For the first time in nine years, the Wild clinched home ice for at least the first round. One of, if not, the loudest playoff atmospheres in the league will get to host the first two games of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
After head coach Bruce Boudreau worked his first year magic, the Wild have found themselves in a position they have not been in for a long time. That is, closing in as the second best team in the Western Conference and finally being the higher seed in the first round of the playoffs. The previous four postseasons, the Wild have been one of the wild card teams and lower seed.
It seemed like every year they just could not have a consistent enough regular season to put themselves in a situation to be a higher seed. The NHL playoffs are brutal and is one of the toughest championships to conquer in sports, but seeding certainly matters.
The past couple of seasons, it seemed the Wild would play the best team in the West. They faced number one seeds in three of the last four years; the Chicago Blackhawks in 2013, the St. Louis Blues in 2015 and Dallas Stars in 2016. The Wild did upset the number one seed St. Louis Blues in 2015 and the number two seed Colorado Avalanche in 2014 in the first round. However, after those series, it was almost like the Wild ran out of gas in the next series, which they lost both times.
Fans would wonder; if the team finished the regular season strong and got a higher seed, maybe the Wild would have somewhat of an easier road to the cup instead of facing the Blues and Hawks in back-to-back rounds.
If you have ever watched a Wild playoff game, you know how crazy the Xcel Energy Center is. Home ice is something that is a huge part of the Wild’s success. The Wild faithful will regularly stand up and applaud hard shifts, chant the opposing goalie’s last name after a goal, and has the loudest “duuuuuubs” chant the league has heard.
With home ice and a high seed, we will see how much all of that means. Another first round exit will break Wild fans hearts after such a successful regular season. This is the first time ever fans can say, it is Cup or bust this season.