As a fan of Minnesota pro sports teams, excluding the Twins, this time of year really sucks. While the weather is getting warmer, the winter teams are wrapping up their regular seasons, usually with no playoffs to look forward to. However, for the second year in a row, the Minnesota Wild will be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And I couldn’t be more excited. I’m not the biggest fan of hockey, but I enjoy watching the Wild’s regular season games on my laptop when the Timberwolves aren’t playing.
A couple of months ago, the playoffs weren’t even in the picture for the Wild. The team was in a major tailspin and they were clinging to their season.
In mid-Janaury, general manager Chuck Fletcher pulled off a trade that saved Minnesota’s season.
The Wild acquired Devan Dubnyk from the Arizona Coyotes for a third-round draft pick. I don’t know how valuable third-round drafts are in hockey, but I’m guessing it holds a lot of value. Minnesota would find out that the return it got on its end of the trade was worth a lot more than a third-round draft pick.
Since acquiring Dubnyk, the Wild has been on a tear. Not only did they get back into the playoff picture, they also finished with 100 points for only the second time in the franchise’s existence.
As a fan, and living in Iowa, I’m excited and thankful that the Stanley Cup Playoffs have arrived. I’m excited to watch more meaningful hockey not because I like it, but because the playoffs are always exciting and are even more exciting when your home-state team makes it.
A lot of people believe Minnesota is a Stanley Cup contender, but I know better than to think that. Minnesota has a lot of work to do if it wants to make it past any round in this year’s playoffs.
The Wild will start their playoff run tonight against the St. Louis Blues in St. Louis.
Until this season, the Blues were a team that had three strong regular seasons in a row but has flamed in the first round the last two years. This year, the Blues were very good, again. They tied with the Anaheim Ducks for the regular season points lead (109) and won 51 games this year.
Minnesota and St. Louis have split four meetings this season, and St. Louis beat Minnesota in the regular season finale on Sunday.
In hockey, I don’t know how much weight that holds from a mental and emotional standpoint. Hockey is a different kind of sport, one where the most talented team doesn’t always prevail.
If Minnesota is able to survive St. Louis, it will get the winner of the Nashville Predators/Chicago Blackhawks series.
Minnesota lost its first two games to Nashville in the regular season, but has rebounded nicely against the Predators. The Wild has won the last three meetings between the two clubs.
Chicago is a different story, and the two teams have developed a rivalry over the past few seasons. The Blackhawks eliminated the Wild in last year’s Stanley Cup Playoffs, 4-2, and Chicago holds a 3-2 edge in the season series this year. The Blackhawks have been banged up this season and are whimpering into the playoffs after losing four games in a row.
As for the rest of the teams in the Western Conference, I don’t care for them.
I’m focused on St. Louis and I want to see Minnesota advance.
I’m sure the State of Hockey is hoping for the same.