The Stanley Cup Playoffs are here, and the Minnesota Wild has a horse in the race. The Wild are the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference Playoffs, and they’ll travel to Dallas for Game 1 Thursday night.
Sure, the Wild struggled down the stretch and backed into a playoff spot with the Colorado Avalanche playing worse. But now that they’re in, the regular season means nothing. All that matters is finding a way to win four games before the Stars do.
That’s much easier said than done. The Stars finished the regular season the second-best team in the NHL with 109 points. But again, all that matters is that the Wild are in. They’re big underdogs, but here are four reasons why the Wild can pull off the upset and advance. The series winner advances to face either St. Louis or Chicago in the Western Conference Semifinals.
UPDATE: This list was compiled before the news that Zach Parise, Thomas Vanek and Erik Haula would miss Game 1 due to injuries.
Wild Need Dubnyk To Get Hot
There is no better way to win in the playoffs than to have a hot goaltender. Devan Dubnyk has played well for the Wild for the most part, but he’ll need to be at his best for the Wild to have a chance to beat the Dallas Stars. For the regular season, he finished with a 36-26-6 record that included five shutouts. He recorded a 2.33 goals against average and a .918 save percentage. He’ll need his best play of the season, much better than last year’s stretch in the playoffs, for the Wild to get past the first round.
How They Got To Playoffs Doesn’t Matter
Fans are frustrated that the Wild didn’t win and earn their way into the postseason. Some even say they don’t deserve to be one of the eight teams left, and they’re probably right. But the reality is they are in, and now that they are, it doesn’t matter how they got there. Things are far from great with the team right now, but that can all change by getting a win in one of the first two games against Dallas. Teams have backed in before and done well, and the Wild hasn’t won since beating the Blackhawks March 29. That’s a losing skid of five games, so we might as well just forget about the regular season.
L.A. Kings Won Stanley Cup as No. 8 Seed
The 2011-12 L.A. Kings proved you don’t have to be a top seed to win the Stanley Cup. In fact, they did it as the No. 8 seed in the Western Conference. And it’s not the first time in hockey that it’s happened. The San Jose Sharks won the Cup as the No. 8 seed in the 1992-93 season. The 2009-10 Montreal Canadians were the No. 8 seed in the Eastern Conference and to the finals before losing to the Philadelphia Flyers. So while the Wild has an uphill climb, it’s not impossible to win in the playoffs.
Home Crowd Will Have Factor In Playoffs
Fans at Xcel Energy Center have gotten frustrated with their favorite hockey team, and rightfully so. They haven’t played well and haven’t been consistent for most of the season. But the Minnesota Wild is in the playoffs, and the team needs its fans now more than ever. There is a reason the Wild calls itself the team of 18,000-plus: Xcel Energy Center is packed on a regular basis, and a hostile environment that fans create for opponents not only gives the other team troubles, it can give the Wild an adrenaline boost.
It hasn’t been an ideal season for the Wild, but with all that said they are still a playoff team. Anything can happen in the playoffs, so a regular season that was frustrating at times can be forgotten with what would be a huge upset in the first round. If that happens, who knows how far the Wild can go.