As the NHL playoffs get closer, let’s take a look at how the Minnesota Wild is gearing up for the Stanley Cup. Our favorite local team is currently third in the Central Division, after the Colorado Avalanche and the St. Louis Blues. While official playoff brackets are not yet available, the Wild are officially in the 2022 playoffs as of Sunday, April 17, when they beat the San Jose Sharks 5-4 in overtime. This will be their third consecutive year in the playoffs. Top players this season include Kirill Kaprizov, Mats Zuccarello, and Kevin Fiala, with 93, 74, and 73 points respectively. Fleury and Talbot have shared the net this season, with Fleury being a late in-season trade. Fleury is one of my all time favorite players, and his path to the Wild is pretty interesting.
Marc-André Fleury was a Pittsburgh Penguins Goalie from 2003-2017. After a decade and a half, the Quebec native then joined the Vegas Golden Knights in their inaugural season. He led the new team through the playoffs, nearly earning his fourth Stanley Cup against the Capitals but ultimately losing in five games. He continued his stint at the Knights until 2021. Fleury’s high salary cap made him into a trade pick, and he was moved to the Chicago Blackhawks. However, Fleury was not told immediately and found out about his own trade on Twitter.
Not interested in a repeat, Fleury worked it into his contract that he could not be traded again without his permission. However, he agreed to a trade for the rest of the 2021-22 season after a season of speculation over if Fleury would allow himself to be traded again and where he could end up. Finally, Fleury was moved to the Minnesota Wild for a chance at playoffs, which the Blackhawks did not make this year. He was warmly welcomed by the Land of 10,000 Lakes when a fan threw a bouquet of flowers onto the ice after one of his early season games. The name “Fleury” comes from the french word, “Fleur” meaning flower. This inspired the nickname “Flower” for the goalie and probably prompted the flowers on the ice, which was much more savory than the dead octopuses that have been thrown onto the ice at other games before.
According to the Bleacher Report, other teams headed into the playoffs include the Flames, Oilers, and Kings for the Pacific Division, with the Stars and Predators as Wild Cards for the Western Conference. For the Eastern Conference, the Metropolitan Division has the Hurricanes at the top, followed by the Rangers and then the Penguins. The Panthers lead the Atlantic Division, followed by the Leafs and Lightning. Luckily (for me, a Boston Native) the Bruins snagged a spot as a Wild Card, as well as the Capitals. With a fairly decent but not spectacular season of 47-21-7 and a lot of strong teams in the playoffs, the Wild has a long road ahead of them. Hopefully we’ll see Fleury finally earn his fourth Championship.