What We Learned: Are the Minnesota Wild lucky or good?

Oct 25, 2014; Saint Paul, MN, USA; Minnesota Wild forward Erik Haula (56) celebrates his goal during the first period against the Tampa Bay Lightning at Xcel Energy Center. (Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports)

(Hello, this is a feature that will run through the entire season and aims to recap the weekend’s events and boils those events down to one admittedly superficial fact or stupid opinion about each team. Feel free to complain about it.)

The Minnesota Wild have eight points in six games, which is good for the eighth-best points-per-game in the league before the end of Sunday's games.

They trail some true giants in the league right now (just in the Western Conference there's Anaheim and Los Angeles and Nashville, all of which have more games played) and aren't even top-three in their own mega-tough division. A few weeks ago, Mike Yeo was lamenting how tough their conference is, and clearly if you can win four of your first six games and not even be one of the three best teams in your given seven-team group, you have reasonable concerns.

Yeah, they're technically holding onto that eighth and final playoff spot in the West by the skin of their teeth, but what the Wild are doing to this point in the season is truly remarkable, and portends good things for them going forward as well.

First, let's get it out of the way nice and early that they've played a relatively soft schedule to this point. Colorado twice, Arizona once, and then a messier-than-expected Lightning team gave them their four wins. But while their two losses were at Anaheim and Los Angeles, both were 2-1, and against the Kings they actually dominated the game (even-strength shot attempts were 45-26).

In fact, that's been a pretty common when it comes to score-adjusted possession, one site has the team tops in the league. Taking out score effects, and you have a similar situation: The Wild are second in the league in terms of even-strength possession. Now, games like the season-opening slaughters of Colorado will obviously give the Wild a lot of wiggle room in this regard, as the sample size is small enough that you can safely consider even one or two outliers to be massively impactful on the numbers.

But let's suppose you abhor “fancy” stats, and would like to determine whether the Wild are “for real” in other ways. Well, how about the fact that they've allowed just six goals (one per game, tops in the league), or scored 19 (3.17 per game, sixth)?

Now we're getting into questionable territory, though, because the team's even-strength shooting and save percentages are absurdly high. Darcy Kuemper's ludicrously hot start has them stopping .961 at 5-on-5 (third behind Florida and Los Angeles), and the team as a whole is shooting 11.11 percent themselves (first in the league). So you'd have to say that this hot start is wholly unsustainable for Minnesota to start the year. Darcy Kuemper is not a .960-plus goaltender — in part because very few people are even .920 goaltenders — and this Wild team doesn't have the shooting talent to sustain a percentage north of 10 percent, because no one does.

That, too, might be an issue of sample size more than anything else. Before Saturday night's inexplicable blowout of Tampa (in which they won 7-2 but only had 22 shots), their team shooting percentage at 5-on-5 was 6.67. And it's not like Kuemper is facing a lot of shots; through five appearances he only stared down 117 (23.6 per 60 minutes).

And so this becomes a question of figuring out what, exactly, the Wild are capable of doing this year.

There's no question they improved in the offseason, filling in basically all their big concerns (forward depth first and foremost) and actually letting their good goalie play the majority of minutes. Remember, this is a team that had 98 points last season in a conference that produced six 100-point teams, but got very lucky both in terms of Josh Harding's save percentage and the fact that they drew the hopeless Avs in the first round.

Because these wins are being so heavily driven by percentages on the whole, it's tough to imagine that they're actually going to keep winning at this clip all season, but they seem to have changed so much of the fundamentals that you have to start wondering whether they can, indeed, keep this up.

All that stuff in the last month or two with Zach Parise basically saying that the dump-and-chase style they played under Yeo prior to this season was idiotic comes from somewhere; one of the team's leaders doesn't go around decrying strategy given down from on high without clearance. Which tells you something big has changed philosophically in the organization, and for the better.

From an “eye test” point of view the style of hockey Minnesota is playing this year seems a lot more conducive to actually keeping positive possession numbers going the whole season. They're carrying the puck in a lot more (but you also have to note that they're doing it, for the most part, against not-great teams), and staying competitive with clubs that will almost certainly be among the best in the West this year. They're probably not going to be a top-five team in the league in those numbers for the whole season, simply because it's tough to buy that they all-of-a-sudden have that kind of personnel because of a tactics change and the Thomas Vanek signing. But Vanek is going to help their shooting percentage as a whole, and make them harder to play against throughout the lineup by shuffling some other skilled wings deeper into the depth chart.

Obviously, all of this comes with the “sample size” label still firmly attached to it, but I have to believe that this Wild team is going to be more competitive in their division than I probably thought before the season started. They're going to come back to earth a little bit, clearly, and their finish in the West is still not going to look all that impressive just because of who they have to play against in their division.

But this is an actually-good young club that's only going to improve within the next few years.

For this year, I'm not sold that they're going to get any deeper into the playoffs than they did last spring. But at least they'd probably earn that second-round appearance on merit rather than playing a bad team.

