Because fighting in hockey is legal, sometimes encouraged, often the sport’s toughness is equated with a player’s ability to throw a punch. However, through the first three games of its first round Stanley Cup Playoffs series against the St. Louis Blues, the Minnesota Wild is showing its grit between whistles.
“There’s different kinds of toughness,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “I think we have good team toughness. Blocking a shot, it takes a tough guy to do that. Taking a hit to make a play, it takes a tough guy to do that stuff.”
It’s the hard plays, where an individual sacrifices his body for the good of the team, that add up to a series victory.
For Minnesota, the game isn’t won after the play is blown dead by the refs. Though the clashes become more heated with every passing moment, the Wild knows its game is built on speed and not scrums after the clock stops.
“As the game goes on, the hatred for each team kind of grows. I think that’s just normal,” forward Chris Stewart said. “We did a good job of trying not to get caught up in it, letting it get the best of us. Whistle to whistle toughness is what we need this time of year.”
During the playoffs, every little advantage matters. Taking a retaliatory penalty can cost the team. In the postseason, skating away from a confrontation is tougher than engaging in extracurricular activities.
“We’re trying to play a fast speed hockey game and not get caught up in that stuff,” Stewart said. “You don’t want to do anything to jeopardize your team this time of year.
“It’s bigger than yourself.”
The Wild has a turn-the-other-cheek mentality, something that’s not so easy when an opponent is trying to goad you into fighting back. However, Minnesota has been able to remain focused, regardless of what the Blues have been trying to do after the whistle.
“We’re tough in a lot of different areas,” rookie Matt Dumba said. “It’s just not the general meaning of tough, you know fighting, or hitting. We’re a very mentally tough team that sticks to our systems and has really bought in to what we’re doing and our goals.”
The club is only concentrating on Game 4 and has let go of whatever happened through the first three games. Minnesota isn’t getting hung up on anything but winning the series.
“We dismiss it, we get ready for the next game,” Yeo said. “We did our job last night and now we have to get ready for our job tomorrow night.”
The Wild participated in an optional skate at Xcel Energy Center today. Yeo said that the team is healthy and he’s “not anticipating” any lineup changes for Game 4.
Minnesota recalled 11 players from its American Hockey League affiliate, the Iowa Wild. D Stu Bickel, D Jonathon Blum, G John Curry, F Kurtis Gabriel, D Guillaume Gelinas, F Tyler Graovac, F Michael Keranen, F Zack Mitchell, D Gustav Olofsson, F Brett Sutter and F Stephane Veilleux were recalled today.
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The Wild’s popular learn to play program is back for another year and registration opens May 26. To find out more about the locations and how to register, go here.