We have already covered the Chicago Blackhawks, now it’s time to check out their first round opponent. The Minnesota Wild are being represented by the crew at HockeyWilderness.com. Make sure to follow them as well on Twitter @HockeyWilderness.
They opened the questions to everyone at the site, so there will be multiple answers for each question.
1. The Minnesota Wild needed a victory in their season finale against the Colorado Avalanche to make the playoffs. Can they ride that momentum into this opening round series against the #1 seed Chicago Blackhawks?
- I’d doubt it. This hasn’t really been a team that is all that streaky, so they’ve not really ridden momentum either way this season.
- They don’t have a losing streak of over 4 games this year, and only had one winning streak of 3 or more (Their 7-game streak in March). Plus, you’d have thought they would have had momentum going against Edmonton after beating the Cup Champs. Look at how that worked. It was as crazy as magnets.
- I believe they can, the one thing the Wild have going for them is in April they absolutely sucked at home. So a couple of road games in Chicago may be just the swing they need to make things interesting.
- Yes, but they will have to work for it. The Blackhawks were an impressive team this season, and they’re only going to take this momentum into the playoffs. I’m not going to say that the Wild aren’t going to be able to win against a tough team like the Hawks, but it’s not going to come easy.
2. This season the Wild played pretty well against the Blackhawks. How did they do that?
- They played them early in the season and had a few breaks schedule wise. Then Heatley got hurt, Cullen got hurt, Zucker faded, etc.
- In the two of three games where this statement was true, the big factor was Backstrom. In a series where they’re likely to be out-shot, out-chanced, etc., the key (like in any playoff series) is going to be the goalie play. The Wild need Backstrom or Harding to be at their best to have a chance.
- They were able to clamp down defensively sans for 1 period of Chicago dominance. If they can play like they did, and figure out a way to score, this may not be a roll over and die situation for the Wild
- Our defense is what helped us out here. This was especially evident in our final home game against them back on April 9th. Even though we lost 1-0, it wasn’t as bad as when we got shutout by the Kings in LA 3-0.
3. All the buzz during the NHL off-season was the big move the Wild made to sign Zach Parise and Ryan Suter to monster contracts. Have these two had the kind of impact the Wild front office was hoping for?
- Yes, it’s arguable that they carried the Wild to the playoffs.
- Absolutely. Parise anchored the first line with Koivu, and without Suter, this team goes from shaky to disastrous on defense. The Wild don’t make the playoffs without either of them.
- They definitely have, along with a career year for Matt Cullen and the emergence of rookie defenseman Jonas Brodin. Suter carried the defense on his back after a slow start, and Parise’s work ethic is contagious.
- Hell yes. Parise is an absolute performer on our top line, and it has really been showing. Suter, on the other hand, had a slow start to our season, but has become one of our best defensemen.
4. It seems as if for the first time, the Wild were buyers at the trade deadline. They acquired the rugged goal scoring captain of the Buffalo Sabres, Jason Pominville. Although he has been out with a possible concussion, how big will he be for the Wild in the playoffs?
- If he’s 100% healthy, he could help the Wild get this to 5 or six games.
- If he returns, it’ll be huge. He gives the Wild three dependable scoring lines, and was one of their best players after the deadline.
- Pom Pom, assuming he’s good to go, adds crucial depth with the loss of Heatley. If he’s able to play in this series I would expect him to make some noise.
- Having him back for the start of the playoffs tomorrow night would be HUGE. He had a little bit of a slow start as well, but he has really started to break out of his shell here as a member of the Wild. His performance (as of right now at least) isn’t first line material, so I think Yeo made a smart move by putting him down on the third.
5. With the loss of Danny Heatley, who has stepped up in his absence?
- They sputtered mightily since he went down, but you’d have to think that Torrey Mitchell really stepped up his game.
- Pominville, which is why he’s been so important. Coyle’s been slowly improving in the first line role that we all thought Heatley would take, though he’s been in that spot since long before Heatley got hurt. There are some who think Heatley is more of a liability than he’s worth though, and while I don’t fully agree with that, his complete lack of speed is frustrating.
- I’m not sure anyone can park in front of the net like Heatley did, aside from Parise of course. One thing is for certain, we’ve gotten faster with him being out, but that doesn’t always lead to goals either.
- I would have to say either Clutterbuck or Setoguchi. Their performance lately has been leaps and bounds better than earlier this season.
6. If there was one player to be the hero for the Wild in the playoffs who would it be?
- Zach Parise
- Going dark horse, I’d keep my eye on Devin Setoguchi. He’ll have Matt Cullen on his line, whom he’s clicked with all year, can get on a phenomenal streak, and has been a playoff hero before with the Sharks.
- I’m going to say somebody like Cal Clutterbuck or Pierre-Marc Bouchard has to really step up for us to have a shot here. If the 2nd and 3rd line can get going this series may go on longer than the Hawks would like, and that is only a good thing for the Wild.
- It would have to be Parise. He was successful for the Devils in the playoffs last year, so I think he could turn this success over to the Wild this year.
7. Is Nick Backstrom capable to stealing this series in net for the Wild?
- No. He’s been very inconsistent this year. The only thing you can count on with him is playing well after getting pulled.
- I think he showed it a bit in the playoff series against the Ducks. He won a game with a .966 SV%, and lost two with a .941 and .921 SV%. Will he be able to pitch four shutouts? Probably not. But if the Wild can put anything on the scoreboard, he has the capability to give a chance to win any night.
- Very much so, yes. Although he has seemed to struggle at times, those time generally fall around defensive lapses and being unable to clear the zone. As long as Michael Russo doesn’t get in the way of his turtle walk pre-game, he will be tough to solve.
- I wouldn’t go as far to say that he will “steal” this series. Backstrom’s performance during this season was inconsistent to say the least. But when he’s having a good night, things really can go our way.
8. Series prediction?
- Hawks in five.
- My prediction? Paiiiin. For the Wild. Hawks win in 5.
- The homer in me says Wild in 7, the realist in me says Hawks in 5.
- Wild win in 7. Again, this isn’t going to come easy for them. They really have to scratch and claw their way through these games if they want to move on to the next round.