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No team in the ultra-competitive Western Conference has made
the playoffs more times in a row than the Minnesota Wild Cheap
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, with six straight appearances to share the
current streak lead with the Anaheim Ducks.

That regular season consistency has only led, however, to April
dissatisfaction. Ousted in five games by Winnipeg in their first-round series,
the Wild were sent again to an early exit from the Stanley Cup tournament. They
were shut out by the Jets in the last two contests and finished with a scoreless
streak of 141:47.

”It’s really disappointing. I don’t think that’s indicative of the kind of
team that we have. It was just a really tough night,” center Matt Cullen said
after the 5-0 loss in Winnipeg on Friday. ”Obviously with our backs against the
wall, I think we all expected more and hoped for more, and I think if we could
do it all over again every guy would like to give more.”

There was no shame in being beaten by the Jets Authentic
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, a deeper, faster team with an
exceptional goalie in Connor Hellebuyck that finished with the second-best
record in the NHL in 2017-18. For the Wild, though, there’s an overarching theme
of staying stuck at a good-but-not-great level since the franchise-altering
signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter helped start this
remarkable-but-unfulfilling run of making the playoffs every year with the two
stars on the roster.

”We want more. We expect more from ourselves. We let another one slip away,”
right wing Charlie Coyle said.

Here are some key angles to the end of the Wild’s season:


The Wild are 2-6 in series and 15-29 in games in the postseason during the
Parise-Suter era that began on July 4, 2012. The 17-year-old franchise’s only
advancement past the second round remains the 2003 surge to the Western
Conference finals, where the Wild were swept by the Ducks.

The postseason trouble encountered by the Wild used to be in the form of the
Chicago Blackhawks Cheap
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, who eliminated them in 2013, 2014 and 2015.
The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in the first and third of those years. They
lost in the first round in 2016 and 2017, though, and failed to make the
playoffs this spring for the first time in 10 years. So Patrick Kane and
Jonathan Toews are no longer the problem.

Now Nashville and Winnipeg have taken the lead in the daunting Central
Division, with the Predators taking the Presidents’ Trophy with the league’s
best record one season after reaching the Stanley Cup finals. Six of the seven
teams made the playoffs either last year or this year.

”We certainly believed that we could give these guys a real run for it even
though nobody seemed to be giving us a chance,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. ”We’re
one play away each game. I know that’s easy to say, but it’s really how close it
was besides tonight.”


This year Eduardo
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, in fairness, one of the hurdles to postseason
success became the rare absence of Suter, who has long been one of the NHL’s
most durable players as a puck-moving, tough-minded defenseman. His broken ankle
diluted the blue line in the final week of the regular season.

Then Parise, whose late-season surge signaled he was all the way back from
the back injury and surgery that kept him out for the first 39 games, was
knocked out of action with a broken sternum suffered in Game 3 against the

”Every team has injuries, right?” captain Mikko Koivu said Authentic
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, adding: ”For sure that hurts, there’s no
question about that. But we can’t go behind that.”


Matt Cullen, after winning the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in
2016 and 2017, put off retirement for another year and returned to his
home-state team with 11 goals, 11 assists and valuable leadership at age 41. He
wasn’t ready to address his future after Game 5.

”My only thought here the last while was getting it back home for Game 6,”
Cullen said. ”So to be honest I don’t have an answer right now.”


Not every forward will be productive in a playoff series, of
course Cheap
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, but the Wild were hurting without any goals
or assists by three of their top-nine forwards: Coyle, Nino Niederreiter and
Jason Zucker. Coyle, who had only 11 goals during the regular season, was
especially ineffective against the Jets.

”Had plenty of chances to finish. I didn’t finish. Or the goalie came up
big,” Coyle said. ”Whatever it is I didn’t get the job done. That hurts.”



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