The Minnesota Wild will bring the Stanley Cup to the State of Hockey for the first time this season.
The key player in April, May and June for the Wild will be goaltender Devan Dubnyk, and what happened to him in March will be the reason.
Dubnyk struggled for most of the month, and in turn, so did the Wild. But he sat for consecutive games March 30 and April 1, allowing him to "push the resent button," according to coach Bruce Boudreau.
"There's never been more than one day where we can sit and analyze everything and then go over the mistakes in a practice because we're always looking ahead to the next game," Boudreau told the Pioneer Press. "It was good that he had those three days off."
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Since returning to the lineup, Dubnyk has looked more like the All-Star goaltender the Wild have grown familiar with. He's backstopped them to three straight wins for the first time since Jan. 24-31, won his 40th game and finished with a 2.25 goals-against average and 2.23 save percentage.
But the Wild are more than just outstanding goaltending. They have a deep, talented group of forwards that features four 20-goal scorers, and five with more than 50 points.
Topping the list is a rejuvenated Eric Staal, who this time last season was struggling to find a role on the wing with the New York Rangers. This season, back at his natural center position, he leads the Wild with 27 goals and is second with 65 points.
In his fifth NHL season Mikael Granlund (69 points) has developed into a premier playmaker, while Nino Niederreiter (25) and Jason Zucker (22) set personal NHL-bests in goals.
Adding depth are Charlie Coyle, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville and Zach Parise.
The Wild also get a big contribution from their defense. Ryan Suter, in his 12th NHL season, plays as much as ever (26:55 per game), while playing all 82 games for the second straight season. Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella join him to give the Wild one of the best defense units in the League.
Many will scoff at coach Bruce Boudreau's playoff struggles, including his 1-7 record in Game 7s. But it should be noted that four of those seven losses were by one goal. That's a bounce of the puck in more than half the games that didn't go his way.
This season that luck changes, and Boudreau and the Wild win the Stanley Cup.