As the Wild preps for Game 6, its third elimination game in these playoffs, it’s staving off the physical and mental grind that comes with a run towards the Stanley Cup.
Heck even we here at the Lighthouse are feeling it and would love nothing more than to curl up in bed and hibernate for a good week. We won’t do that, promise.
But for the players, handling that grind is a mental task; there’s no time to be tired right now.
Each team has its bumps and bruises (enter Head Coach Mike Yeo’s jibe about feeling totally fine) but they’ll continue to battle and attempt to overcome the fatigue, the emotions and the constant hurdles that present themselves in the pursuit of the Cup.
“That’s why it’s the hardest trophy to win in the world,” Ryan Suter said.
“The further you go, the more important the games are; the more intense they are; the more physical they are. What are the challenges? Everything, it just gets harder.”
Tomorrow will mark the Wild’s 13th game of the postseason — obviously the club would like to push that to 14 and beyond. But for most of the players in the locker room, they are entering uncharted territory the further they go along.
For the most part, each additional game presents a new experience for the team as only seven players on the Wild’s roster have played deeper into the postseason: Keith Ballard, Ilya Bryzgalov, Matt Cooke, Dany Heatley, Zach Parise, Jason Pominville and Mike Rupp.
“We’re young because we’ve got a lot of young players,” Yeo said. “We’re young because we have a lot of guys that don’t have the experience of going through something like this. It’s very important for our group. But we want to learn on the fly, we want to continue learning. It doesn’t get any easier. We know that.”
As the Wild pushes to extend its season, prepping for do-or-die action tomorrow, it’s important to acknowledge what it has accomplished so far.
“It’s huge for us,” Suter said. “You can talk about it all you want but to actually live it out, it’s huge for everyone — our coaches, young players, old players — to be a part of this is really special. Hopefully tomorrow night we come out and play the way we need to play… That team over there has won so they’ve been through this. This is all new for us. I think our guys are embracing it really well.”
And Minnesota needs to keep embracing the marathon as it once again has its back against the wall in tomorrow’s Game 6.
At this point, over a handful of games in, the games in themselves don’t feel too different anymore, according to Yeo. The Bench Boss noted that while each game has it’s own story, it’s just another chapter in their playoff tale — a continuation of the challenges, emotions, highs and lows that make up this year’s edition.
Though the next chapter is yet another win-or-set-up-your-tee-times situation, the team can’t dwell on it too much or approach the game much differently than the other times it has faced adversity this postseason.
“You do recognize where we’re at and it’s a must win,” Mikko Koivu said. “But I think it’s similar to what it was when we were down 2-0. On the other hand, when you come to the game, you don’t think about it. You think about the things that you’re supposed to do. You think about the things that brought us here. We can’t change the game we play or who we are. That’s why we’ve been able to play some good hockey and get some wins. We believe that’s going to work.
“Game 6 is our Game 7 right now.”
With the season on the edge of falling over the edge into offseason territory, Suter noted that the Wild is taking advantage of the challenge at hand — something it’s done all year, especially when it has made things hard for itself.
“We like the challenge,” Suter said. “We always seem to make things harder than it needs to be. I don’t know if that’s a good thing to do but it seems throughout the year, that’s the way we’ve gone about it.
“That’s how it’s been. That’s how it is now. Tomorrow is do-or-die.”
Both Matt Moulson and Keith Ballard did not travel down to Chicago for the short trip for Game 5, each battling their respective lower-body and upper-body injuries.
But in some good news for the Wild, both skated today and Yeo said he wouldn’t be surprised if they felt ready to go tomorrow.
Remember This Guy?
Matt Dumba is making his own playoff push this season. Dumba and the Winterhawks of the Western Hockey League are set to face the Edmonton Oil Kings in Game 7 tonight. The winner gets a shiny trophy (read Ed Chynoweth Cup) and a trip to the Memorial Cup Tournament.
Game 7 Start Time
As the Lighthouse gets set to write the next sentence, we're putting on our good luck charms and setting out the corresponding outfits (they exist) for tomorrow. It was released today that Game 7, if necessary, will be at 7 p.m. State of Hockey time on Thursday. Plan accordingly.