Playoffs a valuable learning experience for Wild

Playoffs a valuable learning experience for Wild
May 10, 2013, 12:45 am
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Nina Falcone

The United Center was booming at the end of Thursday's Game 5 matchup. The fans stood and applauded their home team; the team that's given them plenty of reason to cheer since the shortened 2013 season began. After Game 5, the Blackhawks gave them another reason as they advanced to the Western Conference semifinals.

But they weren't the only team who deserved an applause.

The Wild exited the ice and entered the visiting locker room in dead silence. The words "disappointing" and "frustrating" were being used when the players quietly uttered their response to their Game 5 loss.

"You're not going to go far when you don't put (the puck) in when you have opportunities, and that's kind of a common thing in our losses," Wild forward Zach Parise said following his team's 5-1 loss. "We couldn't bury the puck, (Corey) Crawford played very well. We just couldn't get the puck past him."

[MORE: Blackhawks rout Wild, advance to semifinals]

For a team that entered the postseason with injuries and faced a number of others since their initial pregame warmups in Chicago began, Minnesota had some very successful moments against the league's top regular-season team. But that didn't take away from the sting they felt after leaving the ice for their final time this season.

Parise wasn't ready to start thinking about the positive aspects of his team's game.

"It's too early to think about that, it's just disappointing right now," he said.

Wild captain Mikko Koivu stood by his stall just as quietly as Parise did, disappointed after failing to record a point in the series. But he was ready to pick up the pieces and move forward.

"Emotions are high right now so you don't want to think about it and say things you don't mean, but still we got a lot better and it's an experience," he said. "We have to learn and move on from it… At the end, it's about us not scoring goals. That's the difference."

Despite losing starting goaltender Niklas Backstrom to a lower-body injury during pregame warmups in Game 1, the Wild still felt strong in their goaltending throughout the series.

Backup netminder Josh Harding stepped up to the plate and took over for Backstrom. Despite playing in just five games throughout the regular season, he gave Minnesota a strong performance up until he suffered an injury in Game 4.

[MORE: Harding dazzles on short notice for Wild]

"Obviously one of the biggest keys was Backstrom," Wild coach Mike Yeo said after his team's loss. "There's not too many people around who would have given us much of a chance if (Backstrom) wasn't great. But (he) went down and (Harding) stepped in and did a great job for us."

After all was said and done, Yeo took the series against the Blackhawks as a learning experience.

"This was another important step for us. Getting to the playoffs and feeling this feeling we feel right now… This is going to help us in the long run for sure," he said. "We aren't happy the way it ended, there's no question. But we'll be better for this experience going forward."