The Minnesota Wild currently have 13 games remaining on their 2021-22 NHL schedule and a lot of eyes will be on them once the playoffs arrive. The Wild currently occupy the second-place spot in the Central Division with a 43-21-5 record and 91 points so far, putting them on pace for what would be a franchise-best 108 points. The team’s success this season has raised expectations for a deep playoff run, especially with Zach Parise’s and Ryan Suter’s buyouts kicking in next year.
As of April 8, FanDuel Sportsbook currently has the Wild tied with the Vegas Golden Knights for the 10th-best betting odds (+2000) to win the Stanley Cup this season. Needless to say, that only adds to the pressure that the organization is facing. However, some fans might be wondering whether or not the Wild have ever come close to a Stanley Cup in their existence and just how deep they’d have to go in this year’s playoffs to have the best postseason run in franchise history. Fortunately, the answer to those questions are here in the form of the three best Wild playoff runs in franchise history.
3. 2014-15 NHL Playoffs: Second Round
The Wild entered the 2014-15 record as the Central Division’s No. 4 seed after finishing the regular season with a 46-28-8 record. Even though it’s always great for a fanbase when their team qualifies for the postseason, the Wild, as the first wild card team, drew the tough task of matching up against the Central-leading St. Louis Blues, who were fresh off a 51-win season. To make matters more difficult, the Blues had just scored 248 goals in the regular season, which ranked fifth-best across the league.
The series started fairly evenly with the Wild and Blues trading wins across the first four games. Fortunately for Minnesota fans, the Wild turned things up a notch in Games 5 and 6, outscoring the Blues 8-2 across that stretch to take home the series victory in six games. Praise led the team with seven points in the series while Devan Dubnyk’s 1.00 goals-against average (GAA) and .971 save percentage (SV%) helped backstop the Wild to their third second-round appearance in franchise history.
Unfortunately, the same success wasn’t there for the Wild in the second round, drawing a matchup against the third-seeded Chicago Blackhawks. The eventual Stanley Cup champions made quick work of the Wild as the Blackhawks swept them in four games. Although three of those games were decided by a single goal, Minnesota never led at any point in the series.
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On one hand, there isn’t any shame in losing to a team that goes on to win the Stanley Cup. On the other, getting swept is never a fun experience and it showed that the Wild still had a lot of improving to do. Adding on to the misery, the 2014-15 playoffs were also the last time that the Wild made it to the second round, which is just another reason why the fanbase is hoping for a deep run this season.
2. 2013-14 NHL Playoffs: Second Round
Just as they did in 2014-15, the Wild entered the 2013-14 NHL postseason after finishing fourth place in the Central Division, once again earning the Western Conference’s top wild card spot. This time, they faced the Colorado Avalanche in the first round and things didn’t start on the right foot, with the Wild going down in the series 2-0 after the first two games.
Fortunately, the Wild didn’t give up despite the uphill battle they faced. The club’s comeback began in Game 3 when Mikael Granlund scored the lone goal in a 1-0 overtime contest to get his team back in the series. The Wild didn’t stop there, tying up the series in Game 4 with a 2-1 victory. Although the Avalanche managed to take the 3-2 lead after winning Game 5, the Wild went on to win the next two games of the series, sending the Central Division leaders home in seven games. Parise was the offensive leader once again, leading all Minnesota players with 10 points, while every other player had six or fewer.
As they did one year later, the Wild drew a second-round matchup with the Blackhawks in 2013-14. The series began on another grim note with the Wild going down 2-0 (outscored 9-3) after the opening two games again. However, this series did not end in a sweep. Instead, Minnesota battled back as Ilya Bryzgalov stopped 19-of-19 in Game 3 for the 4-0 shutout victory. The Wild followed up that momentum with a 4-2 victory in Game 4, evening up the series as the division rivals headed back to Chicago.
