Tomorrow night, Minnesota will once again host Colorado in the Playoffs, but there’s an added twist: it’s the first elimination game of the series.
With its back against the wall, the Wild needs to leave it all on the ice tomorrow night. As netminder Darcy Kuemper noted, the season depends on it.
“We need to,” Kuemper said. “We’ve got nothing to save it for. Our season depends on it tomorrow. I expect us to come out giving it our all.
“It’s win or go home so I think everyone is pretty fired up for it.”
With last night’s 4-3 overtime loss in Colorado, the Wild faces a 3-2 deficit in the best-of-seven series. While the playoffs are a different beast, the Wild is looking to draw on the adversity its faced this past season and use the experience to its advantage.
According Head Coach Mike Yeo, Minnesota’s ability to bounce back is important, but what’s more important is how the team done it time and again this season.
“We’ve done it by guy after guy playing big in their game, but guy after guy going out and doing the things that their teammates need them to do, and playing for each other, trusting each other, trusting our process of doing it,” Yeo said. “We don’t need a bunch of guys to come out and be heroes tomorrow. We need a bunch of guys to come out and be really strong in our game, and when we do that someone will have a chance to be a hero.”
Yeo noted that last night there was a dip in the Wild’s urgency and it got caught looking ahead a little bit. As a result, the Avs gave them a dose of reality.
Like an unwanted hangover after a long night at a local watering hole, some of the feelings from last night are still lingering about. But Yeo hopes that after meeting at the rink today and putting in some work, those feelings will dissipate.
“That’s the challenge in the playoffs, to put it behind you and move on,” Yeo said. “It’s not easy, there’s no question. It’d be very easy for us to sit here and say we deserve better, whether that’s in the game or in the series. That’s a useless feeling for us right now.”
As its done all series, the Wild needs to move on from last night’s events and up it’s urgency level — a phrase even Yeo lamented using too often today — back on home ice in Game 6.
“All that matters is the next play, next shift, next game,” Mikko Koivu said. “That’s all we can worry about.
“We can’t think too far ahead. We have to live in the moment.”
“In a game like this, our focus has to be fully on ourselves,” Yeo added. “Lets give ourselves the best chance by going out and making sure we’re playing our best game. We can’t do that if we’re thinking about them. “
One of the hot topics that unavoidably made its way back to the State of Hockey is the six-on-five play. On two occasions this series, in Game 1 and Game 5, the Avalanche has tied things up late in the game with the extra attacker. The Wild did kill off a similar set up in Game 4, where it was a six-on-four, but has yet to accomplish the feat on the road.
It’s a set up the Wild can practice, but there’s no way to match the desperation of the live-game action, according to Yeo. For Ryan Suter, the key is to protect the middle of the ice.
“I think we got a little stretched out there,” Suter said. “I chased behind the net and I probably should have stopped in front. [Jonas Brodin] was reading to go to the far post, he probably could have stayed in the middle. Our guys probably could have came back to the middle more. It’s a little different but you want to protect the middle of the ice because that’s where they’re going to score from.”
Another topic was last night’s officiating. Yeo and co., noted it’s a matter they’d rather not dwell on.
“Everybody is making mistakes; so do we,” Koivu said. “It’s not our job to worry about the refs; that’s the League. I think they do a good job on that. Us players, we just play the game. Calls go back and forth. They missed some calls on us, they missed some calls on them. I’m sure it’s the same in every series.”
With the ups and downs through five games in the series, there are constant challenges teams have to deal with mentally, emotionally and physically. Tomorrow is no exception. But Yeo wants his team to embrace each challenge, because it all adds to the bigger picture, making one unforgettable experience.
“We have been a pretty good team this year when tested, when we’ve needed a response,” Yeo said. “Guys should welcome that opportunity. This is a challenge; this is playoff hockey and this is what makes it great. It’s not just great because things go easy and things go well. It’s great because you have to fight through the hard times and the difficulties. That’s what makes it so rewarding. We have to embrace that challenge.”