It still isn’t finalized which team the Wild will face in the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but the possibilities have been confirmed.
Either the Jets or Predators will challenge the Wild starting next week, clarity that arrived Wednesday night during the Wild's 3-1 loss to the Ducks at Honda Center amid a loss by the Blues, and both present a “monumental” challenge in coach Bruce Boudreau’s eyes.
“The great thing is you know if you can beat either one of those teams, then you can beat any team in the league,” Boudreau said, “because those are two of maybe the top-three teams in the NHL.”
As it stands now, the Wild would face the Jets, as they’re second in the Central Division. But at 110 points, they could still catch the No. 1 Predators, who are ahead by only three points.
Each team has two games remaining.
“You want to be in one of those top-three spots in the division,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. “Obviously, both those teams have had pretty fantastic seasons. … I think it’ll be exciting for us. It’ll be a good rivalry being in the division like that, and it’s going to be an exciting series no matter what it is.”
Here’s what else to watch for after the Wild’s loss to the Ducks.
-The Wild challenged the Ducks’ first goal to determine if goaltender interference was a factor in the puck trickling through Dubnyk’s five-hole amid a slew of bodies in the crease, but the goal counted.
“I didn’t think it was interference,” Dubnyk said. “ … I thought he might have kicked it. That’s what I was talking to the ref about after. I just wanted to make sure they had a look at it.”
Although this game had no bearing on the Wild’s station in the standings, a similar call could affect it in the playoffs – a scenario that makes Dubnyk nervous.
“Yeah, absolutely,” he said. “You don’t want it to come down to that, but unfortunately a precedent was set and they’re making moves toward it getting better and that’s good to see. Fingers crossed. You obviously don’t want to be in a situation where a controversial play makes a difference in the game.”
-After going 3-for-3 against the Ducks, the Wild’s penalty kill improved to 20-for-20 over its last seven games.
Dubnyk attributes the successful rhythm to a host of factors including how the Wild sets up for zone entries, its reads and “picking great times to kind of jump up and force and create bobbled pucks.
“No good PK kills the penalty by hanging out in their end the whole time,” Dubnyk continued.
-Boudreau will chat with Dubnyk, goalie coach Bob Mason and General Manager Chuck Fletcher to decide if that was Dubnyk’s final game of the regular season or if he’ll suit up for the finale Saturday against the Sharks.
If this was his last appearance until the playoffs, it was a strong effort to build on for Dubnyk.
“He was outstanding,” Boudreau said.