The Minnesota Wild have been one of the more entertaining teams in the league this season.
Not for any high-flying offense or spectacular goals — outside of what Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala are able to do every night — but for the pure will and determination that they have been able to put on display from the drop of the puck.
Maybe it’s just remembering the snippets of their campaign, but starting the regular season with two comeback wins against the Los Angeles Kings that were decided by last-minute equalizers that turned into overtime game-winning goals, puts a stamp on what kind of season it’s going to be. That trend has continued all the way up, sprinkling these types of wins through the season, and the latest was Saturday night against the St. Louis Blues.
A tough opponent for this Wild team — with a record of 2-2-2 on this season — was able to collapse by the hand of the offensive pressure all four lines were able to pile on in the third period. Two goals in the final six minutes of regulation and the overtime Fiala tally just a couple minutes into the extra frame, was just another instance of this Wild team pulling out victories seemingly from nowhere.
Comeback wins don’t really happen unless the team lets their opponent get the better of them for the majority of the game though.
“Were we frustrated? One hundred percent. You could probably tell,” said Nico Sturm. “But we know at all times that we have the type of players in the locker room that can get it done. It’s the skill that we have in our top six and the depth down in the bottom six. There’s players on every line that could change the game at any given time. Was it hard? Yeah. But it doesn’t really surprise me.
“I think we’ve shown a couple of times this year that we have the resiliency in the locker room.”
Sturm earned himself the spotlight after head coach Dean Evason promoted him from the fourth line to the third-line center role in between Fiala and Victor Rask. The punky German rookie has been one of the more underplayed storylines this season, but his rise from minor tweener to a stable centerman that should be getting more ice, is something to look for going into the team’s eighth postseason in the last nine years.
“We definitely didn’t want to lose three in a row,” said Nick Bonino. “The great teams don’t do that. We talked about that before the game, and I think over the course of this week we had some really good periods in both of our losses…Mistakes ended up in our net, but for the most part the battle was there all week, and that’s a playoff team that’s proven in the playoffs.
“To get that result tonight obviously gives the guys some confidence and a step in the right direction.”
Maybe it’s just some semblance of optimism, but these types of victories spell out a larger story of a team that is somewhat built for a tough first round against either the Vegas Golden Knights or the Colorado Avalanche — two of the league’s best teams.
While both of those teams theoretically have better defenses than the Blues, the Wild have been able to pile on enough pressure to bend the game to their will at points through this regular season. If it carries into the playoffs — where the Wild’s depth can really strut their stuff — then it can be a sign of maybe an upset waiting to happen.
I am not confident in saying that they will be able to take on the league’s top defense in the Avalanche, and make them look like they’re on the blue line of an alumni game, but it’s just a shred of expectation that recent history can repeat itself.
It’s been enough of a trend through this season — from the very first game to the most recent — that it can more than happen again in the next few weeks.
As Bonino and Sturm said, this group of dudes don’t really give up until the final whistle. Especially considering that depth is one of the biggest factors between regular season and playoff success, the Wild’s unrelenting waves of pressure can certainly be a magnificent attribute to have through the first round.
We shall see, but we might as well be hopeful for something.