After being ousted in five games by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks in the first round of the playoffs last season, the Minnesota Wild have been a wrongfully overlooked team throughout most of the current NHL year.
As of tonight, the Wild are leading the Western Conference wildcard race with 92 points, the Dallas Stars currently hold the second spot with 87 points, leaving most critics to speculate of Minnesota’s almost sure spot in the postseason.
But whereas the Wild ended up with the unlucky assignment of opening their 2013 playoffs against the then record setting Blackhawks, this year Minnesota will most likely play the winner of the Pacific Division. Although that race is between two thriving West Coast teams, the San Jose Sharks and the Anaheim Ducks, recent team play for the Wild suggests this year’s roster has what it takes to go far.
If there is one thing Minnesota has proved through a season of goalie juggling and a search for secondary scoring, it’s that they have the talent to not only play with the big kids, but to beat the big kids when it really matters — which is what the playoffs are all about
The Wild furthered their case on Saturday night against the Metropolitan Division Champion Pittsburgh Penguins on home ice, giving fans what might have been their most well played slaughtering of the season with a 4-0 victory over the visiting Penguins. Completely shutting down Pittsburgh is an almost insurmountable task, but Minnesota’s game was up to the challenge Saturday night, finding goals from players who have been left off the box score most of the season.
The secondary scoring found by the Wild against such a heavily deep team as Pittsburgh can only give Minnesota the type of confidence that they will surely need entering the playoffs as a wild card seed. But coach Mike Yeo‘s team has weathered every storm thrown their way this season and has still come out above water — it’s the type of story potential Stanley Cup champions are made of.