It was one hell of a ride. The Minnesota Wild have taken a journey this season — going from being a dark-horse contender, a quirky plague team that could be fun, to a team that should be feared going into these playoffs, and the one incredibly shiny You have a future ahead of you.
Franchise records have been broken multiple times, milestones met and conquered, and players have debuted, developed and grown into powerhouses in their own right. With the playoffs just around the corner, they face an incredibly difficult first-round opponent in the St. Louis Blues.
But before any of that happens, they have to finish the regular season, which is where the Colorado Avalanche takes place.
Both teams have already secured spots, the visitors have already accomplished all they could and missed out on winning the President’s Trophy after the Florida Panthers were crowned regular-season champions Thursday night. So we could have a bit of a brawl between these two rivals. While it makes sense to go all out in the first round, it’s been an incredibly long season and getting an extra night off might not hurt a few specific players.
The Avalanche could be missing a few players, but some are still recovering from injuries and could use the warm-up.
In Minnesota it’s somewhat the same situation. Defense attorneys Jared Spurgeon and Matt Dumba will return to the lineup tonight and Jordan Greenway and Marcus Foligno continue their quasi-rehab after coming back to the roster not long ago. It’s going to be a balancing act for the coaching staff, but if the players are feeling good, I have no doubt that Dean Evason wants these guys to be loose and ready for next week.
Mats Zuccarello is out injured but some guys have returned.
Kirill Kaprizov – Ryan Hartman – Nick Bjugstad
Kevin Fiala-Friedrich Gaudreau-Matt Boldy
Jordan Greenway – Joel Eriksson Ek – Marcus Foligno
Brandon Duhaime – Tyson Jost – Nicolas Deslauriers
Jake Middleton – Jared Spurgeon
Jonas BrodinMatt Dumba
Dmitry Kulikov—Alex Goligoski/Jon Merrill
Marc-Andre Fleury is between the whistles.
This is the first time in a very long time that the Wild blue line has returned to full health and it could not have come at a more dramatic time. Dumba and Spurgeon will add a significant boost to the Wild’s transition play and offensive prowess on this blue line, and it can’t be overstated that the rest of the squad is feeling less stressed as the playoffs roll around.
It will either be stressful or fun. Puck drop is at 7:00 p.m
Well…did the Wild win home ice?
It’s the last night of the NHL regular season (sort of) and the pieces of the puzzle are falling into place. We should know by the end of this game or shortly after who will have home field advantage in the first round series between the St. Louis Blues and our own Wild.
While it might not mean that much – since Minnesota is obviously finishing this game in five or six years – control of the line switches and all that fun tactical stuff for the first two games can play in the hands of whoever lands at the end with the home crowd for those two games.
Let’s see how that plays out.
Does Fleury’s performance say anything about who will start Game 1?
There’s only one real rostering decision head coach Dean Evason has to make in Game 1 next week – if everyone is healthy. Netminders Marc-Andre Fleury and Cam Talbot have both been at their game since the former was acquired ahead of the trading deadline. A few poor performances here and there but overall it was wonderful to see the Savages have an above average goalkeeping performance for once.
Now, with a back-to-back to wrap up the season and Talbot stopping 31 of the 33 shots against the Calgary Flames, it’s up to Fleury to put on a similar or better performance against the Avalanche to make his mark on the starting role, to start the playoffs.
He might already have it, but it would be nice to cement it with a very, very good game tonight.