Ultimately, the Wild lost to a highly skilled team blessed with playoff savvy and experience. No shame in that.
This Wild team gave our sports market something it sorely needed. It re-introduced us to something called the postseason and reminded us how much fun that can be, the way it energizes a city and connects diehards and casual fans alike.
We needed this. We needed to experience the thrill and tension of an extended playoff run with its highs and lows. It’s been entirely too long around here.
Game 6 captured all those emotions, and the second period in particular showcased hockey at its best. The teams traded breakaways and odd-man rushes and bang-bang scoring chances. The pace and action were exhilarating.
The overtime period felt like 19,000 fans collectively holding their breath. Until Kane’s winner brought Xcel Energy Center to sudden silence.
“It can’t get any worse than losing like that,” Parise said. “You shouldn’t lose like that.”
Once the sting wears off, the Wild should feel encouraged that it went nose-to-nose with the defending champions and wasn’t outclassed. Yes, the Blackhawks won the series 4-2, but the Wild didn’t look out of its league. Unlike last year, the Wild belonged on the ice. The Blackhawks had to earn their win this time.
“I feel like we’re just as good as anybody,” Parise said.
This postseason run demonstrated that the Wild organization is on the right path and can become legitimate Stanley Cup contenders next season and beyond if it addresses its goaltending situation in a meaningful way and makes a few roster tweaks this offseason.
The emergence of a core group of youngsters gives hope that this team can continue its steady climb toward a championship level.
The fast-track development of Haula, Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle and Marco Scandella should be a key takeaway from this postseason.
The Wild’s future looks even brighter based on how those guys handled the big stage. They didn’t look overmatched or overwhelmed. They didn’t just dip their toes in the water. They went in headfirst, unafraid of failure or the pressure of playoff hockey.
The ending proved disappointing, but the Wild should leave for summer vacation with no regrets.
The team won one series and put up a worthy fight against the defending champions. Young players emerged, and the team dug itself out of a few difficult spots.
All in all, that should be viewed as a success and something to build upon going forward.
Chip Scoggins firstname.lastname@example.org