Kirby Puckett

Kirby Puckett

Friday, May 16, 2014

Reasons to be Optimistic About the Wild

Patrick Kane and the Chicago Blackhawks ended the Wild's season on Tuesday, but there is no reason to be upset with this season. Here's why.
1. They weren't supposed to have gotten that far in the first place
After they made the playoffs, maybe 20% of NHL "experts" predicted them to beat the Avalanche. After that, most of them predicted the Hawks wouldn't break a sweat in beating them. They clearly proved everyone wrong.
2. New players stepping up
Haula was fantastic in the postseason with seven points. Granlund was also solid with seven points as well, along with drawing a few penalties and singlehandedly saving the season on one of the most ridiculous goals I've ever seen.
3. All of this was happening with the third and fourth string goalies in the net
The biggest subplot this postseason nobody ever talked about: Both of their top two goalies were out. They would have been in even better shape if they had had Backstrom or Harding as their netminder, maybe they steal one of the games in Chicago, then if the Hawks don't get a flukey bounce in OT on Tuesday they take the series. That's not inconceivable.
4. Free agents next season
There's a good chance Thomas Vanek is coming aboard this offseason. The former Gopher has been mentioned in numerous reports to have expressed interest in coming here (Greg Wyshynski of Puck Daddy referred to it as, "The worst kept secret in hockey" a few weeks ago) Vanek had 68 points including 28 goals last year with the Canadiens, Islanders and Oilers and would be a big upgrade from Heatley at left wing.
The biggest advantage the Wild have over the rest of the Minnesota teams is that in Hockey, Minnesota is a desirable market to play in. It has a rabid and knowledgeable fan base which is helpful for being appreciated. If you show a person who knows nothing about basketball a Heat game, they will still be able to tell you that Lebron James is the best player on the court. Hockey isn't like that, you have to notice the more subtle things like blocking a shot or drawing a penalty.
One last thing: That was a really exciting run. Even non Wild fans were getting into the series. After Nino's goal in OT I thought the state would explode from all of the buzz. Now that we've had a taste of the playoffs everyone wants to get back. If the right guys develop and the Wild make the right moves, I wouldn't be surprised if they get back.

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