Avalanche (27-18-3, 57 points) for the final playoff spot in the Central Division. That should help the Wild feel good about themselves during their time off.
“It’s just good to get a rest before we have to push forward,” coach Dean Evason said. “We have to come back with a sense of urgency that we’ve had these two games. Our group is extremely aware of where we’re at and what we’re doing and how we need to do it to move forward.”
Last season’s team set franchise records with 53 wins and 113 points before falling to St. Louis in six games in the first round of the postseason. So, it’s been a disappointment, even for a team that knew it would have to find scoring to fill in the blanks left by free agent loss Kevin Fiala.
That remains a work in progress, although the Wild remain in good position to make the postseason for the third straight season. Which players have stood out so far? Let’s take a look using NHL awards as a guide.
Hart Trophy: Kirill Kaprizov
This award is given to the best player in the league. There’s absolutely no denying that Kirill Kaprizov has been the best player on the Wild this season. just as everyone expected. He leads the team with 27 goals, 32 assists and 59 points, giving the team life night in and night out. Most opposing teams have resorted to loading up against Kaprizov every time he’s on the ice. He will need to navigate that moving forward.
Vezina Trophy: Filip Gustavsson
This award is given to the best goaltender in the league. Though some might pick Marc-Andre Fleury for this award, and he’s certainly deserving, Filip Gustavsson gets the nod because he’s been such a pleasant surprise. He has an 11-7-1 record, a 2.26 goals-against average and a .922 save percentage. His excellence has allowed the Wild go with more of a 50-50 split in the crease. If the Wild are going to continue to succeed at a high level, Gustavsson will need to continue shining.
Norris Trophy: Jared Spurgeon
This award is given to the best defenseman in the league. Very quietly, Jared Spurgeon is playing some of the best hockey of his career. He has anchored the blue line with stellar play each game and also has chipped in offensively with some timely contributions. He is tied for fifth on the team with 24 points (nine goals, 15 assists).
Selke Trophy: Joel Eriksson Ek
This award is given to the best defensive forward in the league. The fact that Joel Eriksson Ek contends for this award on a leaguewide scale makes him the easy choice here. He’s the epitome of a shutdown forward. He consistently goes up against the best players on the opposing team and manages to contain them more often than not.
Calder Trophy: Calen Addison
This award is given to the best rookie in the league. Looking specifically at the Wild, there’s no doubt that Calen Addison deserves this award. He has manned the power play for Wild this season and leads rookie defenseman in scoring with 24 points (3 goals, 21 assist). His offensive production has made him an irreplaceable player in the lineup. Now. he knows, his defensive prowess has to catch up.