Wild make an impressive turnaround

RANDY SPORTAK, QMI Agency

, Last Updated: 9:40 PM ET

In just over the three weeks, the Minnesota Wild did what should seem impossible.

Impossible in these parts, at least.

Before Sunday's action, the Wild had a perch among the Western Conference's elite eight.

On Dec. 17, that team was sitting 14th in the conference, seven points off the playoff pace.

Some would say it's an incredible turn of events.

"It's not that exciting," said Flames captain Jarome Iginla. "It's hard to watch somebody else, especially in our division do that."

OK, the disappointment from the Flames captain is somewhat understandable.

After all, in mid-December, the Wild actually sat behind the Flames in the standings, who now occupy that 14th position.

However, Minnesota won both halves of the home-and-home series with the Flames and went into Sunday night's clash with the Dallas Stars on a four-game winning streak and 8-2-1 run.

"It does show it is possible. Most people wouldn't have thought they could do that and get up there," Iginla said. "It is impressive they are back in a playoff spot. As much as it isn't enjoyable to see they've done it, we can draw from it.

"It could be us doing that."

Sure, it could be. Certainly, that's the theory.

With 40 games remaining, the Flames have time to pull into the incredible crush of teams bouncing in and out of a playoff spot seemingly every day.

A bigger question is will they?

You can understand why even the most faithful doubt it.

After all, this is a team with an 18-20-4 record and has just four victories in its last 10 games, all coming during a modest four-game winning streak which happens to be its longest of the season.

Plus, the Flames now embark a four-game road trip which starts Tuesday in Carolina before going to Ottawa, Toronto and Montreal. On the surface, those aren't daunting teams -- only Montreal is in a playoff spot, and it's the No. 8 position in the Eastern Conference -- but Calgary has a 7-12-3 road record and 4-5-1 mark against Eastern foes.

Still, when you're clinging to hope, anything works.

Jay Bouwmeester was keenly aware of Minnesota's climb.

"That's a perfect example. You put some wins together, you can climb up there," he said. "We're seven points out of the playoffs now, but that's four games. If you play the right teams and beat the right teams, you can make up ground."

Especially when you think the Flames and the Wild aren't that different. The separation between the clubs in goals for and goals against isn't much.

The biggest difference is powerplay. Minnesota is among the top 10 in the league with the man-advantage. The Flames are 24th, scoring at a 15.2% clip.

The Flames are also facing a couple of mental hurdles.

One is the potential frustration of being in 14th place seemingly forever.

"Yeah, it can be that way if you just look at the standings and don't look at the rest of it, do some pretty simple math," Boumeester said. "All you have to do is look at the points and see how many teams are so close. Somebody has to lose every night, too. You just have to hope it's the right teams."

The other potential issue is the over-riding sense trade winds will sweep through the dressing room if they don't start making a move.

"I know from being in their shoes, the only thing you can control is your performance and how you play," head coach Brent Sutter said. "We've had some inconsistencies and we've been working on that -- there's been guys in and out of the lineup for reasons -- and we need to find that balance to have that effort every night."

Or else climbing the charts the way the Wild did will remain a pipe dream.

randy.sportak@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/RandySportak


Videos

Photos