Yep. The Wild are there.
It took a few years. But the Wild are there. Next question: Can the Wild stay around for a while? The numbers will tell the story. Here's three big ones heading into Game 1 versus the Blackhawks:
That's how many hockey experts from NBCSports.com pick the Wild to win this opening series. Of the six "ProHockeyTalk" writers, six pick Chicago. Five have the Hawks winning in five games, one predicts a four-game sweep. Star-Tribune blogger Michael Rand is one of the very few we've seen that actually have the Wild stretching the series to six games -- but still losing.
That's how many victories goalie Niklas Backstrom piled up this season, which tied for the NHL lead. While Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter have to play lights out for the Wild to have a chance, it's pretty much on Backstrom's back. An overworked back, at that.
Not exactly a stat, but a Las Vegas prediction. The oddsmakers say the Wild have an 18-1 shot to hoist the Stanley Cup sometime in June. The Blackhawks start the tournament at 4-1 odds to win it all.