The Minnesota Wild lived its playoff life on the edge this past postseason. The Wild twice played itself into 2-0 holes, and in Round 2 was unable to complete the comeback against a better Blackhawks team.
That still leaves a pretty impressive series turnaround in Round 1, however.
One of the biggest surprises in hockey a season ago was the Avalanche. Colorado finished second-best in the Western Conference, creating a first-round matchup with wild card team Minnesota. The first two games of the series played out according to seed, with the Avs taking both games at the Pepsi Center. With the series shifting to Minnesota, it was a proverbial "must-win" for Minnesota, who was staring down a 3-0 series deficit with a loss.
Matt Furedy, Mile High Hockey: Oh man, this goal makes me sad inside.
The Noogie, Hockey Wilderness: If you remember how this game played out, it seemed no matter what the Wild threw at Semyon Varlamov, nothing would get past him. The Wild went to the shooting range early in this game, firing 22 shots on the Avalanche net minder in the first period alone, with no love for the State of Hockey.
This was also the game where Matt Cooke did exactly what Wild fans hoped he had left in his past, sticking his knee out and ending Tyson Barrie's post-season. The Av's would play with a short bench and a couple other players hurt during the game as well, but the Wild still could not crack the luckiest goalie in the NHL.
As the game wore on, that sinking feeling starts to set in. We're all familiar with the playoff drama … well, not if you’re an Oilers fan. Your team is in the midst of a scoreless tie, time is winding down and it's getting to that point where the next goal could likely seal the game. Then, the worst happens. A playoff game goes to overtime.
mntrumpterguy, Hockey Wilderness: That was a game that I was able to watch from start to finish, and it was my first game that I switched from drinking beer to wine. The whole game was nervously pounding glasses of Yellowtail Merlot.
Cheryl Bradley, Mile High Hockey: Too soon man, too soon.
The 6th-best goal of 2013-14
How it unfolded
Many times when a player possesses the puck as long as Mikael Granlund did on that play, it's because of an extended shift, creating tired legs on the part of the defense. But on this play, Zach Parise carried the puck into the zone and dumped it below the goal line, while Granlund went down low to retrieve it.
Granlund managed to beat Jan Hejda to the puck. He worked it back up the wall, only to continue to the circle and send the puck back below the goal line, with Jason Pominville rotating down.
Mike Thompson, Mile High Hockey: This was the part of the series I remember thinking, what the hell is wrong with Jan Hejda. (Turns out he had two broken hands).
Parise, who had started the play with the carry-in, worked his way below the goal line. By doing so, he diverted the attention of Marc-Andre Cliche, dragging him below the goal line. Pominville skated the puck back up the wall, and toward Granlund.
Steve House, Mile High Hockey:..........why was Marc-Andre Cliche on the ice five minutes into the overtime of a game in the Stanley Cup Playoffs? He's only one minor piece of a series of unfortunate events here, but ... c'mon, man!
As Pominville skated toward Granlund, he'd leave the puck for his teammate as the two criss-crossed along the boards. Hejda began to pursue Granlund, while Parise—behind the net—worked his way back out front, taking Erik Johnson with him.
Hejda was all over Granlund, who used his body and his reach to maintain separation. The Avalanche had four players below the dots, really congesting the space.
Hejda continued to Granlund's hip, while the Minnesota forward attempted to send the puck back up to the point. But Grandlund fanned on the attempt, leaving the puck in an empty pocket of ice while he managed to avoid a check from the Avs defenseman.
Joe Bouley, Hockey Wilderness: For myself, the play itself that sprung Granlund alone in the slot was actually more of a great recovery of a broken play. It appears he was heading to the half wall to make a pass to the defenseman at the blue line. As he fanned on it and in his attempt to spin off a Jan Hejda check, he found the puck and saw a clear lane to the net.
What looked like a simple pass back to the point quickly turned into heaps of real estate for Granlund to walk into.
