An eighth seed rolling to the Stanley Cup Final happened only twice in the past 15 years, but Jarret Stoll was there both times.
Thursday the Wild, seeded eighth in the Western Conference, will begin the Stanley Cup playoffs at Dallas. The numbers, most stats, common sense and history suggests it will be a difficult challenge for the Wild. But, twice since 2001, eighth seeds have made big runs.
The 2005-06 Edmonton Oilers rode goaltender Dwayne Roloson — a midseason acquisition from the Wild — into the Cup Final, where they lost in seven games to Carolina.
In 2012 the eighth-seeded Los Angeles Kings stormed to the title, winning the first three games in every series, eventually beating the New Jersey Devils in the Cup Final in six games.
Stoll, now with the Wild, was a checking center on both teams. He provided his formula for pulling off series upsets.
• Chemistry. “You have to be a close team that cares about each other to get anywhere,” Stoll said. “We were hardworking, grinding, checking teams.’’
• Goaltending. In 2006, Roloson got hot before being injured in Game 1 of the Cup Final. In 2012, the Kings’ Jonathan Quick was nearly unbeatable.
• Special teams. “The goalie is huge, special teams are so big,” Stoll said. “You take care of that part of the game, and you check well, you frustrate teams, you suffocate teams by playing your system, playing it well, playing it consistently.
“And,’’ Stoll added, “you have to have everybody. We didn’t have one guy not pulling his weight.’’
The Oilers relied on Roloson and players such as Ales Hemsky, Shawn Horcoff and Chris Pronger in their run. The Kings had players such as Anze Kopitar and Drew Doughtly.
Both teams sailed, relatively speaking, into the Cup Final. The Oilers beat Detroit and San Jose 4-2, rallying from a two-game deficit vs. the Sharks. Then Edmonton beat Anaheim 4-1 in the conference finals. The Kings lost a total of four games in their playoff run.
So does Stoll see similar qualities in this year’s Wild team?
“The checking side of the game, for sure,’’ he said. “I think we’re a very good checking team when we play the right way. And a fast team, one that plays on the right side of the puck. That’s how we’ll have to play. Maybe Dallas has more skill than us, but we have to check them, get our opportunities from that. Stay out of the penalty box, stuff like that. Win faceoffs.’’
Even with that there has to be some luck.
“There are so many things that have to fall into place,’’ Stoll said. “You need everyone in the room — even guys not in the lineup right away — working together, playing the system. It’s a war, it’s a battle. You can’t have any selfish guys in here.’’
But, put the right ingredients together and perhaps a run will ensue.
“It’s hard to win, but that’s what makes it so much fun,’’ Stoll said. “Once you win, you want it that much more. Once you taste that, there’s nothing better.’’