The Oilers had another tough year against the Wild in 2011-12, and things aren't going to get any easier with Suter, Parise and several young Minnesota prospects entering the fold. What went wrong, and how can it be corrected?
Oh, NHL, you're so funny. The Oilers lost four of the six games against the Wild, but were still technically above .500; collecting seven of twelve available points.
The first two games of the season were both 2-1 shootout losses. It wasn't until the third game that the Oilers took a win from Minnesota on the strength of a Taylor Hall game winner. In game four the Wild would once again need the shootout to take two points, this time by a score of 3-2. The Oilers won 4-1 on December 22nd and then lost 4-3 on December 29th. And just like that, the season series was over before the new year began.
Oilers: 16 --- Wild: 11
The league's lowest scoring team only mustered 11 goals in six games against an Oilers team that would go on to finish 23rd in goals against. Four of those goals came in the final meeting of the season - the only time the Wild scored more than two goals in a single game of the series. The shootout was cruel to the Oilers, as Minnesota picked up three of their wins in the breakaway relay.
Shots on Goal
Oilers: 173 --- Wild: 185
The only team to finish below the Oilers in shots per game was the Wild, and yet Minnesota had the upper hand in this department. The Oilers had more shots per game against Minnesota than their season average, and were about the same in shots against per game. The Wild were significantly better in both categories against the Oilers than they were over the whole season. In terms of individual games, the Oilers outshot the Wild twice, were outshot twice, and tied in shots twice.
Overall Save Percentage
Oilers: 0.941 --- Wild: 0.913
Once again I've excluded empty net goals. Even with Niklas Backstrom in net for five of the six matchups the Oilers came out way ahead on overall save percentage. Nikolai Khabibulin started all six games and was solid before being relieved by Dubnyk in the final meeting of the season. This statistic is a bit skewed, however, as the Wild simply did not have the finishing ability of the other teams in the league.
Oilers: 3/19 (15.9%) --- Wild: 2/24 (8.3%)
The Oilers' powerplay was slightly worse against the Wild than it was all season long, but still in the range of respectability. Minnesota, on the other hand, was terrible with the man advantage - even worse than their season average of 15.1%.
Oilers: 22/24 (91.7%) --- Wild: 16/19 (84.1%)
Flipping the powerplay stats, we see that the Oilers were well above average against the Wild, while their division rivals were just average. In fact, the Wild were 2% better than they were on the season, which was just one spot behind the Oilers. The two teams finished 14th and 15th on the penalty kill in 2011-12.
Looking at the numbers, it's amazing that the Oilers' record was so poor against the Wild. Minnesota proved why they were one of the very worst teams in the league with their weak showing against an Oilers team that went on to finish 29th. Only a strong and unsustainable early run saved the Wild from being completely embarrassed in 2011-12.
The arms race in the Northwest Division got a lot more interesting this summer with the Wild adding the two biggest free agents on the market and the Oilers adding arguably the next-most-prized two players of the off season in Yakupov and Schultz. The Wild also have a strong pipeline of youth coming, so it will be interesting to watch these teams mature. Only time will tell which ultimately comes out on top.