The Minnesota Wild had chips on their shoulders, and they put images of casino chips on the sleeves of gray T-shirts for their series against the Vegas Golden Knights in the Stanley Cup First Round.
In the middle of one chip was the Wild logo. In the middle of the other were two words:
The Wild are out of the Stanley Cup Playoffs after a 6-2 loss to the Golden Knights at T-Mobile Arena on Friday, and it hurts.
They were 5-1-2 against the Golden Knights in the regular season, forced a Game 7 after falling behind 3-1 in the best-of-7 series, and still failed to advance past the first round for the first time since 2015. Forward Zach Parise faces an uncertain future.
Yet this is a team on the rise that can use this experience to improve.
“I think we all felt like we could beat these guys,” defenseman Ryan Suter said. “Everyone else might think one thing, but the group of guys that we had, we felt confident in ourselves. We’re pretty disappointed that it’s ended the way it has.”
Parise entered this series as the leading playoff scorer in Wild history with 34 points (14 goals, 20 assists) in 40 games and had scored 77 points (35 goals, 42 assists) in 101 playoff games in his 16-season NHL career.
But the 36-year-old was a healthy scratch for the first three games after scoring 18 points (seven goals, 11 assists) in 45 games in the regular season.
Once he got into the lineup, he took advantage and scored three points (two goals, one assists) in four games. He said he was ready to play from the start “with all the sideshow stuff that’s been going on.”
Asked how much the situation needs to be addressed in the offseason, Parise said, “You know, I mean, I think that conversation’s going to be for a different day. We’ll see where it goes. I don’t know. I don’t know. We’ll have to figure that out in the coming summer what’s going to happen, but I really … I don’t have an answer on that right now.”
Asked if he worried this was his last game for the Wild, he said, “I mean, I got four years left on my deal. That’s … I guess that’s not really up to me at the time. But right now, just disappointed in the outcome of the game.”
Coach Dean Evason said the staff told the players they should be extremely proud of the way they competed and conducted themselves.
Led by dynamic rookie forward Kirill Kaprizov, the Wild finished third in the Honda West Division, seven points behind the Golden Knights and Colorado Avalanche, who tied for the most points in the NHL with 82. Minnesota came one win from playing Colorado in the second round.
“There’s a lot of positive that can be taken from this season,” goalie Cam Talbot said. “I don’t think anyone had us pegged to push these guys to seven, or at the beginning of the year, no one even had us making the playoffs, I don’t think. So I think that this group, we came together. We’ve got a lot of good young core pieces and a lot of good leadership pieces as well. So this is a group that can do something special moving forward, and I’m just looking forward to being a part of that moving forward after this year.”
The Wild are still all in.
“I think stuff like that you have to take in a positive way and just be angry all summer in a way of wanting to get better,” forward Marcus Foligno said. “There’s no doubt in my mind that our team next season, we’ll be better. … We’re just disappointed about the outcome, but at the same time too, there’s things that we can build on and know that we’re going to still be a dangerous team or more dangerous team next season.”