Minnesotans are proving stereotypes to be emphatically true: They are an optimistic people. They’ve celebrated the Wild’s second round loss by planning to re-sign the coach, praising the team’s effort, and generally trying to make everyone feel good.
· “Hey, look, it’s not snowing.”
· “How wonderful! What a good day!”
· “The Wild lost!”
· “I bet they’ll do better next year.”
· “Have you lost weight? You look fantastic.”
· “Thanks. I’ve been working out all winter.”
· “Really? What’s your secret?”
· “I just walk to the end of the block and help push all my neighbors’ cars out of the snowbank. It’s great for the glutes.”
It’s a decidedly more chipper tone than you’ll find in Boston, where Milan Lucic celebrated their loss by threatening Dale Weise, refusing to apologize, and making his face approximate a Palau de la Generalitat de Catalunya gargoyle as often as possible. In Pittsburgh they’re celebrating by firing anyone who looked askance at Sidney Crosby over the past two months. (And then they maybe had a change of heart and only fired GM Ray Shero, not coach Dan Bylsma as originally reported by TSN’s Bob McKenzie. That may or may not have something to do with Mike Babcock only having one year left on his contract in Detroit.) And in Anaheim there’s talk that Little Brucey the Goalie Juggler may be taking his act on the road. (Though that probably won’t happen in the end.)
So, what else did we learn from the Wild’s second round loss to Chicago?
– Kids rule. Yes, the Minnesota Wild are just like that 2012 movie you don’t remember, Battlefield America. (It’s slogan was “Where Kids Rule”… nevermind.) There is a lot to be excited about in Minnesota beside the return of shrubbery and the state fair. Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, Jared Spurgeon, Marco Scandella, Darcy Kuemper, Jonas Brodin, Justin Fontaine, and Nino Niederreiter showed that Chuck Fletcher has constructed a team that is built for the coming years. Add Matt Dumba, Christian Folin, Jason Zucker, Brett Bulmer, and Gustav Olofsson to that crew and there’s really something to be excited about for Wild fans.
– Goaltending matters. Yes, the Wild almost re-wrote history. A run to the Stanley Cup would have been historic not only because they suited up seven goaltenders during the regular season. (Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding, Darcy Kuemper, Johan Gustafsson — though he didn’t play, John Curry, and Rob Laurie — who also didn’t play. Oh, and Andrew Brunette played goaltender during practice one day this season. #FreeBruno) If they’d made a run to the Cup they would have upset the prevailing logic of the current system of goaltending in the NHL. Coaches would start dumping stalwart netminders like Pekka Rinne and Mike Smith and would instead pick up seven or even eight goaltenders to take them to the Cup. We may have seen an arms race of teams stockpiling a mix of young, injured, and past-their-prime goaltenders in hopes of duplicating Minnesota’s success.
Instead, the last goaltenders standing are Corey Crawford, Henrik Lundqvist, Carey Price, and Jonathan Quick. So, I guess teams will continue to try and find one elite, franchise goaltender. Will the Wild attempt to forge their own path as they did this season or will they duplicate the success of teams who have a “good” “non-injured” goaltender? Wild GM Chuck Fletcher would only say, “we need to have three goaltenders next year.” (Though, he did preface that with “certainly there’s a realistic chance that…”)
Here’s Andrew “the eighth goalie” Brunette:
— Michael Russo (@Russostrib) March 31, 2014
– Speaking of Corey Crawford, he’s a good goaltender. He stole Game 6 against the Wild, he stole a game during the Cup Finals against the Bruins last year, he won a Stanley Cup, and was the lead goaltender in the tandem that won the William M. Jennings Trophy last year. What else does he have to do? Every member of the press seems to question his abilities before each round of the playoffs. Yes, you can get in his head. Yes, he has bad games sometimes. In short: Yes, he is a goaltender.
The issue is maybe the criticism template that is current in use (Chicago win = Good job Toews, Kane, Sharp, Keith, and Hossa / Chicago loss = Can they really trust Crawford?) is out of date. That’s last year’s model. Get the new one. (Chicago win = Toews is incredible and why is Bryan Bickell only good during the playoffs? / Chicago loss = They are not in fact invincible. Last season was confusing. Just remember: Some teams lose games. It happens.)
– If a game moves slowly, you can blame the Wild. It’s probably their fault. Let’s not forget that Jacques Lemaire was once the coach of this team. The team is guilty by association.
– Oh, but also the Wild are fast. I know the media said before the Chicago series that they’re not fast, but then they said they were. So, that’s something we learned: National media who haven’t had the chance to watch the Wild play much thought they were slow based on a small sample size, looking at a bunch of young names they don’t really know much about, and some stats that don’t include “Team Speed.” They watched them play and now the Wild are a fast team. Must have had something to do with the acquisition of Matt Moulson and Cody McCormick at the trade deadline.
– Drafted 182nd overall, there’s a chance Erik Haula develops into one of those rare deep round draft picks that becomes an impact player. That’s a list that includes Dominik Hasek (199th overall), Henrik Zetterberg (210th), Doug Gilmour (134th), Peter Bondra (156th), Henrik Lundqvist (205th), Theo Fleury (166th), Dustin Byfuglien (245th), Tim Thomas (217th), Daniel Alfredsson (133rd), Brett Hull (117th), Luc Robitaille (171st), P.A. Parenteau (264th), Ryan Miller (138th), Joe Pavelski (205th), Jamie Benn (129th), Tomas Vokoun (226th), Pekka Rinne (258th), Andrew MacDonald (260th), Dennis Seidenberg (172nd), Matt Moulson (263rd), Matt Cooke (144th), Andrew Brunette (174th)… ok. Nevermind. It happens a lot. Point is, Haula was a good draft pick.
– Both Minnesota and Chicago are absolutely fantastic at home.
– Both Minnesota and Chicago are mind-numbingly mediocre on the road.