Wild clinch sixth consecutive playoff berth: 'Now the fun part starts'
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Bruce Boudreau hurried home after the Wild's 3-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday, April 2, at the Xcel Energy Center.There was still work to be done, and on this particular night, the Wild coach was the biggest Los Angele...
ANAHEIM, Calif. - Bruce Boudreau hurried home after the Wild's 3-0 win over the Edmonton Oilers on Monday, April 2, at the Xcel Energy Center.
There was still work to be done, and on this particular night, the Wild coach was the biggest Los Angeles Kings fan in the world.
"I watched the whole game," Boudreau said less than 24 hours after the Wild clinched their sixth consecutive playoff berth thanks to the Kings' 3-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche. "When it got to 2-1 I was going, 'C'mon. Let's go.' When it got to 3-1, I knew (we were in).
"It's always nice to know that we made it," Boudreau added. "This is a grind, and I've been saying it since Day One. ... It's nice to be able to sit back and relax a little bit after a game and watch NHL Network or something and not feel like, 'Oh my god. Look at this. What is happening?' It was good."
All the way across town, Eric Staal was riding the same roller coaster of emotions by himself with the rest of his family fast asleep.
"If I knew we had a chance of getting in last night, I was going to stay up and make sure I watch right until the end," Staal said, noting that some of the team was following along together in a group chat. "I was happy to see (the Kings) get the job for us to get that out of the way before we headed out here. ... I did a little celebratory thing in my head by myself and then went to bed. It was a good feeling."
While that feeling hasn't necessarily worn off a day later, the Wild are now guarding against getting complacent in the midst of a three-game road trip to close out the regular season, which starts with Wednesday's game against the Anaheim Ducks at the Honda Center.
As far as getting ready for the playoffs, there might not be a better tune-up than the treacherous three-game trek through California.
"This is the time that we have to play good," Jonas Brodin said. "We can't just go out and not care for three games. We have to make sure we're doing the best we can."
That said, Boudreau does plan to rest some of his players in the final three games, while also making sure the team doesn't take its foot off the gas pedal.
"A coach of mine always told me, 'It's not like a faucet. You can't turn on and turn it off,'" Boudreau said. "We have been playing pretty steady, and we have to continue to play that way and keep up with the good habits."
Those things are vital with a first-round series - most likely against the Winnipeg Jets - looming next week.
"You work hard all season long so to get an 'X' by our name is something we should be proud of," Staal said. "That said, we know we want more. ... Now the fun part starts. This is what we play for, so we're looking forward to it."
Greenway gets a look
After sitting out last game, rookie Jordan Greenway will play in the final three games of the regular season. It will serve as a barometer for whether the 6-foot-6, 225-pound winger is ready for a key role in the postseason.
"He will have under 10 games come playoff time, so the more we see him the better read we're going to get on him," Boudreau said. "And the good thing is we're playing teams now that are big, heavy teams that still have a lot to play for."
Between the pipes
Devan Dubnyk will start Wednesday's game against the Ducks, a contest that could end up being his final of the regular season.
Alex Stalock is already the scheduled starter for Thursday's game against the Kings, according to Boudreau, and there's a good chance he'll also get the nod in Saturday's regular-season finale against San Jose.
This will be the most rested Dubnyk has been entering a postseason as a member of the Wild, as he has played in only 58 games so far.
By contrast, Dubnyk started 39 consecutive games down the stretch after a midseason trade during the 2014-15 campaign and has logged 67 games and 65 games, respectively, over the past two seasons.