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5 Stanley Cup Playoff Questions for the Minnesota Wild

by Photo of Gil Santos

Emilie Wiener discusses Mikael Granlund, Illya Bryzgalov, the Wild’s playoff chances, and more.

5 Stanley Cup Playoff Questions for the Minnesota Wild

The Stanley Cup Playoffs began on Wednesday and CHARGED.fm wants to prepare you for playoff hockey! To get you ready, we contacted bloggers for the 16 playoff teams and asked them five questions to give us more insight about the teams they cover. Here is Emilie Wiener of Hockey Wilderness talking about the Minnesota Wild and their playoff chances.

The journey to the playoffs was a tough one of the Minnesota Wild. Their goalie situation was constantly changing with Josh Harding and Niklas Backstrom going out with long-term injuries. Two of their top offensive players, Zach Parise and captain Mikko Koivu, also missed significant time during the season. Fortunately for the Wild, their secondary players stepped up to fill the void of the injured stars and that's why they're in their second consecutive postseason. The Wild will be the top wild card team in the West Conference as they placed fourth in the Central with a 43-27-12 record and 98 points. This is just their fifth appearance in the postseason since their inception in 2000 and will seek to advance past the first round for the first time since 2003. They should have a decent shot at breaking the streak as they take on the inexperienced Colorado Avalanche. They will be on the road for their first two postseason games before heading home to Xcel Energy Center.

To get a better understanding of this year's Wild team, I talked to Emilie Wiener of Hockey Wilderness and here is what she had to say: 

1) Last season, the Minnesota Wild were eliminated early by the Chicago Blackhawks in five games. How has this year’s team improved? And what are your main concerns?

There’s been a lot of improvement this season. Veteran guys are showing the ropes to younger guys, and those young guys are making a huge impact on the team. There was a point in time where 4 of the top 5 guys on the team were out with injuries, and the young kids stepped up and not only kept the team on track, but even bettered the teams playoff position.

The main concern is obviously goaltending. The Wild are going into the post season with 3 injured goaltenders, a guy who has had a few meltdowns in big games, and a guy who’s played in only a handful of NHL games. On the same token though, despite using 5 different goaltenders, and dressing 7 this season, the team has done pretty well.

2)Who is an under the radar player that could make a huge impact on the Wild’s playoff run?

Mikael Granlund and Jared Spurgeon.

Granlund has missed about 20 games this season with concussion issues, but he is a fantastic playmaker. People underestimate him because he doesn’t score a lot of goals, but his vision on the ice is something to behold, and he makes it possible for the guys around him to put the puck in the net. Jason Pominville owes Granlund a couple huge favors for helping him hit 30 goals in the regular season.

Spurgeon flies under the radar due to his size (he’s tiny, especially for a defenseman). The funny thing is that you wouldn’t know that he’s undersized based on how he plays. Wild fans have taken to calling him “TANK” due to the fact that he doesn’t shy away from hitting people, and is surprisingly affective in doing so. He’s got a great shot as well, which makes him a threat on the offensive side of the ice as well

3) Illya Bryzgalov has taken over as the starting goaltender and has done a solid job thus far. Going into the playoffs, do you have any confidence in Bryzgalov given his recent poor playoff history?

Bryz played better than anyone expected him to be playing in MN. There may be a little bit of worry, but nothing that makes me think the team is doomed. He fits in very well with the team, and I think that makes a big difference in his confidence. A confident goalie is exactly what you need going into the playoffs.

4) How do you see your first round match-up with the Colorado Avalanche playing out?

Honestly, this could go either way and neither team is going to walk away from this match up easily. The Avalanche are pretty terribly defensively, but the Wild tend to struggle when it comes to scoring. The Wild have much better possession numbers, but the Avs have more consistent goaltending. The Avs have a young team without much playoff experience and some pretty tough injuries at the moment. But they’re a fast team, and if they Wild deviate from their game plan, that speed could burn them.

5) What is your overall prediction for the Wild this postseason?

I can see them getting out of the first round this season. It wouldn’t be easy, but it’s definitely a possibility. With the West being as tough as it is this season, any road in the playoffs isn’t going to be easy.

Emilie Wiener is the managing editor of SB Nation blog Hockey Wilderness. You can follow her on Twitter @eminemilie.

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