Thursday, April 30, 2015

The Minnesota Wild eliminate the Saint Louis Blues in round 1…now on to the next round against the Chicago Blackhawks

The Minnesota Wild did something at home for the first time in their 14-year history—they clinched a playoff series on home ice. They sent the Central Division Champions St. Louis Blues out of the playoffs in game six with a 4-1 win.

It was the first time in over 20 years that a Minnesota NHL team won a playoff series on home ice. The last time it happened was in 1991 when, ironically, the Minnesota North Stars eliminated the Blues.

Just three months ago, the Wild were in 12th place in the Western Conference. Devan Dubnyk was acquired by the Wild and we all know what has happened since.

It is also the second consecutive season the Minnesota Wild has eliminated the Central Division Champions in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Last year, the Wild knocked out the Colorado Avalanche in Denver.

According to NHL.com writer Dan Myers (from his column Five Reasons Wild advanced to the second round), one of the top five reasons the Wild beat the Blues was how the Wild were winning on the road.

Myers wrote:

Dubnyk blocking a shot from the Blues' Paul Stasny
(courtesy of twincities.com)
“Over the final few weeks of the regular season, no team was better than the Wild at winning away from home. Minnesota tied an NHL record with 12 consecutive road victories from mid-February until the regular season finale in St. Louis, a game where several regulars from each team sat out...That trend continued into the postseason.” 

The Wild also had not lost back-to-back games and that continued into the playoffs, especially after losing game 4 by the score of 6-1. Dubnyk and the Wild responded by winning games 5 and 6, both by scores of 4-1. 

Devan Dubnyk stated to the press:

"I was thinking about it over the last couple of days...It just feels right. It feels right for our group to be where we are and to continue to move forward. That's why it's easy to go out and play and feel like we're going to win because we've done it all year. Hopefully we can continue doing that." 

It's been quite a roller coaster year for Devan Dubnyk, considering last year he was a "playoff extra" for Montreal. Now, he has been named as a finalist for the Vezina trophy last Friday and yesterday was named a finalist for the Masterton award. 

(All I am going to say is that Chuck Fletcher better sign Dubnyk to a new contract!!) 

Myers included in another article about the Minnesota-St. Louis series that:

“While the Blues have been beasts in the regular season the past four seasons, they’ve gone cold in the playoffs. And all four early exits came in series where the Blues had home ice advantage…While the Blues have dominated in the regular season, they have failed to reach anything close to that level in the postseason.” 

For the Wild, it also helped greatly that they were able to actually score on the power play during this series. Matt Dumba scored a power play goal in game 1 to give the Wild a two goal lead, while Jason Pominville scored a power play goal that happened to be an empty-netter to secure Minnesota's 4-2 win. Mikko Koivu scored a goal late in the second period on the power play to give the Wild a two-goal lead going into the third period of game 5. (We ALL know how horrible the power play was for the Wild during the regular season).  

Now, for the second straight year, the Wild will open round two against the Blackhawks in Chicago. It's going to be quite a series, and this isn't the same Wild team the Blackhawks have run into in the playoffs before....

Hopefully, this is the year the Wild beat the Blackhawks in the playoffs. 

To read Dan Myers' article Five reasons Wild advanced to the second round, link is here.


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