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After scoring eight goals in Minnesota, the Wild’s offense disappeared for the rest of the series. After losing Game 5, 2-1, they returned home in hopes of forcing another Game 7 as they did against the Avalanche. Unfortunately, things didn’t go as planned. Even though the Wild forced overtime in Game 6, a Patrick Kane game-winning goal handed the franchise a second-round exit one year before the Blackhawks would do it again. There was a lot to be proud of from Minnesota’s playoff run, but the offense’s disappearance in the final two games will always be one of the biggest “what if’s” among fans.
1. 2002-03 NHL Playoffs: Western Conference Final
Although this happened nearly 20 years ago, the Wild’s first-ever playoff run is still their deepest to this day. The franchise made its postseason debut after finishing with a 42-29-10-1 record in the 2002-03 NHL season, which resulted in them being the Western Conference’s No. 6 seed in the old playoff format.
The Wild’s first playoff series was against the Avalanche and the former started things right, winning Game 1 by a score of 4-2. However, things became worrisome after that as the Wild dropped the following three games, facing a 3-1 deficit when they returned to Minnesota for Game 5. Pascal Dupuis ensured that the Wild staved off elimination with his game-winning goal in a 3- 2 Game 5 victory.
The Wild needed heroic again in a Game 6 matchup that required overtime to settle. This time, Richard Park was the unlikely hero by scoring his second goal of the game in overtime to even up the series. Tensions were high in Game 7 as well after the score was tied 2-2 after regulation again. The extra frame didn’t last too long after Andrew Brunette scored his third goal of the series to eliminate the Avalanche and send the Wild to Round 2.
The Wild ran into the fourth-seeded Vancouver Canucks in the semifinals of the 2002-03 playoffs and quickly found themselves in another series deficit. Although the first four games of the series were decided by one goal each, including a pair of overtime contests, the Wild headed into Game 5 down 3-1. Avoiding elimination, the Wild pulled off one of their most impressive offensive displays in the fifth game of the series, defeating the Canucks 7-2. Six different Minnesota players found the back of the net, highlighted by Cliff Ronning’s pair of goals and Wes Walz’s three-point effort (one goal, two assists).
The Wild went on to win Games 6 and 7 by a combined score of 9-3 to eliminate the Canucks in seven games. A 20-year-old Marian Gaborik looked like an absolute start coming out of the series, having recorded five goals and six assists. Meanwhile, Dwayne Roloson’s goaltending shouldn’t be overlooked either as he went 4-1-0 in five starts with .922 SV% and 2.00 GAA.
The Wild’s Cinderella run came to a screeching halt against the then-Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in the Western Conference Final. Although the Wild were the higher seed against the seventh-seeded Ducks, the latter went on to sweep the series. Jean-Sebastien Giguere was a brick wall for the Ducks, allowing only one goal in the entire series as he finished with a mind-blowing .992 SV% and three shutouts. It’s safe to say that Wild fans still haven’t gotten over that abysmal offensive performance nearly two decades later.
Pressure is on for Wild in 2021-22
At the end of the day, it’s no secret that the Wild fanbase is clamoring for another deep playoff run. Yes, the organization has had a handful of postseason moments to be proud of, but the fact that Minnesota only has three second-round and one Western Conference Final appearance in its history is somewhat embarrassing.
You could make the argument that pressure has never been higher for the Wild to succeed in the playoffs this season. Although some might say it’s a “Stanley Cup or bust” situation, a decent run to Round 2 or beyond would likely satisfy a lot of fans’ appetites. The Wild certainly have looked like a championship threat several times this season and now it’s up to the locker room to bring that energy to the playoffs to give the state of Minnesota something to be proud of.
As a lifelong hockey fan and recent Master of Journalism graduate, it’s always been my dream to write about the sport. That’s why you can find me here on THW covering the Minnesota Wild! You may also see my work on FanDuel, the Ottawa Citizen, and various sports betting sites. Follow me on Twitter @devplat!