Dane Mizutani / St. Paul Pioneer Press
ST. PAUL — No reason for panic yet. At least that's the approach the Minnesota Wild are taking after Wednesday's disheartening playoff loss to the St. Louis Blues. While the Wild might have thrown their best punch in Game 1 despite the loss — it's hard to imagine them firing 52 shots on net again in this best-of-seven series — coach Bruce Boudreau implored his players to keep their heads up.
ST. PAUL — There was a time not too long ago when the Minnesota Wild were an afterthought for the rest of the the NHL, and not for no reason. After shocking the world with a run to the NHL's Western Conference finals in 2002-03, the expansion franchise made the playoffs only twice over the next eight years and never advanced past the first round. Nobody was afraid of the Wild.
ST. PAUL — Nobody hated last month more than Devan Dubnyk's 3-year-old son Nate. The Wild's struggles in March — they were 4-10-2 — meant just one thing to Nate: He wasn't allowed to play the electric drum set in the back storage room at the Xcel Energy Center. "That's all he talks about," Dubnyk said. "He's always disappointed when we lose, I think more than anybody, because he doesn't get to go play the drums." That tradition started earlier this season, according to assistant equipment manager Rick Bronwell.
GLENDALE, Ariz.—Never mind that the Wild finished the regular season with 106 points to set a franchise record. "Eh, we should've had 120 points," coach Bruce Boudreau joked after Saturday's 3-1 win over the Arizona Coyotes Had the Wild finished with 120 points, they would've almost certainly been the No. 1 seed in the Western Conference. Instead, the Wild will have settled for second place—behind the Chicago Blackhawks—which sets up a first round matchup with the St. Louis Blues.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Wild center Martin Hanzal understandably felt a little out of place in the visitors locker room Saturday morning at Gila River Arena. Hanzal had spent his entire NHL career to that point getting dressed in the Arizona Coyotes locker room, wearing the Arizona Coyotes colors. That changed on Feb. 26 when the Coyotes traded him to the Wild. Since then, Hanzal has carved out a niche as the third-line center, racking up 12 points entering his 20th game in a Wild sweater on Saturday night.
GLENDALE, Ariz. — Wild defenseman Ryan Suter wouldn't bite. A few minutes after Minnesota had defeated the Carolina Hurricanes on Tuesday, April 4, Suter was asked whether he had a preference on the team's first-round playoff opponent, the St. Louis Blues or the Nashville Predators. "No. No preference," he snapped. "I don't want to get into that stuff."
DENVER — Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk isn't one for individual accolades. When he was leading the NHL in nearly every statistical category imaginable earlier this season, he brushed it off like it was nothing. That said, Dubnyk was well aware that win No. 40 was within reach entering Thursday's game against the Colorado Avalanche. And yes, he wanted it.
ST. PAUL — Nothing good can come out of the final two games of the regular season for the Minnesota Wild. They locked up home-ice advantage in the first round of the NHL playoffs with Tuesday's 5-3 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes and will play either the St. Louis Blues or Nashville Predators next week. That much is sure.
MINNEAPOLIS — Wild captain Mikko Koivu still remembers watching the 1998 Winter Olympics in Nagano, Japan, from his home in Finland. He was 14 years old. That was the first year NHL players were allowed to participate in the Olympics, and while Koivu was already on his way to a career in hockey, watching some of his favorite players represent their countries made a profound impact. "If you're an athlete, you want to be a part of the Olympic Games," Koivu said. "If you look at any athlete in any sport, I'm sure every one of them wants to play and wants to take part in it."
ST. PAUL — If anyone knows what Carolina Hurricanes winger Bryan Bickell is going through, it's former Minnesota Wild goaltender Josh Harding. Bickell was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis in November, the same disease that prematurely ended Harding's career two and a half years ago. Bickell hasn't played an NHL game since his diagnosis but was set to play Tuesday against the Wild at Xcel Energy Center.