THE WILD WIRE - PLAYOFF EDITIONApr 21, 2019
PLAYOFF HOCKEY IS HERE!!!!!
By virtue of winning their last three games and getting a little help on the out-of-town scores, the Iowa Wild clinched their first-ever playoff berth last weekend in thrilling fashion.
And, honestly, given the heartbreak and disappointment endured by the fan base over the first five seasons, doesn’t it just seem perfectly appropriate this year’s team would need a win in Game 76 just to get it done?
Overall, it was a great year for the franchise. The team set a franchise record for wins (37), points (87) and home ice wins (23). And those are just the team records, countless individual marks were set as well.
Today, Easter Sunday, at 4 p.m. Central, the Wild open up their best-of-five, Central Division Semifinals series against the Milwaukee Admirals.
The Wild finished as the third seed in the Central Division. The Admirals, who finished with 88 points, are the second seed. Game 2 is Tuesday at Wells Fargo Arena, before the series shifts to Milwaukee for Game 3 on Thursday night.
Here’s a graphic produced by the AHL, which breaks down the match-up.
Here are 3 things on my mind prior to Game 1:
- Rest vs. Rust – Wells Fargo Arena had very limited availability the last few days with Monster Jam on the building calendar. Thus, both teams have been off for quite some time. The Wild last played on April 13, which amounts to an 8-day layoff. At no point during the regular season did Iowa enjoy a span that long without a game. The Wild got last Sunday and Monday off, before practicing on Tuesday and Wednesday. They got Thursday off as well, and resumed on-ice activities Friday. So, all told, four practice days and three “off” days was the plan laid out by Coach Army. We’ll see if that has the team reinvigorated for the postseason. On the other hand, the Admirals were the hottest team in the league down the stretch, going 11-0-2-1 in their last 14 games of the regular season. Any time I’ve been around a hockey team that’s playing well, all they want to do is keep playing, keep riding that wave of momentum and confidence. The Admirals too have been waiting around since their finale, a 3-2 win at Rockford a week ago today (April 14). If you’re a Wild fan, you’re hoping the Admirals execution and playoff-like intensity lost a little luster over the last seven days. On the flip side, a few days off and some good practice time hopefully got the Wild ready for a long run.
- Between The Pipes – Wild goaltender Andrew Hammond won his last three starts, including a 25-save shutout in the final contest against Rockford. That’s absolutely huge for the Wild heading into the Calder Cup Playoffs. You don’t win in the playoffs without great goaltending, and Hammond appeared poised and confident in the final week of the season, when it mattered most. He’s played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs (as recently as last season) and he enters this postseason with four previous appearances in the Calder Cup Playoffs – all with the Binghamton Senators. Against the Admirals in the regular season, “The Hamburglar” was 2-0-0 with just 1 (total) goal allowed.
- Experience Is Crucial – The Wild have playoff experience at all positions – forwards, defense and in net. And although they’re not laden with AHL playoff experience, they’ve got enough (in my opinion) where they shouldn’t be fazed by the moment. Even youngsters like Jordan Greenway and Ryan Donato have postseason experience, as both played in the Stanley Cup Playoffs last year. Wild captain Cal O’Reilly is set to play in his 78th Calder Cup Playoff game today, while defensemen Matt Bartkowski and Nate Prosser have both Calder Cup and Stanley Cup playoff games on their resumes. Keep in mind, second-year defenseman Carson Soucy got a taste of the Stanley Cup Playoffs last season with Minnesota, so that should help ease his nerves come puck drop. Forwards Matt Read, Kyle Rau and Mike Liambas also have pro playoff experience from seasons past. Read has 30 games under his belt, all with the Philadelphia Flyers, in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Staying in the moment and keeping your composure is crucial in big situations. Having some guys who have “been there, done that” bodes well for the Wild.
Hockey playoffs are typically fast-paced, extremely physical and filled with momentum shifts. It’s the best time of the year! So, after all the patience you’ve shown Wild fans, enjoy it! You deserve it.
- Wild Joe Radio