Mike Yeo’s three-year run in Minnesota has been anything but easy. The Wild coach has had to navigate key injuries to his roster, his own growing pains in his first NHL head coaching job and the considerable expectations brought forth when the team’s owner spent nearly $200 million on two players two summers ago.
The season may be over, but the excitement from the Minnesota Wild’s playoff run is carrying over. Kyle Domin signed on with the Wild as an account executive right before the playoffs. He didn’t know what he was in for.
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.
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.
On Tuesday night’s Game 3 of the Wild-versus-Blackhawks series, the Wild reported attendance was a record 19,416. So, Ruth and Greg asked: How does the Wild determine game attendance? “We get a report at the end of the night that tells us how many tickets were sold and that’s the number, like every other sports team, we put out,” said Wild spokesman Ryan Stanzel.
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.
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.