The Noogie, Hockey Wilderness: When Mikael Granlund broke free from the wall and made his way to the slot I don't think anyone expected much to come of it. Colorado had a ton of traffic in his way and one would figure the safe play would be to dish the puck off to Jason Pominville and peal off behind the net to the weak side.
While Granlund came from some very open pastures, he was headed toward a very dense section of ice. Varlamov was being completely screened by the combination of Parise and Johnson, while Pominville's spot in the high slot also drew defensemen out of Granlund's path.
As Granlund finally got into that quality scoring area, every Avalanche player attempted to make a play on the puck. Both Hejda and Cliche were reaching, while Johnson was trying to maneuver around Parise, as the pair in front was still blocking Varlamov's view of the play.
When Granlund finally found some daylight, he began to fall down. Varlamov, finally able to see what the heck was going on, had left a large portion of the net open. Johnson was on the ice attempting to make some sort of last-ditch effort.
The Noogie, Hockey Wilderness: Even as he threaded the needle and lost his balance, you were thinking, opportunity lost.
Joe Bouley, Hockey Wilderness: A little dangle here, a deke there, a stick to the skates, and a puck in the back of the net.
mntrumpterguy, Hockey Wilderness: The Wild get some possession, Granlund starts making his way in circles around Colorado (for about the billionth time that night... they just couldn't catch him!). Benoit goes in for a hit, but Granny spins around it, he comes across the goal and.... I didn't even see it go in.
The Noogie, Hockey Wilderness: When that red light started flashing and the fog horn started screaming, a whirlwind of elation and relief swept over the State of Hockey. The Wild had finally punched back after going down in the series 2-0 in Colorado and ensured they would live past a Game 4. The goal was nothing short of spectacular. Granlund put the game on his stick, and came out victorious over a goalie that was near impossible to beat. Granlund, from his stomach, in overtime. It's impossible to not love this goal.
Matt Furedy, Mile High Hockey: The Avs didn't play this one badly (although it could have been played better). The Wild just drove through with determination. Minnesota keeping the puck in behind the goal, Granlund's tenacity to bring that puck back around after Hejda had pushed him up against the boards, managing to keep the puck away from Johnson's fingertips, and almost softly dropping it into net ... I hate this play.
mntrumpterguy, Hockey Wilderness: I saw the crowd shout, saw the light, heard the words, but it didn't even register that he had somehow made the puck go into the net.The elderly lady [who lived] below me at the time went to bed REALLY early, so I couldn't jump, so I basically just stood in place, arms outstretched in victory, and bounced up and down. I polished off another third of the bottle, and then realized I needed to be at work by 7 AM the next day and it was about 1, so I went to bed. The next day, I made a point of making my high school band watch the replay... many were not amused. One in particular said "I don't watch basketball" and didn't understand why the rest of us laughed at her.
Mike Thomson, Mile High Hockey: In a classy, completely Wild-esque move, Granlund puck-hogged his way to a soccer-flop goal. Varly never saw it because of the screen coming out of the corner. Every d-man on the Avs was gassed due to the increased workload (thanks Cooke!) and the lack of possession showed on the 46th shot on goal.
Joe Bouley, Hockey Wilderness: Mikael Granlund was a young player that came into his rookie season with extremely high expectations. After the shortened 2012 season, he was appearing to be more of a bust to some Wild fans. In fact, at HW, we felt like we had to really fight off the negative criticism of a 20-year-old kid in the NHL for the first time.
Luckily, for our case, he made some serious strides in the offseason and emerged as the player we were all promised by the scouting staff and general manager. The goal that he scored in Game 3 to get the Wild back into the series was the culmination of all that hard work.
That, and he followed up his OT heroics in Game 3 with a kind of defensive effort in the waning minutes of Game 4 that secured another victory tied the series at two apiece. Granlund was the face of the Wild's early series success through 4 games in the WCQF.