The Wild lost Game 1 to Chicago but showed some resolve in rallying from a 3-0 deficit. Don’t count Minny out.
Devan Dubnyk has been the Minnesota Wild’s best player in 2014-15, bar none. He’s also been somewhat of a mascot for them.
Dubnyk is the team’s symbol of resiliency. His career appeared to be tanking before this season, when the Wild traded for him, and his game took off. He led the Wild to the playoffs with an amazing 39-start run and wound up a finalist for the Vezina and Masterton Trophies. Particularly interesting was the fact Dubnyk would almost always bounce back and win directly after a poor start.
Look what he did to open the playoffs. Allowed three goals in a Game 2 loss to St. Louis, posted a shutout victory in Game 3. Humiliated for six goals on 17 shots in a Game 4 defeat, allowed two goals in his next two starts combined to stonewall the Blues and propel the Wild into round 2.
Even Friday, when the Hawks exploded for three goals in the first period, Dubnyk kept his head in the game. He made several big saves to keep the game within reach.
After that, the Wild slowly gained momentum back. They chipped away at Chicago’s lead, tying the game 3-3 on goals by Jason Zucker, Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund. They outshot the Hawks 33-25 and lost on a relatively fluky goal by Teuvo Teravainen that Dubnyk didn’t see.
The Wild dropped their seventh straight playoff road game in Chicago, but it was different. They were close. The Wild are the only Western Conference playoff team that won more regular season games on the road than at home, with the New York Rangers being the only Eastern team to accomplish the feat. Minnesota hasn’t lost consecutive games this post-season. It has Parise playing as well as he has all season. Eight different Wild forwards have scored so far in the post-season. They have strong enough forecheckers to put the heat on a Hawks team that gives up more chances than it used to.
So while the Blackhawks absolutely remain the favorite in this series, Dubnyk and the Wild have established a narrative of bouncing back from failures. Don’t be surprised if they show up for Game 2 at their absolute best.
Matt Larkin is an associate editor at The Hockey News and a regular contributor to the thn.com Post-To-Post blog. For more great profiles, news and views from the world of hockey, subscribe to The Hockey News magazine. Follow Matt Larkin on Twitter at @THNMattLarkin