After watching the Wild in St. Louis to start the playoffs, General Manager Chuck Fletcher says there is no reason why this team can't win the Stanley Cup if it keeps playing the way it has in splitting two tough games on the road by matching the Blues physically and using its great team speed.

"You need health and a few bounces — we saw a couple pucks that could have crossed the line [Saturday] and they don't, and you hope you get your share where you get a couple that bounce in for you," Fletcher said. "But the teams are so close that I think we can compete with anybody. We're certainly going to have a lot of work to do to beat St. Louis and get out of the first round. Every series is so tight, but there's no reason we can't win games and beat teams.

"But again, you need some good fortunate and you need good health and hopefully a few breaks along the way. It's going to be an entertaining Game 3. This is two evenly matched teams and it's going to be tough. There's not a lot of space out there, and I have a feeling this series could go for a while."

Fletcher knows the biggest reason for the Wild making the postseason was the play of goalie Devan Dubnyk, but also said a number of young players have stepped up in a big way.

"It all starts with goaltending, and we've been very fortunate," he said. "Last year we had great performances from Darcy Kuemper and Ilya Bryzgalov to help that team be successful, and this year Darcy started the year really well and now Devan has played really well the second half of the season. He gives the group so much confidence when you know he's going to make the saves he's supposed to make.

"But our young guys have continued to get better, whether it's [Nino] Niederreiter or Jason Zucker or Marco Scandella. We've seen Matt Dumba emerge. Mikael Granlund has had a very good playoffs so far. Charlie Coyle played a great game [Saturday]. It's a big part of it. We have a lot of kids under the age of 25, and they're getting great experience playing these big playoff games and they're continuing to make big contributions."

Fletcher said he hopes to re-sign Dubnyk, among other free agents, but his main hope is the team can make a deep playoff run and put off those decisions for a long time.

"We'll make the best offer we can make, and ultimately the player has to decide what he wants to do," Fletcher said. "When things are working out for both sides, usually things work out well. But we'll see. We'll see what happens and at this point, I'm hoping we can continue to play and play well."

Staying with St. Louis

Though the Wild lost 4-1 to the Blues in Game 2 of their first-round series, Fletcher thought the team was controlling the second and third periods as it tried to rally from a 2-0 deficit.

"I thought we played really well and probably played as well in Game 2 as we did in Game 1," Fletcher said. "I thought we had a lot of zone time. I thought we played a very physical game. Sometimes the breaks go against you, and I think they pulled three pucks off the goal line that easily could have crossed over into the net and even a couple of the calls seemed to go against.

"But that's life, and you have to deal with it and give St. Louis credit. They found a way to score a couple big goals. That goal with two minutes to go to make it 3-1 was obviously a back-breaker. They got a power-play goal in the first period. Those were big moments in the game. We had our chances and we couldn't score, and they capitalized on theirs. But territorial-wise, puck possession-wise, physicality-wise, I thought we matched up well and played very hard. If we can continue with that effort, I think we'll be a tough team to beat."

Newcomers help

Sunday's 7-2 victory over Cleveland gave the Twins back-to-back series wins over the Royals and Indians and was an indication of how some of the newcomers, who were at best non-contributors early this season, have turned things around.

For instance, Trevor May, who held Cleveland to one run on four hits over six innings, was not a member of the 25-man roster to start the season. Shane Robinson was a late addition to the squad and went 3-for-4 and made a sensational catch in center field. Robinson also had his first multi-hit game since May 27, 2014. Aaron Thompson, who came up when Brian Duensing strained a muscle on his right side, pitched two shutout innings while allowing one hit and striking out one.

Then there was Trevor Plouffe, who was struggling earlier this year, but he hit a game-winning home run Friday night and then went 3-for-4 with two doubles Sunday.

This was the first time the Twins won back-to-back series since taking three of four at Seattle on July 7-10, then winning two of three in Colorado from July 11-13 last season.


• Two great contributors to the University of Minnesota died over the weekend. They were Bruce Telander, who was 81 and ranks as one of the greatest contributors in Gophers hockey history, and attorney John Mooty, who at one time was president of the University of Minnesota Alumni Association and, like Telander, was a fantastic contributor in every way to Gophers athletics.

• With the Vikings contributing $1.2 million to build 15 larger suites that will replace three or four planned lounges, that brings their total contribution to $522 million. The additional suites will give the stadium a total of 131. To date, the Vikings have secured commitments for 91 of the 131 total suites, nearly 70 percent.

• Twins President Dave St. Peter wasn't surprised at all by the poor attendance of 17,923 on Sunday at Target Field, because the weather bureaus had been repeatedly predicting rain for Sunday. As a result, St. Peter said few walk-up tickets were sold the past three days. … Through nine games, Twins prospect Byron Buxton is batting .225 with one homer and three RBI and Miguel Sano is batting .200 with two homers and five RBI for Class AA Chattanooga.

• The Timberwolves finished eighth overall in NBA road attendance this season, showing how interested basketball fans were in this young Wolves squad. The seven teams in front of them were all playoff teams — Cleveland, Chicago, Golden State, Washington, L.A. Clippers, Brooklyn and Memphis.

• USA Today sports reporter Tom Pelissero, who did a fantastic job for before leaving, reported that an NFL scout he spoke to at Gophers running back David Cobb's pro day said the Gophers' 2015 football team has the third-most talent in the Big Ten, behind only Michigan State and Ohio State.

Sid Hartman can be heard weekdays on 830-AM at 7:40 and 8:40 and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m.