The trade deadline has passed and it looks like the Minnesota Wild has their team set for a good playoff run. However, having lost four of their last five games after a dominating stretch, with just 11 games to go we’re coming into the home stretch and every game means more than the one before.
With that in mind, today’s game against a rising Blue Jackets squad is probably the most important game the franchise has ever played against Columbus…until next Saturday’s game at the Xcel Energy Center. Just as Minnesota is no longer a team to take lightly, so are the Jackets. The acquisition of Marian Gaborik makes their playoff hopes that more legitimate and the rest of their roster boasts some respectable veteran and young talent in Jack Johnson, James Wisniewski, Tim Erixon, Ryan Johansen, Cam Atkinson, R.J. Umberger and Sergei Bobrovsky. That isn’t a bad roster, but neither is Minnesota’s.
The Wild counter tonight with Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville, Devin Setoguchi, Charlie Coyle, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Mikael Granlund, Ryan Suter, Jonas Brodin and a great goalie tandem in Niklas Backstrom and Darcy Kuemper. That isn’t including injured veterans Matt Cullen and Dany Heatley. The Blue Jackets may be on the rise, but Minnesota is ready to roll and have had two days to relax, refocus and get a much needed practice under their belts. If you watched Thursday night’s loss to the Kings, you saw a few things: 1. Clayton Stoner is clearly having issues (but we’ll save that for another article), 2. Minnesota did not have their legs under them (clearly a sign of exhaustion) and 3. Minnesota’s top line WILL be incredibly dangerous once they get the chance to gel (hopefully a practice helped that).
Tonight is Jason Pominville’s real Minnesota Wild debut. He isn’t coming to the game having been up since 1am like he did against the Kings; he’s rested and has had some time to gel with his new linemates. If dominant, full minute-long shifts in the offensive zone are the norm for a sleepless Pominville, Lord help the team that has to face this Wild top line when they’re rested. As such, Wild fans need to just take a deep breath and relax. Yes, as of this writing we’re 6th in the Western Conference and four points out of 3rd, however, Minnesota has four games this week to help fortify their playoff positioning. Three of those four games will be played at home, an arena Minnesota has dominated this season, but are against Chicago, St. Louis and the Blue Jackets.
It’s not going to be easy, but nothing in life ever is. However, if the Minnesota Wild is a true playoff team, they will rise to the challenge and overcome it. The fans are right there behind them, cheering them on because we all share a common bond: the game’s in our blood and our blood’s in the game in the State, the State of Hockey.