As you no doubt already know, the Minnesota Wild dropped a 2-1 Game Five heartbreaker to the defending Stanley Cup champs at the United Center last night. The series now returns to St. Paul where the Wild will have to play their best game of the series in order to stave off elimination.
Before anyone hits the panic button, Minnesota still has every chance in the world to win this series. The good news is that the Wild are 5-0 on home ice this postseason, outscoring the Colorado Avalanche and the Chicago Blackhawks by a total of 16-5 in those five games. Also, Chicago hasn’t necessarily been completely dominant for more than a period in this series at most. They show flashes of the team they can typically be, but the Blackhawks discovered quite quickly that this Minnesota squad is a completely different animal altogether than the one they faced last season.
The bad news is that the stats heavily favor Chicago the rest of the way. According to a tweet last night by Chicago Sun Times beat writer Mark Lazerus, the Blackhawks have yet to lose a playoff game after the series has been tied at two apiece in the Jonathan Toews/Patrick Kane Era. After last night, they improved to 13-0 in Games Five and Six in such series. However, keep in mind that no team had ever scored four game tying goals on their way to a Game Seven victory in Stanley Cup Playoff history prior to the Wild’s 5-4 overtime win in Denver a few weeks ago. If you ask me, the ‘Hawks are due for a loss or two. We’ll go with two.
I do have serious concerns about this team, though. Towards the latter half of the third period, Minnesota was clearly dragging. They rarely won battles for the puck, they couldn’t win face-offs to save their lives and the crowd really seemed to take the energy out of them. The Wild desperately need to find some energy for Game Six, because they’ll need every ounce of it just to survive to play yet another elimination game on the road.
In prospect news, undrafted major junior free agent signing Zack Mitchell, RW, finished second in tournament scoring with 12 goals and 18 assists for 30 points and a plus-23 rating in 20 games as he helped lead the Guelph Storm all the way to the Ontario Hockey League (OHL) championship. With the “O” wrapped up, he’ll now focus all his attention on helping the Storm capture the Memorial Cup as Canadian Hockey League champions.
Mitchell may have to get through Wild 2012 seventh overall pick Mathew Dumba and the Portland Winterhawks first. In a must-win Game Six against the Edmonton Oil Kings, Dumba had perhaps the best negative-3 night ever, scoring two power play goals to help Portland force Game Seven with a 6-5 win in overtime. In 20 games with the Winterhawks this postseason, the dynamic young defenseman has scored eight goals and 10 assists for 18 points and a plus-20 rating. Game Seven will be played tonight in Portland with the Western Hockey League (WHL) title on the line. The winner will advance to the Memorial Cup Tournament.
While Dumba stands the better chance of the two to make the big club out of training camp, both youngsters will likely spend most of next season in Des Moines with the Iowa Wild. Like last year in Houston, there is a lot of talent starting to flood the roster of Minnesota’s top minor league affiliate. Fans in both Iowa and Minnesota have every reason to be excited about the next few seasons.