Wild makes playoffs for first time since 2008 with 3-1 victory over Colorado

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 28, 2013 - 2:20 PM

view larger photos

  

– Two hours before Saturday night’s regular-season finale, Chuck Fletcher sat alone in an empty section of a darkened lower bowl inside Pepsi Center for more than 30 minutes.

The Wild general manager just stared at the ice. Stared and stared and stared.

It was a stunning, powerful scene. Who knows what Fletcher was thinking, but it certainly epitomized the stress he was under and just how much was riding on one game for a franchise engulfed by anxiety.

If the Wild lost to the Colorado Avalanche — instead of taking a 3-1 victory to draw the eighth seed in the Western Conference quarterfinals — there is no doubt there would have been an organizational shakeup.

It could have almost certainly started with the coach, Mike Yeo, whose job was in danger. The Wild went from the division lead to almost missing the playoffs in 29 days. And there is no doubt blame could have landed squarely at the feet of the general manager, and on several players inside that ultimately jubilant postgame locker room Saturday.

“We did it the hard way, but at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter,” defenseman Ryan Suter said after logging a career-high 32 minutes, 54 seconds against the Avs. “We’re in the playoffs. We have a chance to do something special now.”

Yeo, with an ear-to-ear smile, was visibly relieved after advancing to play one of the NHL’s model franchises, the Chicago Blackhawks in the first round. Afterward, the second-year coach, who won a Stanley Cup as a Pittsburgh Penguins assistant, acknowledged that “for sure” he knew his job was potentially in jeopardy.

“I’m a firm believer that you go in and you believe,” Yeo said. “I believe in the group and I believe in what we’ve got going and I felt that we deserved this. It was a little harder than probably we all would have liked.”

Relishing in the moment, Yeo didn’t want to talk yet about the President’s Trophy-winning Blackhawks, saying he had a lot of work to do Sunday and added with a not-so-subtle undertone that he was “happy” that he still could do it “in the office.”

The organization hasn’t participated in the postseason since winning the Northwest Division in 2008. Zach Parise, who rode to the Stanley Cup Finals with New Jersey last year, said this was a huge growing step for this team.

“You’ve got to start somewhere,” Parise said. “You’ve got to get the playoff experience. After four years of missing the playoffs, you’ve got to get in there and taste it and see what it’s like and experience those type of games.

“We shouldn’t be satisfied getting in.”

Parise’s eyes literally open wide when he talks about the playoffs. He can’t help but smile as he speaks.

That’s how much this former New Jersey captain lives for the second season.

“It’s something else,” Parise said. “People don’t swing body checks. Everything’s finished. The pace goes up. It’s unbelievable. It’s something else.

“Once it’s over, you think to yourself, ‘We have to play another 82 games just to get back there, just to have that experience again of playing in the playoffs.’ Really, there’s nothing like it. I’m so excited that some of the guys in this room that haven’t tasted it will get to.”

The Wild went 5-8-1 in April after a 17-6-1 stretch to climb up the Western Conference charts. There was an incredible stress on the organization during this April swoon, and it took countless meetings to get players to eliminate the load from its shoulders. And then the 6-1 loss Friday at home to lowly Edmonton occurred.

Center Kyle Brodziak could only imagine how owner Craig Leipold, who has one of the NHL’s highest payrolls, would have reacted if the Wild had executed the meltdown.

  • related content

  • Chart: Minnesota Wild playoff primer

    Saturday April 27, 2013

    playoff primer• The Wild (26-19-3) will be the eighth seed in the West and open on the road against top-seeded Chicago...

  • Scouting the Chicago Blackhawks

    Saturday April 27, 2013

    SCOUTING THE FIRST-ROUND OPPONENTNo. 1 Chicago Blackhawks vs. No. 8 WildRecords: Blackhawks 36-7-5; Wild 26-19-3.Head-to-head record: Wild was 1-2 (shootout...

  • Wild notes: Backstrom recovers from tough loss

    Sunday April 28, 2013

    Behind a bounceback game from goalie Niklas Backstrom, the Wild advanced to play Chicago in the first round.

  • Game recap: Wild over Colorado

    Saturday April 27, 2013

    GAME RECAPSTAR TRIBUNE’s THREE STARS1. Niklas Backstrom, Wild: Rebounded from being pulled Friday against Edmonton by making 15 of 29...

  • Minnesota Wild left wing Zach Parise, front, celebrates his goal with...

