Playoff hockey is back, but how long will Wild's ride last?


The NHL playoffs began on Wednesday night and the action that postseason hockey brings every year is already off to an exhilarating start. All three games were decided by a single goal, one went to overtime and another game featured a team captain taking a puck to the face.

Playoff hockey can be exciting, brutal and heartbreaking. The Wild's hearts were broken last year when they were knocked out of the first round in five games by the eventually Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks.

The draw this year, as the No. 7-seed, is second-seeded Colorado. The Avalanche tied a franchise record with 52 wins. Colorado took four of five games from the Wild during the regular season, and most experts think that trend will continue in this best-of-seven series.

Minnesota's achilles heel may be goaltending. Wild radio announcer Bob Kurtz recently said during a broadcast that he can't remember a season in which any team needed four different No. 1 goalies. The Wild experienced that this season with Niklas Backstrom, Josh Harding, Darcy Kuemper and Illya Brzygalov, who will enter Game 1 as the most recent top goalie on the team.

Sports Illustrated doesn't like Minnesota's chances because their penalty killing finished 27th in the league and they don't have an offensive game-breaker. If they don't score, they won't win.

Sporting News picks the Avalanche to clinch the series in six games, again, pointing to Minnesota's porous special teams play.

Of the 13 analysts at ESPN, only Barry Melrose and Scott Burnside believe the Wild will win the series. Melrose has Minnesota in six while Burnside has the tilt going seven games.

All eight experts at SB Nation have the Wild getting bounced by the Avs.

Did Bleacher Report take the Wild? Nope.

Contributors to USA Today's predictions, Tim Cambell, Bob Duff and Mark Hayes have the Wild upsetting the Avs, but advancing no further.

And then there is this article at NHL.com, titled, "Why the Wild will win the Stanley Cup."

For one thing, the Wild have proven their resilience all season long, particularly when the games are close. By the end of March, Minnesota posted a 22-7-11 record in one-goal games which was among the League's best. That ability to finish close games will come in handy throughout the playoffs. Minnesota's ability in the clutch doesn't end there. When March came to a close, Minnesota had a plus-14 goal differential in the third period. Five teams had a better scoring differential in the third.

Those gritty details, along with the veteran star power of Zach Parise, Ryan Suter, Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville and Matt Moulson, are why Minnesota could go much farther than most talking heads believe.

The puck drops in Denver at 8:30 p.m.

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