In the beginning, my relationship with the Minnesota Wild was strong. I was 11 years old when the Wild franchise was in its third year of existence. They entered the 2003 Stanley Cup Playoffs as the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference, and few people outside of the state gave them much chance to take down the mighty Colorado Avalanche.
The Wild fell behind 3-1 in the series, but roared back to win three straight games. They did the same exact thing in the West semifinals against Vancouver, becoming the first team in NHL history to erase two 3-1 series deficits.
The road games always stretched past my bedtime, so I would turn on the busted radio in my room and listen to Marian Gaborik, Wes Walz, Andrew Brunette, Sergei Zholtok, Pierre-Marc Bouchard, Nick Schultz and the rest of the gang skate circles around Patrick Roy and Todd Bertuzzi.
Alas, the Wild fell to Anaheim and Jean Sebastien-Giguere’s illegal goalie pads in the conference finals. Then the front office broke up the team the following year, which led to depressing 10-year anniversary stories like this one.
The team missed the 2004 playoffs and then missed an entire season due to the stupid 04-05 lockout. They’ve made the postseason twice since then, but I haven’t cared. There were never any more late nights staying up to listen to Wild broadcasts. No magical playoff series. I was on to football, basketball, baseball and large quantities of meth.
Just making sure you’re still paying attention.
Anyway, the Wild are finally back in the postseason after a five-year wait. They will most certainly lose to the No. 1-seeded Chicago Blackhawks. Most Wild fans are hoping that the team simply makes it a competitive series.
I’m here to stand up for the Wild’s Stanley Cup chances. They will win. You can mark it down now. It’s basic science. Don’t believe me? Let’s take a peek at the facts:
1. Corey Crawford is weak sauce in the net
Chicago goalies Crawford and Ray Emery were great in the regular season, but that doesn’t mean squat when the men on the ice start growing playoff beards. Crawford is 0-2 in career playoff series, which has Blackhawks fans calling for Emery to guide them through the playoffs. The Wild have nothing to lose over the next two months. The Blackhawks have everything to lose. Crawford knows this. He is weak.
2. The Xcel Energy Center is straight fire
To weather the two-month playoffs storm, the Wild need support from the home crowd. There is no better place to play hockey than the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul. The fans are flat out electric. Home playoff games are Sabbath days in the great North. The players know this. It’s all but over.
3. The beards will be thick
Colder climates allow for faster beard growth (again, science). Because much of the on-ice intimidation in the NHL is due to facial hair, the Wild will have no choice but to eliminate weaker foes with their luscious face carpets.
4. Hey, the Kings did it
Last year, the Los Angeles Kings took the postseason by storm and conquered all four of their series with ease. Just like the Wild, they were the No. 8 seed in the West. They were the underdogs every time they went on the ice, but they hoisted the Cup while everyone else sat at home (except for the Wild players, who were already training for this very moment).
5. The road to the Finals is weak sauce
Beat Chicago (check). Beat Anaheim (check). Beat Vancouver (check). Wow, that was easy.
6. Niklas Backstrom is about to be the best goalie in the league
Backstrom must be on top of his game for the Wild to win the Cup. He knows this. He also knows he can do it. He watched Los Angeles’ Jonathan Quick last postseason and said, “What? Quick sucks! I could do that.” Twelve months later, here we are. Backstrom is in prime position to lock down every shot of these playoffs. Expect several shutouts from No. 32.
7. Minnesota still has a big karma check to cash
I wasn’t even born when Dallas stole Minnesota’s hockey team. Modano and North Stars would have been everything to me as a child. They would’ve inspired me to lace up the skates and make it to the NHL. Now, I’m writing scientific pseudo-slideshows on the NHL. Karma commence.
8. The Wild have a big karma check to cash with Barry Melrose
ESPN’s pinstriped goofus picked the Wild to make it to the Stanley Cup finals in his preseason special. Today, he was back on ESPN. I figured he would be a man and reassert his claim, but he opted to do the opposite and called the Wild the worst team in the 16-squad playoffs. Karma commence.
9. Mikko Koivu is a future Hall-of-Famer
Laugh now. You have about two months left until the Conn Smythe Trophy turns your incredulousness into worship.
10. We paid for this, dammit
Let’s be real: Minnesotans are nice, but we hate to get ripped off as much as the rest of you. When we learned that Zach Parise and Ryan Suter were coming to town for a flashy $200 mil, our expectations skyrocketed. The playoffs are nice, but defeat is not an option.
The journey begins tonight.