Wild won't quit but comeback against Blackhawks won't happen
Wild goaltender Darcy Kuemper takes to the ice against the Blackhawks as Niklas Backstrom watches from the bench during Game 4 of their NHL Western Conference quarterfinal at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minn., May 7, 2013. (ANDY KING/Reuters)
There were no Minnesota Wild goaltenders injured during team meetings Wednesday.
Given that the position has a shorter life expectancy than camp counsellors in Friday the 13th movies, it's a huge moral victory for a team in desperate need of something, anything, good.
Down 3-1, and two goalies, in their first-round series with the Chicago Blackhawks, the star-crossed Wild are running out of things that can wrong before the damage is fatal.
"I know one thing, it's really important to win the next game," said coach Mike Yeo, finding a glint of humour in their otherwise a dire situation. "It's pretty much that simple. We can't sit here and dwell on what happened and we certainly can't feel sorry for ourselves. We got ourselves here so we have to get ourselves out of it."
That's not going to be easy.
The Wild lost starting goalie Nik Backstrom prior to Game 1 and backup Josh Harding early in Game 4, leaving it up to 23-year-old Darcy Kuemper, the guy with 40 minutes of playoff hockey to his name, to stop his team from bleeding out.
Being that it's the playoffs and all, Yeo isn't updating anything when it comes to his goaltending situation for Thursday's Game 5. But as of Tuesday night, it doesn't look good.
"We're not going to say what (Harding's injury) was," he said. "We like to keep the other team guessing so we're not only not going to tell them who our starting goalie is, we won't tell them who our backup goalie is. We'll really leave them in the dark."
Given the dark cloud hanging over Minnesota all series -- they've also been without Jason Pominville, Mike Rupp, Clayton Stoner and Zenon Konopka for all or part of it -- maybe the biggest challenge facing Chicago is suppressing the subconscious belief that this thing was over on Tuesday.
How can anyone NOT think it isn't over? Patrick Sharp did his best to explain.
"You just have to look at the quality of the organization they have over there, the type of players and leaders that they have," said the Hawks veteran, who has four goals in the series, compared to Minnesota's six as a team. "Mikko (Koivu) is a great captain, Zach (Parise) plays hard, (Ryan) Suter is one of the best D in the league.
"They're not going to go away, it doesn't matter who's in net, it doesn't matter who's in the lineup. It's a tough bounce for them, but they're a team that has a lot of pride and they're not going to go away. They're going to keep coming at us"
Quit? Nobody expects the Wild to take a knee. Win? Wouldn't put a whole lot of baby's new shoe money on that one, either.
"There's a reason why they were on top of the league all year and why they went 20-some games without a loss," Parise said of the Hawks. "They're a very good team and we have to play a great game to beat them."
If it helps, the Wild are 7-3 all time in elimination games, not counting the 48th game of this season.
"If there's one thing we can draw on it's that Colorado game," said Yeo, whose club shook off a terrible stretch-drive swoon and beat the Avalanche on the final day of the season to make the playoffs.
"We were able to push aside a lot of the things that happened and not get caught up in anything else but that moment, that game.
"That's going to be important in Game 5. We can't look at how we arrived there or what's in front of us. The only thing that matters is one game."
Of course, this is first-place Chicago, not last place Colorado, but the message is the same.
"Whoever's in the line-up," said Koivu. "That has to be enough."