Round One: What We Learned About Your Minnesota Wild


Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

Here are a few stray thoughts on what we learned while biting nails and eroding seat edges through the Minnesota Wild’s seven-game Round 1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche.

  • “If you can look into the seeds of time and say which grain will grow and which will not, speak then unto me.” That William Shakespeare quote should be hanging on the office door of Wild goalie coach Bob Mason. In Round 1 we learned that the Wild are not capable of going very long without needing a goaltending change. Try to follow this: Ilya Bryzgalov started the first two games of the series with Darcy Kuemper backing him up, even though Kuemper missed most of the end of the season with what was revealed to be a concussion. Prior to his return it was presumed that John Curry, who only played one game with the team this year, would be backing up. Bryzgalov played poorly in the first two games, necessitating Kuemper to relieve him in Game 2 and get his first postseason start in Game 3. Keumper took a knee to the head during Game 7 and had to exit the game, leaving Bryzgalov to come in cold during the third period. Josh Harding, who was the team’s back-up at the start of the season, later proving to be their No. 1, traveled with the team but is not skating with them. Niklas Backstrom, who started the season as the No. 1, is M.I.A. after being shut down for the season due to a lingering injury. That’s about as simple as I can make that story I think. In truth, it’s vastly more complicated than that. Compare that to the story of the Avalanche’s goaltending situation this season: Semyon Varlamov is their starting goaltender, playing 63 of 82 games. (That’s mostly true, less a couple of legal troubles.) I continue to believe each time a new goaltender goes in net for Minnesota that he will be the team’s goaltender going forward. This is folly. We confirmed that this series.
  • The Wild should have felt pretty good about the Nino Niederreiter for Cal Clutterbuck off-season trade already. He’s got a lot of potential, took over the physical role that Clutterbuck had occupied, and he keeps improving. El Nino’s Game 6 and Game 7 performances cemented that this was a great deal for Minnesota. The Game 7 overtime goal was just salt in one of Garth Snow’s many trade-induced wounds this season. Let’s watch that goal again.
  • Mikael Granlund is a big game player. He was in Finland. He was in the Sochi Olympics. He was in Round 1. Let’s watch his OT goal again.
  • Nathan MacKinnon and Matt Duchene stole the spotlight on the Colorado side of the ice, but Ryan O’Reilly and Gabriel Landeskog are the ones who really deserve some attention. They’re really good. Really, really good. I know this isn’t breaking news: O’Reilly is a Lady Byng finalist and Landeskog is their captain, but this is the first time we’ve seen these young forwards in playoff mode. MacKinnon’s speed and huge offensive bursts are noteworthy. As is Duchene, the team’s leading scorer, coming back from injury to make an impact on the series. But the story of how tough the Avalanche were belongs to O’Reilly and Landeskog. O’Reilly is an incredible two-way player and Landeskog has more grit and big game tenacity than you might have expected.
  • As long as we’re talking about the Avs for a second, they’re bound for great things. It’s been said over and over, but that’s a young team with all the pieces in place. They can probably use a little more depth offensively, but their top six forwards are fantastic and Erik Johnson is developing into the defenseman many expected him to when he was drafted first overall in 2006. They’re going to keep getting better and the Wild may be seeing them in the playoffs again soon.
  • Mike Yeo is capable of emoting.
  • Mike Yeo probably has a job in Minnesota next year.
  • Spurgeon has got some moves. Did you see him in Game 7? Setting his huge goal aside, guy was looking like a Shattuck St. Mary grad. (Sorry, sorry. I’m joking, ok? We know you love MN high school hockey. We all do.) Ok. Let’s collect ourselves and pause to watch Spurgeon’s game-tying goal together.

This is great to see:

  • Refs miss calls, ok? It’s upsetting, but it happens. It’ll happen again. But they’re going to miss them on both sides. It’s tough when the calls are going against you and are impacting the game in a big way, but if it was Charlie Coyle stopping Varlamov from getting across the net to the puck on the first goal, every hand in Minnesota would have had their fingers crossed that the goal would stand. And we’d all be up in arms if Matt Duchene drew a penalty by being tripped by a phantom like Heatley was.

All in all, it was a good series. Exhausting to watch. Exciting to watch. And it all starts again Friday night at 8:30pm CST in Chicago.

Many thanks to @myregularface for the GIFs.