The Minnesota Wild’s end to the regular season didn’t happen the way they hoped prior to heading to the playoffs on Sunday. They faced the St. Louis Blues on the road for their final two games and unfortunately fell in both. This is not how the Wild wanted to start the postseason, but they’ll have to find a way to get some motivation.
In their final game, they did sit five of their key players in preparation for the playoffs, which included rookie sensation Kirill Kaparizov as well as Kevin Fiala, Jonas Brodin, Mats Zuccarello, and captain Jared Spurgeon. Goaltender Cam Talbot also had the night off from in between the pipes in favor of Kaapo Kahkonen.
The Wild came into this series after two big overtime wins against the Anaheim Ducks. That momentum seemed to hit a brick wall when they headed into Blues territory. In the first game, the Wild were unable to score even with their big scorers in the lineup. The Blues got out to an early lead and never looked back, cruising to a 4-0 win.
The very next night, things seemed to look up for the Wild, who were looking to avenge their embarrassing loss. They jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead in the first period. That lead evaporated in the second when the Blues stormed back with four straight unanswered goals. The Wild tried to start a comeback in the third but couldn’t do it as the Blues scored three more goals to make it 7-3.
The Blues also made it to the postseason, and with these wins, they will have some much-needed confidence heading into the playoffs as they face the Colorado Avalanche leaving the Wild to face the Vegas Golden Knights.
Next Up: The Postseason
The Wild will be facing the Golden Knights on Sunday afternoon in Las Vegas. They were already going to have their hands full going up against them on the road, but now with these losses hanging over their heads, it may be even more difficult. Many believe the losses will be long forgotten by the time they get to Vegas, but it’s hard to say.
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For the Wild, the last two games were pretty much throw-away games with a slight chance of catching the Avalanche for home-ice advantage, but that seemed highly unlikely even before Wednesday’s loss to the Blues. Regardless of the stakes of the game, the goal is obviously to win, and every loss, no matter the standings, stings and can affect you mentally.
Going into the postseason, the Wild need to find that spark they had at the beginning of the season and use it to their advantage. One possible bright side to these losses is that the Golden Knights could underestimate the Wild.
The Wild Being Underestimated
Hopefully, these last two games were just flukes for the Wild, and they can find that energy they had at the beginning of the season and surprise the Golden Knights. If they expect the Wild to play as they did against the Blues, Minnesota may be able to get an early lead in the first game by catching the Golden Knights off guard.
However, the Golden Knights don’t seem like a team that will underestimate their opponent, so that leaves the Wild to rely on their regular-season success against them. Thankfully for the Wild, they did have quite a bit of luck against the Golden Knights. Hopefully, they can quickly put those losses out of their minds and replace it with their most recent win in Vegas a little over a week before the season ended, where they were able to put up six goals.
What Needs to Happen
The Golden Knights will not be an easy team to get past. The Wild will need to play the best they can and utilize their scoring abilities they found this season to get past them. They were able to score 23 times in the eight games the two teams played this season. They averaged about three goals a game.
If the Wild can continue that three goals a game, they could come out on top in this first-round match-up. Both Marc-Andre Fleury and Robin Lehner will be ready to face all the shots the Wild can throw at them. Hopefully, Kaprizov and Fiala have some new moves up their sleeves to get some past these two goalies.
Regardless of all the previous stats, this series will likely prove to be a very interesting one and many fans are excited for it to start and have some playoff hockey going on.
Mariah Holland is a contributing Minnesota Wild writer for THW as well as a cohost on the THW Youtube show Chicks & Sticks which produces a new show every Friday. She’s been covering the Wild at THW for just over eight months and has been on Chicks & Sticks since it started in early May. She is always looking for different angles to cover the Wild and dig deeper into the stories surrounding the team.