You only need to glance at their faces to know that Playoff season is over a week old.
Some players are sporting magnificent beards. Kyle Brodziak and Justin Fontaine look like they’ve soaked in all the vitamin manliness possible with full, thriving chin-whiskers. Others are trying their best. With wisps of faint hairs or scraggly patches here or there — it’s playoff beard season.
As Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo put it, it’s felt like a week since Game 3.
It’s only been two days, but it’s the first time this series the Wild has had a two-day break between games. Not only that, everyone has to patiently play the waiting game for tonight’s puck drop at 8:30 p.m.
Coming off a thrilling 1-0 overtime victory in Game 3 on Monday, the Minnesota Wild gets a chance to even the best-of-seven series against the Colorado Avalanche at Xcel Energy Center tomorrow night.
The Minnesota Wild has recalled the following players from the Iowa Wild of the American Hockey League (AHL): forwards Raphael Bussieres, Jake Dowell, Tyler Graovac, Carson McMillan and Zack Phillips; defensemen Steven Kampfer and Jon Landry and goaltender Johan Gustafsson.
Bussieres, 20, collected 19 points (5-14=19) and 51 penalty minutes (PIM) in 61 games during his first season with Iowa.
Dowell, 29, had 19 points (7-12=19) and 56 PIM in 57 games with Iowa. He was named the Fred T. Hunt Memorial Award recipient as the AHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of sportsmanship, determination and dedication to hockey on April 11, 2014. Dowell also appeared in one game with Minnesota this season at Chicago on April 3, 2014.
Graovac, 20, led Iowa rookies in scoring with 25 points (13-12=25) in 64 games.
Gustafsson, 22, went 12-20-4 with a 2.98 goals-against average (GAA), a .903 save percentage (SV%) and one shutout in 40 games with Iowa.
Kampfer, 25, recorded 26 points (6-20=26) and 48 PIM in 69 games with Iowa.
Landry, 30, notched 18 assists in 50 games and led the team with a plus-10 rating.
McMillan, 25, tallied 28 points (12-16=28) in 68 games with Iowa and skated in one game with Minnesota vs. New Jersey on Nov. 3, 2013.
Phillips, 21, ranked second on Iowa in scoring this season with 33 points (12-21=33), including four power-play goals in 76 games.
Last night, the Wild topped the Avs in Game 3 in dominating fashion. Minnesota outshot, outhit and simply outplayed Colorado. The only thing missing was a few more tallies on the scoreboard in the Wild’s favor.
The Minnesota Wild returns to the State of Hockey for Game 3 hoping a change of scenery brings a different outcome after falling behind 2-0 in the best-of-seven series against the Colorado Avalanche.
Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo started off his Easter Sunday press conference confirming that the Wild would indeed be starting a goaltender tomorrow.
It’s not time to hit the panic button, State of Hockey, but it is time to hit the reset button. After a stunning Game 1 overtime loss, the Minnesota Wild looks to even the best-of-seven series tonight against the Colorado Avalanche.
Yesterday’s overtime loss against the Colorado Avalanche in Game 1, after the Minnesota Wild led by a pair after two periods, was a gut-punch. However, it was far from a knockout blow, as the Wild was back on the ice at Pepsi Center for practice today.
While it was a devastating way to lose a game, the club couldn’t dwell on the loss with Game 2 coming up tomorrow. Minnesota seemingly was able to leave it behind them as they prepared for a shot to even the best-of-seven series tomorrow night in Denver.
“It’s not easy,” Wild Captain Mikko Koivu said. “That’s hockey. If it’s easy, you’re in the wrong spot, I think.
“Now it’s all about tomorrow and I think we feel pretty good about ourselves and our game.”
What made the Game 1 defeat an especially bitter pill to swallow was the fact that the team was up heading into the third and in control of the contest. It was Minnesota mistakes that allowed the Avs to get back into the game and eventually win in overtime. Often times, the difference in the playoffs comes down to one or two small plays. The margin for error is razor thin and execution is the difference between winning or losing.
“We have to have a mentality that every play is the difference in a hockey game, no question,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “But at the same time, you also have ‘the next play mentality’ or ‘the next shift.’”
In this case, the Wild will have a ‘next game’ mentality, and despite the disappointing end to the series opener, the attention was already shifted to Game 2. If you’ve followed this team closely all season, you’ll know its ability to bounce back in the face of adversity has been a key asset.
In order to have playoff success, a team can’t drown in the sorrow of a loss, no matter how difficult.
“That’s the challenge, right? That’s the playoffs,” Yeo said. “The word resilient has been tossed around a lot of times when we’ve talked about our group. You’re going to face adversity in the playoffs.
“We’re confident we’re a group that’s capable of that.”
Erik Haula’s confidence has grown leaps and bounds in his first season with the Wild. Playing in his first playoff game yesterday, the rookie scored on a beautiful rush, using his speed to cut wide, and then slid a backhand through goaltender Seymon Varlamov’s 5-hole. Today, he was moved up to the third line between Matt Cooke and Nino Niederreiter.
“Haulsy played a really good game, so he deserves a chance,” Yeo said. “Matching up against a speed team, I’m interested to see how he does there.”
Kyle Brodziak was moved to the fourth line in today’s practice between Cody McCormick and Stephane Veilleux. The Wild’s bench boss said that it doesn’t mean the line changes are set in stone, but will likely start that way for Game 2.
In Game 1, the Avs played extremely physical in the first period, especially in the opening 10 minutes. However, its pace slowed as the game dragged on. The Wild, especially the blue line, wants to match and surpass that physical play in Game 2.
“It gets us more engaged in the game,” Prosser said. “We’ve got to bear down defensively in our zone and have a better, aggressive mind set.”
Yeo also thinks that the Wild gave the Avs, especially its skilled forwards, a bit too much room to maneuver and get comfortable in the offensive zone, something they took advantage of.
“I think we had too much respect for them, personally,” Yeo said. “I look at situations where we’re in D-zone and we were on our heels when we’re usually on our toes, we’re jumping, we’re pressuring. We always talk about our structure, but it doesn’t mean anything if you’re giving time and space to great players.
“I know that we can pressure the puck harder; I know that we can take straight lines and go through guys harder; and that’s one area certainly we’ll look to be better at.”
While the Wild goes into Game 2 trailing in the series, there are still some positives to take from yesterday. If Minnesota limits its own mistakes, it has the series lead, but that’s not what happened. The power play scored while killing all four Colorado power play opportunities. The team weathered the Avalanche’s first period storm and responded in the second. With plenty of series left, the Wild looks to build upon Game 1.
“I thought we did a lot of things well and I thought there were a lot of positives to take [from Game 1],” Prosser said. “You’ve got to give them credit, but we’ve got to get back to our game right from the drop of the puck tomorrow.
“I’m confident we will and I think we’re going to play a hard competitive game.”
The State of Hockey might be feeling a little nostalgic about the Minnesota Wild’s first round opponent, the Colorado Avalanche.