Well, technically, the Wild locked up a playoff berth with the Phoenix Coyotes losing last night — but that’s too anti-climatic. So let’s make this more dramatic and say the Wild paved their own path to the playoffs by earning two points against the Boston Bruins, the team with the most points in the NHL, with an unforgettable home win in a shootout.
Real quickly, how amazing is Tuukka Rask? Wow did he make some amazing saves to keep the Wild from winning in regulation and overtime.
As stated, the Coyotes losing locked the Wild into the playoffs — however, the Wild winning in dramatic, comeback fashion led to the Minnesota squad locking up the first Wild Card seed (#7 overall in the West). Not only did the win lock up a playoff seed, it also kept Minnesota riding high, coming back from one goal deficits twice in the game to overcome the NHL’s best team.
After arguably the two worst back-to-back losses of the year, a 5-2 loss to the lowly Canucks and a 5-1 trouncing by the St. Louis Blues, the Wild have rebounded in spectacular fashion. The Wild are 5-0-1 in their last six games, a sign the team is gelling at the perfect time. And Ilya Bryzgalov, what a great trade deadline move he has turned out to be, filling in the past six games wonderfully for the struggling (and injured) Darcy Kuemper.
Not only that, but in this six game streak the Wild faced many challenging opponents:
They beat down the Phoenix Coyotes, the team then chasing the Wild in the playoff standings, they outlasted the playoff bound LA Kings, they took the (depleted) Blackhawks to a shootout by tying the game in the last two minutes of regulation (but lost in the SO), they absolutely destroyed the (overrated?) Pittsburgh Penguins, they squeaked out a win versus the Winnipeg Jets, and last night rose to the challenge and took two points from the Bruins.
That’s a formidable stretch of opponents, and the Wild marched through without blinking an eye. To say the least, the team is peaking at the right time — and even better, the team is finally scoring goals to give the defense a bit more confidence.
In this six game stretch, Wild fans are also getting a dose of something we have not seen much this season: the team fighting back to tie and win contests. In those six games, after being down a goal, the Wild came back and tied the opposition six times. So while the defense has looked pretty good all season, the offense is finally kicking into high gear. The first two lines look like they can compete with the best in the West come playoff time.
However, the true test of how far the Wild have come will take place on Thursday when they rematch the St. Louis Blues. Any Wild fan who watched that 5-1 beat down on March 27th can attest for how poorly the Minnesota squad played. In fact, St. Louis has had Minnesota’s “number” all season.
On that March 27th matchup, it looked like Minnesota had given up — now, with six games going the right way for the Wild (and the Blues have lost four of their last six), the rematch should be a good barometer for what is to come. The Wild are hungry for revenge and to prove they are not four goals worse than the Blues — St. Louis needs to right the ship a bit before the playoffs and prove their 5-1 destruction of Minnesota was no fluke.
Mark the game on your calendars, because if the Blues fall to the #2 seed (Colorado and Anaheim are nipping at their heels), they will be the first round opponent of the Wild come playoff time. The Wild need to prove they belong — otherwise, it could be another short playoff run for your Minnesota Wild.