Wild draws Colorado in the first round of NHL playoffs

  • Article by: MICHAEL RUSSO , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 14, 2014 - 7:37 AM

It’s a recurring phenomenon. They’ve opened the playoffs three times in the past 11 years.

And they meet again.

For the third time in 11 years, the Wild and Colorado Avalanche will go head-to-head in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.

After 82 games and eight months of clawing for every point, the Wild’s regular season finally ended Sunday night with a 7-3 loss to the Nashville Predators.

“Like the last exhibition game before the start of the season, I’m just happy to have that game over with,” coach Mike Yeo said. “Everybody got through healthy and obviously we know that’s not the recipe.”

The Wild will open the best-of-seven first round against the Central Division champs Thursday in Denver.

“It feels like this last week has taken forever,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “You’re so close but so far away. It’s still another four days out. I’m just excited to get moving and get preparing.”

The Wild, which earned the first of two wild-card spots in the Western Conference, went 1-3-1 against the Avalanche this season. It is 32-14-6 against Colorado since March 5, 2006, and 13-3-3 in its past 19 games in Denver.

But this is a different Avalanche team from the downtrodden version Wild fans had grown accustomed to seeing in recent years. After all, there’s a reason the Avs were able to draft budding stars such as 18-year-old Nathan MacKinnon (first overall in 2013), 21-year-old Gabriel Landeskog (second overall in 2011) and 23-year-old Matt Duchene (third overall in 2009).

“They’ve got the whole package,” Wild captain Mikko Koivu said. “They left a lot — a lot — of good teams behind them. From the beginning to the end, they’ve been very strong. It’s going to be a tough, very big challenge.”

Colorado went from the second-worst team in the NHL last year (16 victories in the lockout-shortened season) to winning 52 games this season. It had the fourth-most-lethal offense in the NHL (Ryan O’Reilly is another forward the Wild better be wary of), and in Patrick Roy’s first season behind the Avs bench, goalie Semyon Varlamov broke his coach’s franchise record by winning 41 games.

“They are completely different than what they were last year,” said Wild leading scorer Jason Pominville. “They only added a couple players here or there, but their coaching staff must have done a great job there. They’re just playing with really, really good confidence. They’ve got a lot of skill up front that can make you pay.”

Defensively, Bloomington’s Erik Johnson turned into a horse of a blue-liner this season.

“It’ll be a ton of fun,” Johnson said of playing the Wild. “Since their inception, my dad [Bruce] has had season tickets. It’s going to be fun to go home and play Round 1 in the playoffs.”

The Avs, 8-1-2 in their final 11, ranked 14th in the NHL defensively, so if the Wild can stay away from a track meet with the faster, more skilled team and get pucks deep and go to work on their defensemen, the Wild might be successful.

“We can’t change who we are, and we don’t want to,” Koivu said.

The Wild and Colorado haven’t met since Jan. 30, a game in which the Wild’s attempted rally fell short in a 5-4 loss. Zach Parise scored two goals and had two assists that game.

A lot has changed with the Wild since then. The team closed the season 6-1-1 in its final eight games.

“We did a great job to really push hard and get our game where it needs to be,” veteran Matt Cooke said. “Not to cliché it, but let’s throw [Sunday’s game] out the window and move forward.”

  • related content

  • BOXSCORE: Nashville 7, Wild 3

    Monday April 14, 2014

  • Postgame: Wild looks toward playoffs vs. Colorado

    Sunday April 13, 2014

    The Wild lost its regular-season finale in ugly fashion and will now prepare for the Avalanche

  • Wild fails to hit the 100-point mark

    Monday April 14, 2014

    After the Wild’s 3-1 lead over the Nashville Predators evaporated in a snap, the team checked out dramatically and failed to hit the 100-point mark for the second time in...

  • Wild-Colorado playoff schedule

    Monday April 14, 2014

    SERIES SCHEDULEThursday: 8:30 p.m. at Colorado (CNBC)Saturday: 8:30 p.m. at Colorado (NBCSN)April 21: 6 p.m. at Xcel (NHLN)April 24: 8:30...

  • Photo gallery: Nashville 7, Wild 3

    Tuesday April 15, 2014

    After the Wild’s 3-1 lead over the Nashville Predators evaporated in a snap, the Wild checked out dramatically and...

  • Chart: Comparing Wild, Colorado stats

    Monday April 14, 2014

    Playoff preview: Colorado vs. Wild(Avalanche won season series 4-0-1)Stat comparisonColorado Category Wild52-22-8 Record 43-27-1226-11-4 Home record 26-10-526-11-4 Road record 17-17-7245 (2.99, 4th in NHL) Goals for 199 (2.43, 24th)216 (2.63,...

  • Wild-Nashville game recap

    Monday April 14, 2014

    Star Tribune’s three stars1. Craig Smith, Predators: Former Badger scored two goals, had two assists, was plus-4 and had five...

  • Erik Haula (56) celebrated after scoring in the first period Sunday against Nashville.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Los Angeles 4 Top 7th Inning
Pittsburgh 8
San Francisco 3 Top 7th Inning
Philadelphia 5
Texas 0 Bottom 8th Inning
NY Yankees 0
Boston 0 Top 8th Inning
Toronto 6
Miami 6 Top 8th Inning
Atlanta 2
San Diego 0 Bottom 5th Inning
Chicago Cubs 2
Cincinnati 1 Bottom 5th Inning
Milwaukee 2
Cleveland 3 Top 5th Inning
Minnesota 1
Kansas City 1 Top 5th Inning
Chicago WSox 1
Tampa Bay 1 Top 5th Inning
St. Louis 1
Washington 0 Bottom 3rd Inning
Colorado 1
Detroit - R. Porcello 8:40 PM
Arizona - C. Anderson
Houston - B. Oberholtzer 9:05 PM
Oakland - S. Kazmir
Baltimore - M. Gonzalez 9:05 PM
LA Angels - H. Santiago
NY Mets - J. deGrom 9:10 PM
Seattle - E. Ramirez
Calgary 7/24/14 8:00 PM
Winnipeg 7/25/14 9:00 PM
Brt Columbia
Ottawa 7/26/14 6:00 PM
Toronto 7/26/14 9:00 PM
Tulsa 61 4th Qtr 10:00
San Antonio 66
Atlanta 66 3rd Qtr 0:23
Minnesota 75
Indiana 41 4th Qtr 10:00
Chicago 44
Phoenix 9:00 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: Which local pro team are you most excited about?

Weekly Question