Every April, 16 teams in the National Hockey League begin their journey to 16 more wins. 16 wins to raise Lord Stanley's Cup, the oldest trophy competed for in North America. 16 wins and you're forever immortalized on the Stanley Cup's growing collection of names and past champions. When the rings are full and space has run out, one is removed for a blank space and placed in the Hockey Hall of Fame. Win the Stanley Cup and you're remembered forever; enshrined for future generations of hockey fans to see.
The playoffs have become a regular thing here in Minnesota, but with that has come agony and disappointment. Since 2012 after signing Zach Parise and Ryan Suter, the Wild have failed to make it past the 2nd round, losing THREE times to the Chicago Blackhawks, once against the Dallas Stars (last year), and most recently, a 4-1 series loss to the St. Louis Blues. This year was the year a lot of people were saying was going to be "the year" for the Wild. By February, Minnesota had a death grip on the Western Conference and it looked like smooth sailing to the playoffs, yet a March slump brought a 3-11-2 record and dropped the Wild to 2nd in the Central Division and the Western Conference.
Regardless, 2nd in the West earned the Wild home ice advantage which meant that I was able to do games 1 & 2 here at Xcel. It's funny because when I used to play baseball in high school, whenever we had a district game to try to get into the state tournament I always tried to tell myself "It's just another game, nothing more" but I would always get anxious because I knew that this game meant more than that. Playoffs are obviously a huge deal to the teams and for me, it was a big deal too. Sports photography can be so hit or miss and what I mean by that is you either get the shot or you don't and that can be daunting with a sport that's so random like hockey. So sitting in the media workroom, I was sitting there thinking to myself that I needed to be on point more than I usually am, because you don't want to be the one that misses the shot that everyone else is going to get.
Game 1 was going to be pretty telling of how the whole series was going to go. The Wild put up 52 shots in a game that went to overtime, yet only scored 1 goal. Joel Edmundson ended up being the hero with the game winner, scoring after Vladimir Tarasenko made a great move towards the net even though he lost the puck in front of Dubnyk. St. Louis' netminder, Jake Allen, was fantastic all series and it showed with a .956 save percentage. Game 1 did provide some drama and excitement though. After failing to score all game, late in the third period with 23 seconds left and with the goalie pulled for an extra attacker, Zach Parise scored to tie the game at 1-1.
So game 1 was a very late start. I don't know why the NHL and NBC scheduled it this way, but puck drop was 8:45 pm CST. When Edmundson had scored in overtime, it was already past midnight and I didn't get home until 2 am. We'll get 8 pm starts here and there, but they're usually pretty rare. A bulk of the games usually come with a 7 pm start time, usually if you get an 8:30 start it's because it's a west coast team. This was a great game to shoot but by the 10 minute mark in overtime I was just begging for someone to score because I was getting tired.
Game 2 I felt was a much more even tilt, I think the Wild still had an edge in shots but it wasn't as lopsided as game 1 was. That game saw Allen still standing tall in net leading the way to a 2-1 Blues win. I got super fortunate with my placements and where I was going to be shooting from. I was able to get a good shot of Edmundson after he scored the first goal for St. Louis and I got another great shot of Jaden Schwartz after he scored the go ahead goal in the 3rd period that ended up being the game winner.
Not much else to say about the series. I thought that this was going to be the year that I was going to be able to cover the 2nd round of the playoffs because I knew this Wild team was good. So it's frustrating that after setting a franchise record with wins, they came away with squat. Oh well, onto next year.
Hockey season is over, which means my full attention is now on baseball and soccer! If you follow me purely for my hockey content, thanks for reading and checking out my photos. I'll probably get another post up sometime with my favorite images I took during the season, but that probably won't be until the playoffs are over. See you then!
Canon 1D Mark IV
Canon 1D Mark II
Canon 7D Mark II
70-200mm f/2.8 x2
Pocket Wizard Plus III x2
Lots and lots of gaffer tape