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Tampa 1 Bottom 6th Inning
Philadelphia 2
LA Clippers 71 4th Qtr 10:17
Chicago 69
Cleveland 2:30 PM
Houston
Golden State 5:00 PM
Boston
Philadelphia 5:00 PM
Indiana
Portland 5:00 PM
Sacramento
Charlotte 5:00 PM
Orlando
Oklahoma City 5:30 PM
LA Lakers
New Orleans 7:00 PM
Denver
Los Angeles 3:00 PM
Winnipeg
Tampa Bay 4:00 PM
Florida
Columbus 4:00 PM
Pittsburgh
Toronto 6:00 PM
Washington
Anaheim 7:00 PM
Dallas
St. Louis 8:30 PM
Vancouver
SMU 24 1st Half 0:08
Connecticut 30
Quinnipiac 31 1st Half 0:40
Manhattan 34
Fairfield 32 1st Half 0:32
Niagara 26
Marist 23 2nd Half
Rider 21
Iona 29 2nd Half
Saint Peters 38
Oregon State 2:00 PM
California
South Florida 2:00 PM
Houston
Marquette 2:30 PM
Providence
Michigan State 3:00 PM
Wisconsin
Siena 3:30 PM
Monmouth
Pittsburgh 5:30 PM
Wake Forest
Oregon 6:00 PM
Stanford
Purdue 6:30 PM
Ohio State
Arizona State 7:30 PM
Colorado
Washington St 8:30 PM
UCLA
Georgetown 66 FINAL
Providence 81
Binghamton 50 FINAL
UMBC 73
Elon 56 2nd Half 3:50
Hofstra 52
Virginia Tech 47 FINAL
Boston College 49
(8) Louisville 54 2nd Half 2:20
Virginia 65
Texas 61 2nd Half 0:20
West Virginia 59
Creighton 53 FINAL
Villanova 61
Seton Hall 85 FINAL
Butler 76
UNC-Wilmington 73 2nd Half 1:40
Coll of Charleston 59
(5) Maryland 69 FINAL
(25) Northwestern 48
Saint Josephs 67 FINAL
La Salle 55
Louisiana Tech 46 2nd Half 4:00
TX-San Antonio 56
Rhode Island 29 1st Half 0:28
Massachusetts 38
Richmond 20 2nd Half
VA Commonwealth 23
Davidson 21 2nd Half
Fordham 31
St Bonaventure 25 2nd Half
Duquesne 25
George Mason 22 2nd Half
(22) George Washington 45
Indiana 26 2nd Half
(20) Rutgers 30
(12) Texas A&M 29 1st Half 1:59
LSU 42
Ole Miss 16 2nd Half
(11) Miss State 28
Clemson 30 2nd Half
Pittsburgh 22
Maine 21 2nd Half
New Hampshire 28
Vermont 22 2nd Half
Albany 30
Quinnipiac 30 1st Half 2:41
Monmouth 17
Saint Peters 23 2nd Half
Siena 25
(4) Notre Dame 37 2nd Half
NC State 31
Wisconsin 36 2nd Half
Penn State 24
Stony Brook 19 2nd Half
Hartford 24
Northeastern 20 2nd Half
William & Mary 32
St Johns 31 2nd Half
Xavier 23
James Madison 36 2nd Half
Delaware 39
Towson 2:00 PM
Drexel
Illinois State 2:00 PM
Bradley
Southern Ill 2:00 PM
Loyola-Chicago
Northern Iowa 2:00 PM
Wichita State
Minnesota 2:00 PM
(17) Iowa
(15) North Carolina 2:00 PM
(16) Duke
Alabama 2:00 PM
Auburn
(9) Florida State 2:00 PM
Miami-Florida
Arkansas 2:00 PM
Missouri
Georgia 2:00 PM
Florida
Dayton 2:00 PM
Saint Louis
Drake 2:05 PM
Missouri State
Colorado 3:00 PM
(10) Arizona State
(19) Stanford 3:00 PM
Oregon
Marquette 3:00 PM
DePaul
Southern Miss 3:00 PM
Texas-El Paso
Vanderbilt 4:00 PM
(6) Tennessee
(2) South Carolina 4:00 PM
(13) Kentucky
Utah 4:00 PM
Arizona
Ohio State 4:00 PM
Nebraska

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: With Adrian Peterson's suspension overturned, what should the Vikings do?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close