What We Learned

Anaheim Ducks: This headline might be a little overblown.

Arizona Coyotes: The Coyotes aren't giving up a ton of power play goals any more so now Mike Smith is good again and totally worth that contract, right?

Boston Bruins: If Dougie Hamilton can keep up his recent performances all season long (no guarantee, obviously) then Bruins fans might soon be looking at their team having two “legit No. 1” defensemen.

Buffalo Sabres: The likelihood that this result is going to be the highlight of the Sabres' regular season is extremely high.

Calgary Flames: The Flames shut down Alex Ovechkin, but didn't cover Joel Ward at all.

Carolina Hurricanes: The Hurricanes haven't decided whether they're going to trade Eric Staal and Andrej Sekera yet. Uhh, they should. They're going nowhere.

Chicago Blackhawks: How are they gonna replace Dan Carcillo for a month? Oh, right, they will call up literally anyone.

Colorado Avalanche: You don't see Jarome Iginla score too many goals on the backhand, but here we are.

Columbus Blue Jackets: You never want to see that someone had to “retain sight” after a game. Retaining sight should be a given.

Dallas Stars: Anders Lindback is pretty bad, folks. He's stopped just 568 of the last 640 he's faced (.888 save percentage).

Detroit Red Wings: Seems impossible that the Wings haven't won a regular-season game in Philadelphia since 1997. The slump, however, did allow Mike Babcock to break out his edgy material: “I don't think we've won in Philly since Christ was a kid.”

Edmonton Oilers: The Oilers have some really good forward lines. Pretty much top-to-bottom. But you know what would make them even better? Having more than one center.

Florida Panthers: It's really too bad the Panthers can't score. They are getting genuinely great goaltending.

Los Angeles Kings: The Kings have lost just once in regulation this season, and are still acting like, “Ahh, we really need to play better.”

Minnesota Wild: This is really rubbing salt in the wound at 6-2 but man what a burst of speed from Jason Zucker.

Montreal Canadiens: The Habs have to start losing soon, right?

Nashville Predators, America's Favorite Hockey Team: Speaking of which, the Penguins finally gave Nashville its first loss in regulation. The Preds are legitimately good and entertaining this year. It's a very weird feeling.

New Jersey Devils: Ol' Double J forever. Dude can still unload, apparently.

New York Islanders: This is the first hat trick of Frans Nielsen's career, the last coming into the empty net with 0.1 left on the clock. He is amazing. I love him.

New York Rangers: Real nice little story on Ryan McDonagh here.

Ottawa Senators: The Sens only have two regulation losses this season. Robin Lehner has been excellent.

Philadelphia Flyers: Shayne Gostisbehere lasted less than a month in the minors. Hard to think he heads back any time soon.

Pittsburgh Penguins: Anyone can do this. Literally anyone.

San Jose Sharks: An existential crisis in October after a loss to the Sabres? Can't blame 'em.

St. Louis Blues: This reporter presumably got paid to copy and paste from CapGeek about which player on the Blues gets paid the most. He also conflates cap hit with salary. What a world.

Tampa Bay Lightning: Why yes, I am excited to watch this for the next 10-plus years.

Toronto Maple Leafs: Boy oh boy here we go again.

Vancouver Canucks: Even if you “run out of gas” on a road trip date against the Avs, you probably shouldn't give up the TD and extra point.

Washington Capitals: Jay Beagle swung by his dad's auto shop while the team was in Calgary over the weekend. Probably wanted to see if he could stop the team's wheels coming off this year.

Winnipeg Jets: Andrew Ladd was positively massive for Winnipeg on Sunday. Scored their first goal and maybe their second (though they credited the latter to Bryan Little, who was fronting the net).

Play of the Weekend

Look at this pass from Crosby. LOOK AT IT! Good lord what a player.

Gold Star Award

Oct 25, 2014; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Boston Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton (27) is congratulated by teammates after scoring a goal in the third period against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre. The Bruins beat the Maple Leafs 4-1. (Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports)

Dougie Hamilton straight-up brought it against Toronto on Saturday. Three points, plus-9 corsi despite a huge number of defensive zone starts, and 16-plus minutes at even strength. He could be a real good one, real soon.

Minus of the Weekend

Look at this awful unpressured pass to no one from Chris Mueller to spring a 2-on-0 shorthanded goal for Tomas Plekanec from Max Pacioretty. Ryan McDonagh had to look bad there.

Perfect HFBoards Trade Proposal of the Week

User “BigFatCat99” is making me so happy.

to NYR:

Colin Wilson + Victor Stalberg

to NSH:

M. Staal

to CAR:

Calle Jarnkrok + Ryan Ellis + Ollie Jokinen + Taylor Beck + 

to NSH:

All the STaals

Four campers are stuck in the ropes course. I meant to tell you about that yesterday, but could you get to it now?

Ryan Lambert is a Puck Daddy columnist. His email is hereand his Twitter is here