Minnesota ran the gamut of emotions and nail biting last weekend.
The Wild suffered a brutal loss to Edmonton on Friday, forcing them into a must-win situation against Colorado the next night. They did win, clinching the eighth and final Western Conference playoff spot. They passed that final regular-season stress test, as it were. And their ability to bounce back there, put things behind them quickly, could benefit them this postseason.
Minnesota is back in the playoffs after a five-season absence, and at least nine Wild players will participate in their first postseason game when they face the Chicago Blackhawks tonight in Game 1. It’s heady stuff, to be sure. But the Wild hope their handling of late-season stress rolls over into the playoffs.
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“That remains to be seen,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said Tuesday morning. “Certainly as you look back, we really like to think of the pressures and emotions we had to deal with -- being a team that hasn’t been there in as long and we had and so many guys who have never been there -- should help us. The fact we’ve had to perform under pressure and deal with those emotions, I think it should help.”
The Wild couldn’t have made it any tougher on itself to close the season. Minnesota had a tough April overall, dropping several spots before hanging on to eighth. But now that they’re here, they’re ready to turn that playoff spot into a playoff roll, and remember how they handled that last game if it helps.
“It gives you the feeling that you’ve got the confidence to get out of a situation if one doesn’t go your way. We have the ability to bounce back,” Cal Clutterbuck said. “At the same time, that was three or four days ago and that’s gone as far as we’re concerned. We’re looking toward tonight and we’ll go from there.”
Wild center Kyle Brodziak said that late-season swing, especially the lopsided loss against Edmonton, was “one of the toughest things I’ve ever had to go through.”
“It definitely felt like a roller coaster,” he said. “It’s something that the guys did a really good job of dealing with. And for the guys to be able to bounce back (after the Edmonton loss) the next night, it’s a good sign and something we need to keep doing.”
The Wild know they have a tough task facing them. They’ll also be starting it a man down, as center Jason Pominville (concussion) is out tonight. But they faced massive pressure down the stretch and overcame it. They’ll draw on that, as need be, in this series.
“Playoff time, regardless of seed, you have to draw confidence from your dressing room,” Clutterbuck said. “There’s no doubt we have confidence in ourselves, that’s for sure.”