Every team that qualifies for the Stanley Cup Playoffs has reason to believe that this could be their year. We have seen teams that qualify in the last spot go on to win the Cup, like the L.A. Kings in 2012.
That remains true for the Minnesota Wild in 2022. They might not be the top seed in the Western Conference or their division, for that matter, but this is a talented group that could make this season one that fans will never forget. Here are a few reasons why the Wild could win the biggest prize in hockey this spring.
Wild’s Offensive Firepower
Never in the history of the organization has the Wild had a player like Kirill Kaprizov, who has the ability to change the game each time he touches the ice. With 108 points in 81 games this season, he can be relied on to be a consistent offensive presence. Behind Kaprizov, the Wild have some fantastic offensive depth, headlined by the stellar combination of Kevin Fiala and Matthew Boldy. Add in career seasons for Mats Zuccarello with 79 points and Ryan Hartman with 65 points, and scoring shouldn’t be as challenging in these playoffs as in years past.
The impact of having a player like Kaprizov in the lineup has been well documented. Only four other players in the NHL had more than his 108 points this season. Having the best offensive player in almost any series is a massive advantage for the Wild, and fans will hope that he and the rest of the offense don’t slow down come playoff time.
Wild’s Goaltending Duo
No matter how good a team is if they don’t get quality goaltending in the playoffs, they will lose. You need a good, often great goaltender to win, and with the addition of Marc-Andre Fleury, the Wild might have one of the best goaltending tandems in the league.
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If a team’s starting netminder is expected to miss any time due to injury in the postseason, their fans would hit the panic button instantly. That might not be the case for the Wild, as both Fleury and Cam Talbot have seen recent success in the playoffs, giving them an upper hand against most opponents.
Fleury has 162 games of playoff experience and three Stanley Cups (as both starter and backup) with the Pittsburgh Penguins. Meanwhile, Talbot had a save percentage of .923 or higher in his last three postseason appearances. The Wild should feel incredibly confident starting either goaltender on any given night, while most teams only have one goaltender they want starting games in the playoffs.
Wild’s Sense of Urgency
The Wild’s roster is aware of the cap troubles coming the team’s way, thanks to the buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter‘s contracts. Those challenges will become more significant if they re-sign Fiala, something many believe management wants to get done. Contracts will have to be moved out this summer, but the question of who will be traded has yet to be answered.
This might be the organization’s best chance to win the Stanley Cup for a couple of years, and the players know it. The roster could look very different this time next year, and because of how much dead cap space they will have, there’s a good chance it won’t be as talented as the roster they have today.
It won’t be surprising if the players find that extra gear in the postseason, knowing how important it is to give 100% on every shift. If these players want to win a Stanley Cup in the state of hockey, this is the year to get the job done.
Again, every team that qualifies for the playoffs has a legit chance to win; some more than others, but the opportunity is there for each of them. However, Wild fans should feel confident that their team has the offense, goaltending, and urgency to win the organization’s first-ever Stanley Cup.