Instead of sticking around Xcel Energy Center, Wild coach Bruce Boudreau planned to head home to catch the rest of the Avalanche-Kings game Monday night.
“I’ll go home, and I’ll be like Jerry Tarkanian,” he said. “I’ll have a towel in my mouth, biting down on it.”
The Wild’s playoff hopes weren’t dependent on that result, but the game did have the potential to clinch a berth for the team. And that’s exactly what played out, as a 3-1 loss by the Avalanche secured a spot for the Wild in the postseason for the sixth straight season.
Currently, the team sits in third place in the Central Division with 98 points but it hasn’t wrapped up that spot yet.
While it’s impossible for the Avalanche to catch the Wild after its loss Monday, the Blues could mathematically tie the Wild if they win out and the Wild loses its final three games. In that scenario, the team with the highest combination of regulation and overtimes wins would prevail; the Wild currently holds that tiebreaker with 41, while the Blues have 40.
The Wild needs just one point to lock down the third seed, since that would put it out of St. Louis’ reach, and that would solidify a first-round matchup against the Jets.
Although the Wild did receive some outside help to nail down a berth, it did set itself up for that situation by blanking the Oilers 3-0 earlier in the evening.
“You want to do it as quick as you can,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “You don't want to leave it. If there's only a couple of games left, you want to win the games you can and we started with that tonight and we'll see what happens. And if we have to go win on Wednesday, we're going to be trying doing that anyway. It's going to be just as important to build our game going into the playoffs, so it's not like you're going to taking any sort of break regardless of what happens."
Here’s what else to watch for after the Wild’s win over the Oilers.
-Winger Zach Parise is on a roll, as he continued his strong play of late with a pair of goals Monday.
Parise extended his point streak to a season-high seven games and has potted four goals in the last three games.
“Our line is doing a good job,” he said. “When you play with [Mikael] Granlund, you're going to get chances, you're going to get shots, you're going to get good scoring opportunities. And [Mikko Koivu’s] so reliable defensively, and I think an underrated thing about him is that he wins the draw the majority of the time. So we start with the puck a lot. That goes a long way. So, I think as a group, we're meshing really well together."
-Carson Soucy drew plenty of praise after the game for his NHL debut, and he deserved it.
“That was about as impressive of a first game for a young defenseman as you can have from Soucy,” Dubnyk said. “I don’t think I saw one mistake out there. He looked like he’s been in the league for five years. It’s fun to see that for him. It’s exciting for all of us to see somebody come in that looks like they’re fully capable of playing well for us because we’re going to need it going forward.”
Soucy logged 15 minutes, 26 seconds and had three shots on goal. What wasn’t captured on the scoresheet was how smooth he looked on the ice, a performance that suggests he can help stabilize the Wild’s blue line as it tries to recalibrate without Ryan Suter.
“It was awesome,” Soucy said. “It was definitely nice to get that first one out of the way. I think a lot of the anticipation happens in the time leading up to it, so it was nice to get that first shift and that first game out of the way. Hopefully just move forward and then focus on the next few games here.”
-Suter will not rejoin the Wild this season, which includes the playoffs, as he requires surgery to repair a right ankle fracture.
“I just feel real bad for him,” Boudreau said. “He’s a guy that’s been really durable his whole life. It’s probably pretty depressing for him, but we just want him to get better.”