The Avalanche displayed its immaturity in its loss to the Wild — and Minnesota still required an overtime goal in Game 7 to win that series.
The Blackhawks’ core players are either young or in their prime.
St. Louis faltered in its series against Chicago because of key injuries, but otherwise might have defeated the Blackhawks and represented a daunting matchup for the Wild.
San Jose, Anaheim and Los Angeles are all perennial contenders, and Edmonton is stocked with young talent that, like Colorado’s a year ago, has yet to blossom.
Hockey culture demands that players and coaches perform daily self-administered psychological evaluations, but even if the Wild does all it can to improve, it will not necessarily find next year’s playoffs any more welcoming or easy.
The Wild has grown up nicely. This newfound maturity should make it a playoff team for years to come.
Once the playoffs begin, though, the Wild as currently constituted will be just one of a half-dozen teams capable of winning the conference championship.
The young players will be asked to play 82 — or 100-plus — games at a high level. The general manager will have to improve his current roster without meddling with its core players or internal leaders. A goalie will have to emerge who can steal a playoff game the way Chicago’s Corey Crawford did on Tuesday night.
Growing up means facing heightened expectations. Mature as they seem to be, let’s see how the Wild’s key figures handle those before we start stenciling anyone’s name on next year’s Cup.
Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN. His Twitter name is @SouhanStrib. • firstname.lastname@example.org