Following Wild games, Manager of Digital Content Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 4-3 loss against the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 4 of the Second Round:
“Wild men who caught and sang the sun in flight,
And learn, too late, they grieve it on its way,
Do not go gentle into that good night.”
— Dylan Thomas, Do Not Go Gentle Into That Good Night.
Despite coming into the game down 3-0, the Minnesota Wild did not go gentle into that good night and raged against its arch nemesis, the Chicago Blackhawks, until the final horn. With Xcel Energy Center half empty in the third period, the Wild was trailing 4-1 with three minute to go in the contest. Minnesota scored a pair of goals off the sticks of Jason Pominville and Nino Niederreiter, and had a couple of good chances to send the game into overtime. However, the club came up short against the Hawks for the third straight Stanley Cup Playoffs.
If you’ve followed this team all season, the late Game 4 rally shouldn’t have caught you by surprise. The team was left for dead in the middle of the season, but fought against the dying light to earn the first wild card playoff spot in the tough Western Conference. Before the series, I don’t think anyone predicted it ending in a sweep. Regardless of the outcome, the team can keep its head up; it might have been a disappointing end, but it was quite a remarkable season…
In my fourth season working for the Minnesota Wild, this one probably had the biggest swings, but was also the most rewarding. In mid-January, it looked like we would be able to start making vacation plans for April. But with the acquisition of goaltender Devan Dubnyk, the Wild rose from the ashes like a phoenix, climbing the Western Conference standings and eventually clinching its third consecutive berth in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
This was about as likeable a group as I’ve had the pleasure to cover in my time in the organization. General Manager Chuck Fletcher has spoken about trying to bring in character guys and it showed throughout the season. Even during the team’s lowest points, the players and Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo still answered every dumb question I asked (sure, they might’ve been a little more brief, but they never gave the cold shoulder even if they probably wanted to). The beautiful thing about sports: there’s always next season. So here’s looking to 2015-16.
With the Wild in need of a spark, Yeo shook up the lines like they were a bowl of chicken, beans, rice and guacamole at Chipotle (yeah, I know that gauc is extra). Charlie Coyle, who had spent a majority of the season in the middle, moved to the wing with Mikko Koivu and Jason Zucker. Niederreiter dropped down to the third line with Kyle Brodziak and Thomas Vanek. Erik Haula re-entered the lineup between Jordan Schroeder and Matt Cooke. On the blue line, Nate Prosser came in for Jordan Leopold.
Throughout the season, whether it was due to injuries, struggles, slumps or mumps, Yeo had to shuffle players in and out of the lineup. The club was prepared to switch things up on the fly and did it tonight without missing a beat. Even when players were out of the lineup, they never complained or brought down the rest of the club. Haula, who was in and out of the lineup this season, scored his first goal of the postseason. He talked about using this year as a learning experience; I’d expect that goes for the rest of the club, as well.
We saw the emergence of defenseman Matt Dumba this season. The 2012 first-round pick struggled with inconsistency in the first half of the year, but blossomed after a little bit of seasoning with the club’s American Hockey League affiliate, the Iowa Wild. He was recalled on Jan. 29 when the Wild played against his hometown team, the Calgary Flames, and never looked back.
Tonight, he registered his first career playoff assist, using a rocket shot after a faceoff win to get the puck through traffic. Haula went to the net after pulling it back and knocked the rebound past Crawford.
In his first Stanley Cup Playoffs the rookie never looked timid, something you have to like about him. In Game 3, the defenseman caught Patrick Kane along the boards and knocked him to the ice with a hard body check. None too happy, Kane stared him down with a side-eye that would’ve made his musical double, Prince, double take. However, Dumba wasn’t fazed, and did the same to Kane tonight in the first period. Gaining postseason experience can be invaluable to a young player. Hopefully, the 20-year-old goes into the offseason with the right attitude and continues to improve over the summer.
Well, it took five games but you finally did it Wild fans. The giant State of Hockey flag made a hot lap around the arena right-side up. In the pregame ceremony during the postseason, the Wild’s game operations unraveled an extra-large SoH flag to be passed around between fans in the lower bowl of Xcel Energy Center.
Of course, directing a flag, roughly the size of Rhode Island, from section to section is much harder said than done. Through the first four games the flag was flown, the trouble spot seemed to be the second curve. It was like an inexperienced driver trying to switch lanes on the highway. The flag would often come out of the turn sideways and even completely upside down on an occasion.
However, tonight fans stepped up with a clutch performance, navigating the lower-bowl slopes like a slalom skier. #ProudofYou.