You can watch that play 100 times in a row and still be surprised at the puck's decision to bounce back in front of the net.
After a hard-fought, win-or-go-home-for-good Game 6, a weird carom ended the Wild's 2013-14 season about halfway through the first overtime period. Blackhawks win 2-1 and advance to the Western Conference Finals; the Wild start their offseason.
But despite the sudden end, optimism appears to be present the morning after.
There are some reasons to like the near-future of this Wild team. Here are the top five, based on tweets, columns and observations we've seen today and throughout the playoffs.
1) Young players growing up – The Wild spent big money and promising trade assets to land players such as Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Jason Pominville, Dany Heatley and others. And while those big names provided solid- to elite-level play, it was the young guns who stepped up this postseason. As Judd Zulgad with 1500ESPN points out, a number of youngsters – Charlie Coyle, Nino Niederreiter, Mikael Granlund and Erik Haula among them – gained valuable experience in these playoffs. And when they're counted on to perform better next year, they're more likely to be ready.
2) An injection of excitement in a sleepy sports town – There hasn't been much to get fans inspired when it comes to Minnesota's four major pro sports franchises. None of the big four have made noise in the playoffs since the Brett Favre-led Vikings. So the Wild's mini-run in this year's postseason was a breath a fresh, successful air. Jim Souhan with the Star Tribune called it "the best extended drama the Twin Cities has seen in a decade," and Game 6 maybe the best single sporting event here since 2009.
3) Mike Yeo showed his mettle – Head coach Mike Yeo's ability (and future) was in doubt not too long ago. There were questions after the quick 2013 playoff exit. And just a few months ago, with the Wild in a midseason swoon, there were rumors Yeo's job status was "day-to-day." Now, the youngest head coach in the NHL might be looking at an extension. Craig Custance with ESPN.com says Yeo did "everything you'd want to see out of a coach" to keep his job, and suggests Yeo has done enough to earn some job security.
4) A playoff run with an unstable goalie situation – Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding and Darcy Kuemper were the Wild's three best netminders. Kuemper started five games in these playoffs and appeared in six ... and that's it. The Wild pushed the Blackhawks nearly to their limit with a goaltender they traded for in March, Iyla Bryzgalov. He had flashes of dominance, but went 3-6 in eight starts (nine appearances) and allowed 21 goals on 182 shots this postseason. And then there's this stat:
A stable goalie situation is hard to come by – but if it's solved, could do wonders for the Wild next year.
5) The Wild held their own – This wasn't a repeat of last year's quick exit against the Blackhawks. The Wild, by all accounts, worked their tails off and showed they can compete with some of the best teams in the league. The Pioneer Press' Tom Powers said for most of Wednesday's game, the Wild were a better team. Overall, the seven-game series win against the higher-seeded Avalanche, followed by a very tight six games against the defending Stanley Cup champions shows the Wild "belonged on the ice," as Chip Scoggins with the Star Tribune puts it. The organization is "on the right path" to being a Cup contender, he writes, and the future looks bright.