The lowest point of the Minnesota Wild’s season came on Jan. 13, a 7-2 drubbing to the Pittsburgh Penguins. It was the team’s sixth consecutive loss and it seemed like things were coming off the rails. The next day, the Wild acquired goaltender Devan Dubnyk from the Arizona Coyotes and the team took off like a bullet train, chugging its way into the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
So, following a 6-1 loss in Game 5 of its opening round series against the St. Louis Blues, the club has some perspective on what it takes to turn things around in a hurry.
“At the point in January, if we could’ve said, ‘Hey, we’ll be in the first round tied 2-2,’ I think we would’ve taken it,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “Last night after the game a lot of negative thoughts go through your mind and then today you wake up and the series is tied 2-2 and now it’s a best of three.”
Did you catch yesterday’s overtime classic between the Chicago Blackhawks and Nashville Predators that went well into the night? How about the Canadian blood feud going on North of the Border between the Calgary Flames and Vancouver Canucks?
Minnesota Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo hasn’t caught much of the rest of the happenings around the National Hockey League during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Just like Sweet Brown, the bench boss ain’t got time for that.
Because fighting in hockey is legal, sometimes encouraged, often the sport’s toughness is equated with a player’s ability to throw a punch. However, through the first three games of its first round Stanley Cup Playoffs series against the St. Louis Blues, the Minnesota Wild is showing its grit between whistles.
“There’s different kinds of toughness,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “I think we have good team toughness. Blocking a shot, it takes a tough guy to do that. Taking a hit to make a play, it takes a tough guy to do that stuff.”
It’s the hard plays, where an individual sacrifices his body for the good of the team, that add up to a series victory.
The Minnesota Wild knows the atmosphere inside Xcel Energy Center will be electric as its first round Stanley Cup Playoff series against the St. Louis Blues moves to the State of Hockey.
Tied 1-1 after opening the series in St. Louis, the team that has gotten on the board first in each game has gone on to win the contest. With the vitality of the home crowd, the Wild wants to get off to another good start and get the home fans engaged early.
However, a seven-game Stanley Cup Playoffs series between teams can be as strategic as a match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky.
“We’re trying to do the same exact thing to them that they’re trying to do to us,” Minnesota Wild defenseman Jordan Leopold said. “It’s just a matter of the chess match and playing percentage hockey and playing the odds. ”
Yesterday, the Wild captured the first piece in its opening-round series against the St. Louis Blues, 4-2, at Scottrade Center. The club executed its game plan and bottled up the Blues, allowing only 21 shots on goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
It’s only been four days since the Minnesota Wild closed out the 2014-15 National Hockey League regular season, but that’s an eternity in hockey years — especially for a team primed for the opportunity to chase Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The Wild begins the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs tonight, but will wait just a little longer with an 8:30 p.m. against Central Division champ, St. Louis Blues.
“Finally, it’s been a long week,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said to start off his media availability after the team’s morning skate at Scottrade Center.
If the National Hockey League regular season is a crock-pot, having time to simmer over seven months, then a Stanley Cup Playoffs series is a flash fryer with teams trying to scald their opponents in four wins.
The Minnesota Wild expects the series with the St. Louis Blues to be tougher than a cheap steak. St. Louis plays a bruising style, but physical hockey is pretty typical come April. For the Wild, it will be important to stick with its own recipe for success.
If goals were a stock, their value would skyrocket every April during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With 16 teams trying to recess the market in scoring opportunities, the club that can blue-chip-in its chances will see the greatest dividends in the postseason.
In the last three years, the National Hockey League has averaged 5.33 goals per game during the regular season. During that span, the goals per game average has dipped to 5.16 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While those numbers might look insignificant, every marker matters when the payoff is a Lord Stanley’s silver chalice just as every penny matters on Wall Street.
For six and a half months, the Minnesota Wild battled for a chance to get to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third straight season. After the regular season ended in St. Louis on Saturday, the Wild will have three days long days before starting its Round 1 series against those same Blues on Thursday.
Minnesota used today as a long preparation practice, even needing a much-mocked dry scrape before proceeding to power play work. The Wild has a familiar foe in the Blues and even with the layoff, there’s not too much to be gleamed before the series commences.
“It’s not like we’re going to unearth any great secrets here. There are maybe a couple of adjustments they make,” Yeo said. “The core of their game will be the same, we have a good feeling of an understanding of the players they have. We definitely have a high respect level for that team, but it comes a point as this week goes on, we have to turn our attention much more towards ourselves.”
With only one game remaining in the regular season, the Minnesota Wild’s Round 1 Stanley Cup Playoff opponent is still up in the air. Though, the Wild isn’t concerning itself with juggling the Western Conference scenarios. The team’s focus is not on the multiple balls in play in the West, but on its final foe, the St. Louis Blues.
Regardless, Minnesota’s game in St. Louis at 2 p.m. tomorrow at Scottrade Center will have playoff implications and the Gateway City is a possible destination for the opening round. Minnesota can still climb into the third spot in the Central Division with a win against the Blues and a Chicago Blackhawks loss to the Colorado Avalanche. If that’s the case, Minnesota will travel to Nashville for Game 1, where if just topped the Predators on Thursday, 4-2.