We’ve reached the conclusion of the 82-game regular season for the Minnesota Wild. With a season that featured a lot more highs, few lows, and a 2nd place finish in the Central Division, we now get to look forward to the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And we now know who Minnesota will face in the first round - old faces in new places, Mike Yeo, Kyle Brodziak, and the St. Louis Blues.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch... The Minnesota Wild dispatched the Arizona Coyotes by defending well in front of Darcy Kuemper and getting goals from Erik Haula, Eric Staal, and Martin Hanzal. It was Haula’s career-high 15th goal of the season when Jason Pominville centered the puck to Haula as Coyotes netminder Mike Smith scrambled to get back into his net after mis-playing the puck.
Then the Wild executed the first solid-looking power play in a long time. They created chaos by making one, two passes maximum, and then shooting with authority. This time a rebound came back out to Charlie Coyle, who dished over to Staal. Staal then rifled a shot from the right circle for his team-leading 28th goal of the season. Minnesota out-shot Arizona to a tune of 14-6 after one period.
The second period concluded with really not much going on. Shots after 40 minutes were 24-14. Outside of Erik Haula taking exception to Connor Murphy leveling him at the Arizona line, there were no power plays to speak of, and no goals. The Coyotes did hit a post that ended up getting swept away by Matt Dumba.
Brandon Perlini would get the Coyotes on the board after Kuemper kicked a Shane Doan shot back out to Perlini for a one-timer. Zach Parise, however, would take yet another stick up in the face. This time it was teammate Nino Niederreiter’s stick catching him as he skated between a board battle and the back of the Coyote cage. He’d head off the ice, bloodied from friendly fire, and would return for the rest of the game...because why dare the hockey gods any more?
Martin Hanzal would net a power play goal after Niederreiter was hauled down on a glorious scoring opportunity busting through the defensive box of the Coyotes. It would be Hanzal’s 20th goal of the season. Minnesota kept the Coyotes at bay and finished with 45-21 shot advantage.
As the buzzer sounded, Wild players, Coyotes players, referees, and the Wild and Coyotes fans in attendance all saluted the long-time captain Shane Doan. This was likely his final game in the NHL, though nothing was officially announced.
What a season it was! We want to thank each and every one of you for making this Wild Hockey Community an absolute treat for us. An 82-game season is a long grind with ups, downs, and everything in between. It was great to share another great Wild season with all of you, and this was the best Wild season of all.
I want to thank the writing staff for sticking through the grind and offering up well written, well thought out opinions on players and the season. We had a little fun with a Wild players as Bond movies article, the snark in the game preview Tales of the Tape, and were able to be there when news broke that needed to be covered.
I want to thank my editorial staff for making my life running this thing easier on me. They proofread articles, help with ideas, and pitch in on gamers when I’m in need of a healthy scratch.
Thanks to all the folks that did some guest writing for us on occasion, all of the guests on the Hockey Wilderness Podcast, and the relationships we’ve made along the way.
Finally, I need to thank my wife and kids for putting up with each game night, each podcast night, and the time commitment is takes to do this. I could not do this successfully without their support and their encouragement. The season felt like it went by fast to all of us except my wife, and as annoyed with a back-to-back she’d get, she still support me through and through.
We hopefully have a lengthy post-season run to look forward to as the Wild will open a playoff series at home for the first time since 2008. Saturday’s win cemented this 2016-17 season as the best in franchise history with 106 points. The Wild will need to find their game from December and January to make this the best Stanley Cup Playoffs appearance in franchise history.
Check back with Hockey Wilderness all playoffs long as we dissect, analyze, and celebrate each game. Go Wild!
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