Minnesota coach Mike Yeo was having a little bit of fun with his team’s goaltending situation, a merry-go-round of a rotation due to injuries.
“We like to keep the other team guessing. So we’re not only not going to tell who our starting goalie is but we’re not telling who our backup is,” Yeo told the Minnesota media. “We’ll really leave them in the dark.”
All kidding aside, the Wild’s goaltending situation has been a strange one in their Western Conference quarterfinal series against the Chicago Blackhawks. And who starts Game 5 is a big question.
Will it be Niklas Backstrom, who was hurt prior to Game 1 but returned to back up Darcy Kuemper last night, starting the game the Wild need to win to stay alive this postseason? Will it be Josh Harding, who suffered an unspecified injury late in the first period and had to leave Game 4? Or will it be Kuemper, who had the unenviable task of replacing Harding in the second period on Tuesday night, already trailing 1-0.
On paper, Backstrom would be a good guess. He was back on the bench last night, he’s been practicing and he’s told the Minnesota media he’s been getting close to a return. And, of course, this is a must-win game. If Backstrom is anywhere near healthy, chances are he’ll play.
Whoever it is, the Blackhawks will be ready. They have been for the previous two goalie curveballs.
“I’ve seen a lot of crazy things in the playoffs. You have to predict the unpredictable,” coach Joel Quenneville said following Game 4. “Things happen and you have to go with it and be adaptable and see what happens.”
The Wild have reached do-or-die time in this series. Win, and they send the series back to St. Paul, Minn. Lose, and their season is over. Jason Pominville, who returned in Game 4 after being sidelined with a concussion since late April, said the Wild have the chance to pull off a big upset.
“Obviously we know we’re going to have a tough task. But we’ve set ourselves up to do something special,” Pominville said of the Wild, trailing 3-1 in this series. “You can either sit here and feel sorry for yourself or go out there and work hard. We’re set up to do something special. It starts by winning one game and going from there.”
For the Wild, it won’t be easy. They’re coming off a game, a “winnable game,” as Yeo said, where their listless power play came up empty six times. But they’ll once again draw on previous adversity, be it the 2-0 deficit they faced earlier this season, or what they overcame to even get here.
“I guess if there’s one thing we can do is we can draw upon later in the season when, if you look at that Colorado game, we were able to push aside a lot of things that happened and focused on just that game,” Yeo said of the game the Wild won to clinch the eighth seed. “We can’t look at how we arrived here, what’s happened, what’s in front of us. The only thing that matters is that game, and that’s the mindset we have to have.”