Of the four major professional sports leagues in the US, the NHL gets the least amount of coverage in the media, with fans and on television. With the Eastern and Western Conference Finals both going to Game 6, now is a perfect time to start watching hockey and here are 5 reasons why.
It wasn’t supposed to end this way. Going into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, many people didn’t give the Minnesota Wild a chance to win it all. The Wild finished with 98 points on the season, clinching the first wild-card spot in the Western Conference and a date with the Central Division champion Colorado Avalanche.
Throughout an up-and-down season, the Minnesota Wild lagged behind the leaders of the Central Division. With an extended test against two of the top teams in the playoffs, though, the Wild clearly passed.
It’s been a stomach-churning couple weeks for the Minnesota Wild and their fans. The team was decided underdogs against the Colorado Avalanche, and much more so against the Chicago Blackhawks.
Higher-seeded teams with the lead in a best-of-seven series over the history of the NHL playoffs have had plenty of trouble putting the opponent away. Sometimes the brink of elimination has been what truly gets a team going. Consider the Chicago Blackhawks, though, when their foe is down. An ability to swoop down and delivering the finishing victory has become a clear trait of this team since coach Joel Quenneville took over and stars Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews arrived.
Former NHL head coach Barry Melrose has a saying that gets mentioned frequently each spring during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. “This time of year your best players have to be your best players,” Melrose said. That was the case in Chicago for Game 5 as the Blackhawks rallied from a 1-0 deficit, defeating Minnesota 2-1. Chicago now leads the series 3 games to 2.
Jonathan Toews had a rebound goal early in the third period, and the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Minnesota Wild 2-1 on Sunday night to take a 3-2 series lead in the Western Conference semifinals. Bryan Bickell also scored and Corey Crawford made 27 saves as Chicago bounced back from consecutive losses in Minnesota that handed the momentum to the Wild heading into Game 5.
Chicago Blackhawks forward Brandon Bollig was suspended for two games Saturday by the NHL for boarding Minnesota defenseman Keith Ballard in Game 4 of the Western Conference semifinal series. Bollig received a minor penalty for boarding in the second period of Chicago’s 4-2 road loss Friday night.
Two hours before Game 7 in Colorado, Nino Niederreiter sat alone in the stands. Just a man, his thoughts and his hockey sticks. It’s a routine he started a few years ago and does before every game; sitting in the seats, taping his sticks and getting focused.
The Wild left St. Paul, Minn. on Saturday with a very different feeling than when they arrived earlier in the week. “Obviously our guys are feeling pretty good right now,” coach Mike Yeo said.
in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, Keith Ballard helped the Minnesota Wild limit the Chicago Blackhawks, which is a big part of the game plan. “I think with their personal … there’s more shots that become dangerous. They don’t always have to be odd-man rushes or back-door plays or stuff like that – they’ve got a lot of skill in their lineup,” Ballard said.
The Minnesota Wild are bracing for more aggression from the Chicago Blackhawks. Minnesota won a slower Game 3 to cut Chicago’s lead in the series to 2-1. Game 4 is Friday, and the Blackhawks will be fired up to get their attack back on track.
History has a tendency to repeat itself. For the third playoff series in a row, the Minnesota Wild went into Game 3 at Xcel Energy Center looking for their first win, being down two games to none. And thanks to a pair of Finns, the Wild got that victory on home ice, defeating the Chicago Blackhawks 4-0. Chicago now leads the series two games to one with Game 4 on Friday night.
The Minnesota Wild have done a good job of putting the brakes on Chicago’s high-flying offense through the first three games of the Western Conference semifinals. The Wild trail 2-1 in the series, but they have not allowed the Blackhawks to get more than 22 shots on net in a game yet. Now they get tough guy Matt Cooke back to help keep the defensive pressure going.
The Minnesota Wild are at a point where they are counting on the home ice carrying them. “That’s the plan. We know in the first round we played pretty well here and we’re excited to play here. But, you know, that doesn’t guarantee much,” said forward Zach Parise.