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12 Minnesota Wild A shocking playoff run last season sets the bar higher for this fourth-year expansion team

Oct. 13, 2003
Oct. 13, 2003

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Oct. 13, 2003

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12 Minnesota Wild A shocking playoff run last season sets the bar higher for this fourth-year expansion team

The element of surprise is gone, and opponents no longer look at
the fourth-year Wild as an expansion doormat. After Minnesota
pulled off the feel-good story of the year by advancing to the
Western Conference finals--"We all recognized it was one of those
special seasons," says general manager Doug Risebrough--the team
now has the unenviable task of living up to heightened
expectations.

This is an article from the Oct. 13, 2003 issue Original Layout

One big reason for the club's success was its ability to produce
under pressure. During the regular season the Wild went 8-1-10 in
overtime, the league's best record. Then, in the playoffs,
Minnesota became the first team ever to rally twice from 3-1
series deficits in the same season, defeating the Avalanche and
the Canucks in Game 7s on the road in the first and second
rounds, respectively. When the trap-happy Wild wasn't coming from
behind it was superb at holding leads: Minnesota was the only
club to go undefeated when ahead after the first period
(21-0-1-0) and the second (30-0-1-0).

To continue to improve, the Wild, which ranked 24th in goals last
season, needs forwards Marian Gaborik and Pascal Dupuis, both of
whom were holding out in contract disputes as of Monday, to
return and produce as they did in 2002-03. Gaborik, 21, had his
second straight 30-goal season and led the Wild with 65 points,
while the 24-year-old Dupuis scored 20 goals and led Minnesota
with a +17 rating. Wing Andrew Brunette gives the Wild a solid
power-play specialist; he scored half his 18 goals in
man-advantage situations.

Goalies Dwayne Roloson (23-16-8, 2.00 goals-against average, .927
save percentage) and Manny Fernandez (19-13-2, 2.24, .924) formed
one of the NHL's best tandems, but coach Jacques Lemaire would
like one of them to emerge as his clear No. 1 netminder. One of
Lemaire's notable achievements has been his ability to stitch
together a group of castoff defensemen such as Brad Bombardir,
Willie Mitchell and Andrei Zyuzin into a cohesive and outstanding
unit. Keeping the Wild fairy tale going another year would be
just as impressive. --B.C.

COLOR PHOTOCOLOR PHOTO: DAVID E. KLUTHO ANDREW BRUNETTE

SI RANKING
( 1 Best - 30 Worst )

OFFENSE 19
DEFENSE 13
GOALTENDING 20
POWER PLAY 27
PENALTY KILLING 3
G.M. AND COACH 3

INSIDER

No NHL coach controls the tempo of a game better than Jacques
Lemaire.... The goalie tandem of Manny Fernandez and Dwayne
Roloson does an outstanding job of rebound control, making it
easier on the team's defensemen down low.... Young D-men Willie
Mitchell and Nick Schultz improved tremendously last year under
the tutelage of assistant coach Mike Ramsey.... Don't be
surprised to see second-year F Pierre-Marc Bouchard put up good
numbers. At 19, he's adjusted to life in the NHL.