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LARSMONT… Out! Defeated. Over. (or New York version, Ov-ah) Eliminated. Ousted. Gone. Done. Adios. Finito. Choose your own descriptive fans, the Minnesota Wild run in the Stanley Cup tournament is over with for the 2014-15 season. The Wild lost to the Chicago Blackhawk’s last Thursday evening by a score of 4-3 to get a series sweep four games to none and the Hawks advance to the Western Conference Final. The score is not indicative of how the game went, the sweep at the hands of the Hawks is. After the euphoric series win versus the St. Louis Blues, the Wild never appeared to be ready to challenge the Hawks from the get-go.
In Game one the Hawks were up 3-0 not even 10 minutes into the first period. Even though the Wild tied the tilt at 3 each in the 2nd period, they eventually lost the game 4-3. They lost G2 4-1 in a game dominated by the Hawks, then lost G3 1-0 in a game that boiled down to a goalie mano on mano battle with the Hawks Corey Crawford besting the Wilds Devan Dubnyk between the pipes. This was probably the most competitive and best game of the entire, short-lived series. If the Wild had of come out in that game with a win, who knows. At the end of the day the better club won the series. The Hawks stars are simply better then the Wild’s stars and they have more of them. But in my book, if you go back to the first ten minutes of G1 when the Hawks got that early lead, the psychological advantage and mental battle was won right at that moment and the series finish was no longer in doubt.
Does this mean that all is lost for the Wild? Not by any means. It’s not a stretch to liken that early G1 lead by the Hawks as the equivalent of a prize fighter landing a lucky haymaker in the 1st round of a big fight. The Wild got their knees buckled, didn’t go down, but did have a hard time getting back in the fight. And they had their chances and some stretches of play where if they would have finished on some shots and plays, it would have been a lot more interesting series then it turned out to be. I was down for a day or two, but then I put it in perspective. The Wild made the playoffs, made the 2nd round by beating a division winner, and were one of eight teams left in the tournament, and I think, really probably are one of the eight best teams in the league right now.
For you stat nerds, it’s not that hard to break down. Some of the team’s producers didn’t produce, 14 players were “minus” players after the series was done, and “Duby” who was the biggest reason the team got some post season play at all, gave up at least two softies in each of the 3 losses in the Hawk series where multiple goals were scored. Some eye openers though, the Wild had 3 short handed goals against, they had the 5th highest shooting percentage against, Duby posted the 11th highest GAA in the tourney of 26 goalies used so far, drew the 5th least amount of PIM against, (effecting PP’s for) and went 4-6 for the tourney. In the two losses to STL, they were outscored 10-2.
So what do you do over the off-season if you are the Minnesota Wild? At the end of the regular season the Wild had the highest payroll in the NHL. ($83.3mil) Yup, numero uno. Of course, with the season ended and pending free agency and so on, that will change. And please note that figure includes the cap numbers of guys going back and forth between the Iowa club and the big club during the post season. At any rate, I will give you a more complete breakdown of pending UFA’s and RFA’s and who I think should stay and who should probably move on in order for the team to move up the ranks even more.
The two big names are Duby of course and maybe Chris Stewart. Stewie didn’t have a very good playoff’s, so I am contemplating whether or not he is worth keeping and at what price. He is coming off of a big contract and has been somewhat of an enigmatic player. The team definitely needs a muscle guy though, and today’s muscle guys have to be able to play too. Stewart can do that when motivated. The one dimensional goons are a player of the past.
What do the Wild need to become the best? The team has many assets and some not so good factors, but I need some time to think it over. When I do, I’ll give you an assessment, in the meantime, considering some of the things this club had to face and go through this season, I would have to say thumbs up, the battle level and perseverance these young men showed has been noteworthy….
IN THE REMAINDER OF THE Stanley Cup tourney, obviously the Hawks are shutdown and waiting to find out who their opposition will be. As I type the Flames and Duck are doing battle in the 1st period of G5 at the Pond in Anaheim. The Flames are winless there in about the last 22 tilts and tonight is an elimination game. Can the Flames take it to a G6? Maybe, you have to think the law of averages kicks in at some point. At the end though, the Ducks just have more to work with then the young Flames do. The Hawks and Ducks will probably be in the WCF…. (Flames just went up 1-0 in the 1st)
IN THE EAST, The Montreal Canadiens were down 3 games to nil and have taken this series to a G6 in Tampa on Tues eve. A potential G7 would be Thursday eve in Montreal. The odds and history are against the Habs, but they have effectively stolen the series momentum back in this strange series. We’ll see. The New York Rangers won this eve versus the Washington Capitals by a 4-3 tally, evening their series at 3 games each. There will be a seven heaven on Wednesday night, and a possibly another one on Thurs with the Habs and Bolts. As Rodger Kent used to say; who will do what with which to whom? Lets find out! PEACE