Lou Nanne is Mr. Hockey in the State of Hockey, a man who knows the game as well as anybody. He gives the Wild a chance to beat Chicago in Game 3 of their playoff series Sunday at Xcel Energy Center.
“Chicago is the top team in the league, and so the Wild have their hands full,” Nanne said. “[The Wild] have been playing hard. They’ve had some chances. They aren’t going to get as many chances as Chicago, so when they get them they have to put something in.”
Nanne pointed out that the Wild could have won Game 1 on Tuesday but got outplayed in the second game Friday, despite having some chances.
“They have to make the chances count. It’s really tough to play Chicago, because their defense is so good and they get the puck out of the zone so fast, so the Wild haven’t been able to put too much pressure on,” Nanne said.
In Nanne’s opinion, the matchup with the Blackhawks is not favorable for the Wild.
“Chicago has got such a good puck-moving defense and really a lot of high-skilled, scoring forward on two lines. The Wild have to play real, real defensive to stay in the game,” he said.
Nanne does believe home ice will be a big plus for the Wild.
“I think it’s going to be real good for Minnesota if they don’t get too nervous or anxious, because they’re playing at home for the first time, if they don’t get excited and just focus on the game, the crowd support could help them,” he said. “I think the Wild is in good position to win.”
What does the Wild have to do to win?
“They have to play real tight. They have to try and frustrate Chicago,” Nanne said. “They can’t open it up and they have to be better on the power play. The power play hasn’t been good. They have to score goals on the power play.
“Chicago is a team that won the Stanley Cup. They had an unbelievable run of wins this year, so they’re accustomed to playing anywhere. The crowd should help Minnesota more than it’s going to hurt Chicago.”
At a news conference Friday announcing Flip Saunders as the new Timberwolves general manager, owner Glen Taylor brought up the long relationship the two have had.
“When I bought the team [in 1995], one of the first guys that wrote to me was a fellow named Flip Saunders,” Taylor recalled. “He wrote me a letter and said, ‘If there’s some space in here for me, I’m very interested.’
“He was in Sioux Falls, I was in Mankato. I responded and he drove over to Mankato and I can remember us sitting in the office. If you know Flip at that time he brought what was called the ‘Playbook: History of Basketball,’ all of the opportunities that go forward. We had a great day of talking about basketball and how he might fit in.”
Taylor added that from that conversation, Saunders was offered the job of general manager.
“I was new, he was new, we spent a lot of time talking, getting to know each other about things even up and above basketball,” Taylor said.
“Our families got to know each other very well. And then a decision was made that Flip would become the coach. We had already established a very close relationship, so when he was coach here, we continued on that close relationship. We talked about all facets of basketball and got to know each other.”