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Season preview: Minnesota Wild

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Season preview: Minnesota Wild

To get you ready for the 2015-16 season, we will be previewing all 30 NHL in 30 days, division by division. Check the bottom of the page for a schedule of each preview.

Today’s team: Minnesota Wild

2014-15 record: 46-28-8, 4th in the Central

How they finished: Lost in 4 games to Chicago in the Western Conference Semifinals

Coach: Mike Yeo (5th season)

Notable additions: None

Notable subtractions: C Kyle Brodziak

RELATED: Projecting the Caps' lineup: Defense and goaltending

Schedule against the Capitals: Thu. Feb. 11 at Minnesota, Fri. Feb. 26 at Washington

Outlook: The Wild had a very quiet offseason with re-signing goalie Devan Dubnyk to a long-term deal their main focus. They did that, but little else. That's an interesting strategy for a team that got swept in the playoffs, even though it came at the hands of the eventual Cup champions.

Minnesota will be depending on its young pieces to take on a larger role on both ends of the ice. Mikael Granlund will likely center the top line and Jason Zucker will play on the second. Zach Parise and Jason Pominville are still in their early 30s so there should not be much of a drop off yet in terms of their production and even if there is, Granlund and Zucker should be able to make up for that.

Defensively, the Wild are very young. Minnesota will rely on five defensemen who are 25 or younger this season with Jonas Brodin (22), Marco Scandella (25), Matt Dumba (21), Mike Reilly (22) and Jared Spurgeon (25). If the team struggles defensively early on, don't be surprised to see a mid-season trade for a veteran defenseman.

But let's be real, Minnesota's season rides on the shoulders of Dubnyk. The Wild looked like they were going nowhere last season and everyone was waiting for Mike Yeo to get the ax, but eerything turned around once the team traded for Dubnyk.

Dubnyk set the NHL on fire last season, posting a .936 save percentage and 1.78 GAA. Those numbers were not nearly as good in the playoffs where he managed only a .908 percentage and 2.53 GAA. This begs the question, just how good is he really? The fate of the Wild rests on the answer to that question.

Expectations: Dubnyk certainly would not be the first goalie to disappear after a breakout season and if that happens, it will be a lost season for Minnesota. The problem is that It would be unreasonable to expect Dubnyk to replicate the numbers he had last year. If that's what it will take to get the Wild back into the playoffs, they're in trouble. He's going to have to be really good, but can he be good enough?

Minnesota is on the right track, but their young players need another year or two before this team can really become competitive. I look for the Wild to take a step back this year and, given that they were a wild card team last season, that means no playoffs in Minneapolis.

MORE CAPS: Capitals' free agents: Who stayed and who is moving on

See more team previews:

Pacific Division 
Anaheim Ducks 
Arizona Coyotes 
Calgary Flames 
Edmonton Oilers 
Los Angeles Kings
San Jose Sharks 
Vancouver Canucks

Central Division 
Chicago Blackhawks 
Colorado Avalanche
Dallas Stars
Nashville 8/12 
St. Louis Blues 8/13 
Winnipeg Jets 8/14

Atlantic Division 
Boston Bruins 8/15 
Buffalo Sabres 8/16 
Detroit Red Wings 8/17 
Florida Panthers 8/18 
Montreal Canadiens 8/19 
Ottawa Senators 8/20
Tampa Bay Lightning 8/21 
Toronto Maple Leafs 8/22

Metropolitan Division 
Carolina Hurricanes 8/23 
Columbus Blue Jackets 8/24 
New Jersey Devils 8/25 
New York Islanders 8/26 
New York Rangers 8/27 
Philadelphia Flyers 8/28 
Pittsburgh Penguins 8/29 
Washington Capitals 8/30

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

The Stanley Cup is not the only trophy that will be awarded at the end of the Stanley Cup Final series between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights. The Conn Smythe will also be given to the player deemed the most valuable to his team during the playoffs.

Who will that player be?

It's not hard to figure out who the frontrunner is right now. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't just been the best goalie in the playoffs, he's been the best player with a dominant postseason in which he has posted a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. He has been so dominant, he could win it even if Vegas loses the series.

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

The last player from the losing team to win the Conn Smythe was Jean-Sebastian Giguere from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003.

But what about the Caps?

Alex Ovechkin is the leader of Washington and has been absolutely dominant throughout the postseason. He even scored the series-clinching goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Surprisingly, however, Ovechkin does not lead the team in points through the playoffs. Evgeny Kuznetsov holds that edge with 24 points to Ovechkin's 22.

Will their offensive dominance propel them to win the Cup and the Conn Smythe? Will a different player emerge as the hero of the series?

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

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Twitter/City of Las Vegas

Las Vegas changes iconic welcome sign to include no capital letters

The Washington Capitals official #ALLCAPS hashtag started in 2017 during a Caps-Penguins game after the Pittsburgh Penguins' official Twitter account decided to tweet in all lowercase letters during the game. 

Now, as the Caps look to face the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup Final ahead of Game 1 Monday, Vegas has followed suit by changing their iconic "Welcome to Las Vegas" sign to include only lowercase letters, a jab at the Capitals #ALLCAPS.

Additionally, the City's official Twitter account has changed their handle to "the city of las vegas" without any capital letters and the hashtag #nocaps.

It will be interesting to see how the Capitals' official Twitter will respond...

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS: