For the first time in franchise history, the Minnesota Wild will have an opportunity to advance in the Stanley Cup Playoffs in six games. After a, 4-1, Game 5 bounce back performance, the Wild looks to close out its Round 1 series against the St. Louis Blues on home ice tomorrow.
“We know what the opportunity is,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said. “We know what’s at stake here. Far more important for us is that we’re not getting caught up in that. We need to be ready to play a great game.”
Thus far, it’s been difficult to get a pulse on the series. The teams have traded wins in all five games. Yesterday was the first game in which the team that scored first lost the contest. Home ice has been as effective as a rudderless boat at steering outcomes. Momentum between games has carried over like a led balloon.
“Both teams have proved that they’ve been able to collect themselves. That’s even from period to period,” Yeo said. “If we’re going to get the result that we want, we’re absolutely going to have to earn it.”
Though the games have been tight on the ice, they have been uncharacteristically uneven on the scoreboard. Each game in the series has featured at least a two-goal margin, with the past four contests decided by three or more goals. It’s the only First Round series without a one-goal game, with none of the seven other series having more than two games decided by three goals or more.
“It’s been even hockey and good hockey and hard hockey,” Wild captain Mikko Koivu said. “It’s just the way it’s been; the other team has bounced back.
“We’re trying to change that now.”
The Wild holds a 3-2 series lead for the first time in franchise history. Minnesota has advanced by winning Games 6 and 7 three times (2003 Conference Quarterfinals vs. Colorado; 2003 Conference Semifinals vs. Vancouver; 20013 Round 1 vs. Colorado).
The club had the chance to take a 3-1 lead in Game 4 at Xcel Energy Center, but came out flat in a 6-1 loss.
“Maybe it will be good for us to see what happened when we got a lead last and were maybe a little bit comfortable,” Devan Dubnyk said about the Wild’s Game 4 performance. “That just a lesson that’s fresh in our minds that we can use and feed off to make sure we’re ready for the game tomorrow.”
Before Game 5, Dubnyk was named as a finalist for the Vezina Trophy along with Montreal’s Carey Price and Nashville’s Pekka Rinne. The netminder produced a goalie-of-the-year-worthy performance, making 36 saves, including 19 in the third period. It was quite a rebound for Dubnyk, who gave up six goals in Game 4.
“It’s all stuff you just draw from past experiences. Unfortunately for me I’ve had lots of past experiences of learning from that,” Dubnyk laughed.
Since the team has acquired Dubnyk, it hasn’t lost consecutive games. The last time Minnesota dropped a pair of games in a row was Jan. 11 and 13 (4-1 loss at Chicago and 7-2 loss at Pittsburgh). Though he’s in his first Stanley Cup Playoffs, 28-year-old is taking a Game 7 mentality into tomorrow’s contest.
“We worked to put ourselves into a good situation to hopefully close out the series, we don’t want to go into St. Louis and a situation where it’s a one game winner — win or go home,” Dubnyk said. “We’ve got a chance to close it tomorrow and we need to do that.”
Tomorrow’s Game 6 is at 2 p.m. and will be nationally televised on NBC. The club expects fans to be rabid and Yeo hopes the Wild faithful starts prepping early.
“Hopefully the fans are having a couple Bloody Mary’s with breakfast so they’re in a good frame of mind,” Yeo smiled.