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ST. PAUL – Well friends, that didn’t take long. After many analysts and fans thought the Minnesota Wild had established the way their best of 5 game series was going to be played, courtesy of their 3-0 Game one win against the Vancouver Canucks, the Canucks had other ideas. They made some subtle adjustments to their game, they pushed the Wild out to the perimeter in the offensive zone, and the Wild ceased to play the gnarly style they had played in G1, and the rest is history. So are the Wild after dropping Game 4 a mere 11 seconds into the Overtime frame.
In a do or die scenario in Edmonton on late Friday eve, the Wild scored first to grab a 1-0 lead, they were tied, then went up 3-1 before allowing the Canucks to sneak back in at 3 each. Once again the Wild went up by a goal, couldn’t protect that, were tied up at 4 late in the game when the unthinkable occurred and the Canucks sent every-one home early before most fans had settled back into their recliners at home.
At the 11 second mark of the OT frame, Chris Tanev scored from up top and that was that. The Wild season was over in a flash and the Canucks advanced to the official Stanley Cup tournament set to commence on Tuesday the 11th.
After winning Game one the Wild dropped 3 straight tilts and I’d go with the theory that they basically didn’t play the rest of this series the way they played Game one.
In that game they had an established physical superiority and nastiness, goalie Alex Stalock played a superb game, the defense kept Stalock’s work area pretty clear for him and the offense stayed out in front of the Canucks and that didn’t allow the Canucks young stars to get untracked.
In Game 2 the Canucks focused on upsetting Wild forward Keven Fiala’s time and space, no one picked up that offensive slack, the toughness factor from the Wild fizzled and the Canucks grabbed a 4-3 win.
It was more dominating than that, but the Wild got 2 late tallies to make the score look better than the game was for them. Game 3 was a 3-0 tail kicking from the Canucks placing the Wild into elimination game status and they failed that in spectacular fashion. Two of the goals allowed in this contest by Stalock were from far range, including the OT winner.
I recall wondering during the intermission if a goal past the circles was going to be the Wild’s undoing in the OT. It was.
The Wild failed to continue with what worked for them in Game one, the Canucks shutdown Fiala, no others stepped up offensively for the club, the defense, which I thought would carry the team against the inexperienced Canucks younger players were inconsistent, and Stalock, after the Game one performance, was challenged to remain that good.
All that’s left for club management and fans to do is to contemplate what will occur over the offseason, which in the case of this season will be weirder than weird.
We have likely seen the last game in a Wild uniform for Captain Mikk Koivu. He is now a UFA and at 37 there is no real reason for the team to re-sign him.
The team won’t compete for a Cup in the near future and he would take up a spot a developing forward could use.
Also, I believe we may have seen the last game for the Wild from Zach Parise. There was substantial rumbling about a deal being consummated between the Wild, the NY Isles and Parise’s former GM Lou Lamoriello at the trade deadline that would have sent Parise out East again, but it couldn’t be completed. I think this summer, it will get done. Parise knows his career clock is ticking down.
So, Wild GM Bill Guerin will have much to do in a shortened offseason. It will include shoring up the net-minding, a handful of UFA and RFA contracts, and working out Head Coach Dean Evason’s staff moving forward.
Are the roster and the team a mess at this point? All I can say is that it could be worse and I’m thankful it’s not...
THE STANLEY CUP entrants and seedings have been finalized just a couple of hours ago and in a thrilling Game 5 between Columbus and Toronto, the Blue Jackets prevailed in a 3-0 win, securing their spot in the tourney with a 3 games to 2 series victory.
They will go up against a strong Tampa Bay club that is now suddenly missing their top two superstars. Forward Steven Stamkos was already out, and after what appeared to be a twisted ankle in Saturday’s game against the Philadelphia Flyers, big Victor Hedman looks to be uncertain for the upcoming series. This will damage Tampa’s chances if he is unavailable.
With my qualifying and round-robin round picks shot in the posterior, the following teams didn’t make it through the ‘Q’ round and into the Cup tourney; PITT, WILD, NASH, EDM, FLA, NYR, TOR, and WINN. I honestly can’t say any of these eliminations are surprising to me though.
Here is what the Eastern Conference series will look like along with their seeding; PHI (1) vs MON (8). TB (2) vs CBJ (7). WAS (3) vs NYI (6) and BOS (4) vs CAR (5).
I’m not certain Montreal has enough to get past a Flyers team that’s playing some excellent hockey right now, even with Carey Price in goal. I’m going with PHI.
If Stamkos and Hedman are both out for TB, the CBJ will probably oust them from the tourney, just like they did last year. I saw the Caps exhibition game and their round robins and I’m not impressed. I am leaning with the steady-eddy Isles here. I like what I’ve seen of the Canes thus far. I haven’t liked what I’ve seen of the Bruins. Give me the Canes in this round.
In the Western Conference; VGK (1) vs CHI (8). COL (2) vs ARI (7). DAL (3) vs CAL (6) and STL (4) vs VAN (5). Overall the VGK can throw more at the Hawks then the Hawks can throw at them, plus short lived Hawk netminder Robin Lehner will likely get a shot at his former club. Take the Knights.
Likewise, while I feel that the Av’s-Yotes series could be interesting, I believe the Av’s will prevail here unless former Wild netminder Darcy Kuemper comes through for the Coyotes.
The Stars-Flames matchup is intriguing, to say the least. I feel they are pretty even, but when it comes to grit, CAL is just a bit nastier and that wins series sometimes. Take Flames here.
For the Blues-Canucks series, VAN had a 2-1 regular season record against STL. Can the young Canucks take down the defending champs? Probably not. Could go 7 games though.
And finally, kudos to the NHL for the way they have operated the tourney thus far! Well done! PEACE