Following Wild games, Managing Editor Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he'll remember from each contest. Today, he'll look back at a 5-1 loss in Game 5 of the Western Conference Quarterfinals against the Chicago Blackhawks:
It wasn’t the storybook ending the State of Hockey was hoping for; tonight’s loss to the Blackhawks closes the curtain on the Wild’s 2013 Stanley Cup Playoffs and season.
The Wild came out of the chute fast, firing 10 first period shots, but Corey Crawford was again the pebble in the club’s shoe. Minnesota had two grade-A opportunities in the first period, but Crawford made two highlight-reel saves to dash the club’s chances at mounting a series comeback.
First, Matt Cullen set up Jason Zucker between the hashmarks for a one-timer, but Crawford made a sprawling pad save. With the Wild on a power play, Jason Pominville skated down the right wing and fired a wrister into the netminder’s pads. Crawford kicked out a juicy rebound right onto the tape of Mikko Koivu, who whipped a shot back at the net. However, Crawford did his best Jean-Claude Van Damme imitation, making a split save. Those two saves made it a completely different contest, as Chicago would get on the board just a few minutes later and not look back for the rest of the game.
Obviously, anytime you end the season with a loss it’s a disappointing year. However, the experience this young Wild team gained is invaluable. Good teams have to go through growing pains and one of the best ways to learn how to win in the postseason is to first lose.
Eleven Wild players made their Stanley Cup Playoff debut in the series. Six first timers were on the blue line, and for a young D-corps going up against the Hawks was a huge challenge. For some of the young forwards, it showed them how the game is elevated in the playoffs and what it takes to make the next step. Josh Harding got a look at being the number one guy and Darcy Kuemper got his first taste of the postseason, too. For the veterans, the feeling will stay with them for the rest of the summer, and only serve as motivation for continuing to push forward and bring the Stanley Cup to the State of Hockey.
Although Minnesota was ousted in the first round, making the playoffs this season was no fluke, and this isn’t the last we’ve seen of the Wild in the playoffs. I don’t know about you, but I’m already looking forward to next season.
You have to tip your hat, or tap your stick, to the Chicago Blackhawks. Watching a best-of-seven series, you really get a feel for the other team—and the Hawks are good. That might be an understatement because the club has a little bit of everything. Elite offensive talent, a sturdy blue line with a veteran presence and good goaltending. Not to mention, Chicago is deeper than the Grand Canyon. Heck, the Hawks second-leading scorer during the regular season, a possible Hart Trophy candidate, Jonathan Toews only had two assists in the series, both coming tonight.
For all those Crawford detractors out there, he silenced his critics in the first round, only allowing seven goals in five games. For my money, he was the Most Valuable Player of the series.
Outside of the actual games, my favorite thing about the Stanley Cup Playoffs is the handshake line after a series. It is one of the traditions in the game that I’ll never get tired of, and although it is disappointing for one team, it is a great sight.
After battling head-to-head for multiple games and leaving it all out on the ice, both teams line up at center ice and shake hands. You might hate your opponent, have more loathing for them than a Hunter S. Thompson novel, but the handshake line is the ultimate display of mutual respect amongst combatants. It’s a hallmark of playoff hockey and something you only see on the ice.
Finally, I’d like to thank all of you that regularly visit the Five Takeaways after each and every Wild game. It isn’t always easy to try and come up with something fresh game-to-game, but I do my best to provide unique insight into each contest and occasionally try to bring a little humor, and I wouldn’t do it without the dedicated followers. So, thank you all. I know we’ll all miss hockey this summer and will hurt to see another team lift the Stanley Cup, but we’ll see you all back here next season.