The Wild is just happy to take a few days to breathe.
Part of the benefit of finishing a series before seven games is a team can decompress before hitting it hard the next round. Last year, the Wild beat Colorado on April 30 and opened with the Chicago Blackhawks two days later. The Wild got smoked 5-2 in Game 1.
That same two-day scenario would have occurred this year had the Wild won Game 7 versus the St. Louis Blues, a game originally scheduled for Wednesday that won’t be played because the Wild took care of business Sunday in Game 6.
“It’s nice to not have to rush, to get a little extra time,” coach Mike Yeo said before the Wild opens at Chicago on Friday. “It’s nice to have an opportunity to collect yourself after. Whenever you go through a hard series like that and come out with the win, there’s a lot of emotion involved.”
The Wild took Monday off. On Tuesday, it had an off-ice workout and an optional practice in which Mikko Koivu, Jason Zucker, Matt Cooke, Chris Stewart, Kyle Brodziak and Devan Dubnyk didn’t skate.
“It’s an opportunity to rest here,” Yeo said. “Part of it is the physical part, but part of it is the mental part as well.”
Behind the scenes, coaches have begun prepping for the Blackhawks, a team the Wild has played the past two postseasons.
“It can be overkill, too, if you bombard your players with too much information,” Yeo said. “So we’ll present the things we need to present. A lot of it is very familiar.”
Yeo’s admiration for Dubnyk has grown throughout the season, as the coach has seen his goaltender meet challenge after challenge. It reached new heights last week, when Dubnyk absorbed a postseason battering for the first time in his career and came back with two magnificent performances.
Yeo admitted Tuesday he was not certain how Dubnyk would handle his poor outing in Game 4 against St. Louis, when he was pulled after giving up six goals on 17 shots. Based on what Yeo had seen from him during the regular season, he was hopeful Dubnyk would move on quickly, but the goalie had never been in such a situation. Dubnyk remained unflappable, stopping 36 of 37 shots — and frustrating the Blues with several highlight-reel saves — in a Game 5 victory that staggered St. Louis. In the Game 6 clincher, he stopped 30 of 31 shots.
“One critical thing for me — and I can say it now — is the way he responded after Game 4,” Yeo said. “I think that was a real important bounce-back for him.’’
For the third year in a row, the Wild will be starting a playoff series in Chicago. It has yet to win a postseason game at United Center, going 0-3 there in a first-round loss in 2013 and 0-3 in a second-round loss last year.
The Wild was outscored 11-4 at Chicago in last year’s playoffs, with all three games drawing deafening crowds of more than 22,000. In 2013, the Blackhawks rolled up a 12-4 scoring margin.
While the players are well aware of their postseason victory drought at the arena, they hope things will be different this time around. The Wild went 24-15-2 away from home during the regular season — including a 12-game road winning streak that matched the NHL record — and won two of three first-round games at St. Louis.
“It’s a tough rink to play in,” winger Zach Parise said of the Hawks’ home. “It’s not a secret; we haven’t had any success there in the playoffs the last couple of years. It is a hard building.
“But like we’ve said, the last little while and the last [playoff] round, we’ve been playing well on the road. That’s a good sign for us.”
Staff writer Rachel Blount contributed to this report.