By the numbers, Wild have been a better team since John Hynes became coach

One of the reasons the Wild moved on from Dean Evason in late November was the team’s consistently listless starts to games during a 5-10-4 start that cost Evason his job.

Whether that was his fault is a different conversation. The previous season under Evason, the Wild had 46 wins and 103 points, the fourth-best finish in franchise history.

“He can’t do it for the players,” general manager Bill Guerin said six days before firing Evason, “and the players have to buy into what we’re doing.”

One thing certain is that the Wild, despite rolling through ups and downs since John Hynes became head coach on Nov. 28, have been a better team since — 20-13-1 before Saturday afternoon’s puck drop against the Buffalo Sabres at Xcel Energy Center.

The Wild entered the game on a four-game winning streak, and winners of eight of their previous 11 games after a 1-7-1 skid, to pull back to within arm’s reach of a Western Conference wild-card spot.

“(We’re) playing more together, sticking with our systems a little bit better,” veteran forward Ryan Hartman said Friday. “Maybe some guys were on our own page, trying to do some things, putting pucks in bad areas. I think we’re placing the puck better, to areas where we can get it back and keep a lot more possession of the puck, which makes it a lot easier.”

As the record would indicate, Minnesota has been better in all major statistical categories under Hynes. Its penalty kill, for instance, was the worst in hockey on Nov. 27 with a 66.7 percent success rate and a league-high 23 power-play goals against in 19 games. Over the next 34 games, the Wild PK ranked 14th — 79.7 percent with 23 goals against.

The power play has been better, too — eighth in hockey with a 23.6 percent success rate before Saturday’s game.

But the improvement that really stands out is the way the Wild have started games, a major issue as the Wild stumbled out of the gate. On Nov. 27, the Wild had given up a league-high 29 goals, and scored 16, third-least in the NHL. Since then, the Wild have scored first 21 times, tied with Boston atop the NHL, and their 31 first-period goals rank 10th.

The Wild have had more than their fair share of injuries this season, but they also had their best run — winning 11 of 14 games in Hynes’ first few weeks — while missing key players. Jared Spurgeon (back/hip) is lost for the season, and Marcus Foligno (lower) and Pat Maroon (back) have missed a combined seven games since the all-star break, but the Wild are as healthy as they’ve been all season.

“It starts with our work ethic and our competitiveness,” Hynes said this week. “We’ve asked them, coming off the break, to take that to a different level to give (us) a chance to win every night. When you make the other team the second-most competitive team on the ice, you give yourself a chance to win every night.”


Declan Chisholm, picked up on waivers from Winnipeg on Jan. 29, played his first game with the Wild on Saturday. Veteran blue liner Dakota Mermis was a healthy scratch.

— The Wild erased a first-period power-play goal when the Sabres were deemed offside after a video review, making Minnesota 5-0 on coach’s challenges this season.

— The fourth annual Minnesota Wild Hockey Without Limits Day is scheduled for Sunday at the Guidant John Rose MN OVAL in Roseville.

Related Articles