Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Key Players For The Wild Against Colorado

Mikael Granlund (left) and Erik Haula (center) are key players for Minnesota.
Photo: Brace Hemmelgarn/USA Today
Earlier today, we looked at five keys to victory for the Wild in their opening round series against Colorado. Now, we take a look at who the Wild need to be at their best from an individual standpoint.

Ilya Bryzgalov: Again, this should be no surprise considering Bryzgalov will be the Wild's starting goaltender tomorrow night. But in the past, Bryz has been stellar in the regular season only to follow it up with awful postseason performances (see playoffs in 2010, 2011, 2012). If the Wild want to go anywhere this postseason, it starts with their man between the pipes, and right now that man is Ilya Bryzgalov.

Mikael Granlund: Granlund left the March 31st game with an injury and did not return. He has yet to be seen from since. But all signs are pointing to a Granlund return in Game one, and the Wild could use his presence given the lack of depth at center the Avs have (Matt Duchene and John Mitchell are most likely out for the series). Not only is Granlund the team's passer, he has turned into a good faceoff player, as he won 52% of his faceoffs this year. A healthy and efficient Granlund in this series will greatly increase the Wild's chances of winning.

Kyle Brodziak: For most of the season, Kyle Brodziak was the fans' scapegoat. He was just not all that great for most of the season. But then in the last few weeks, Brodziak's game has improved significantly, and has been a crucial part of the team's 6-3-1 finish to end the season. He will be the key in stopping Colorado's top line as he resumes his third line center role tomorrow. If the Brodziak of the past few weeks returns in this series, he will be a great source of secondary scoring while stopping Colorado's best.

Marco Scandella: When you talk about the Wild defense, Ryan Suter will be the name most people commonly throw around. But when it comes to this series, the Wild will need more than their top defensive pairing (Suter/Jared Spurgeon) to have a big series. The second defensive pairing includes youngsters Jonas Brodin and Marco Scandella, who are each entering their second postseason. Scandella has been big for the Wild all season (a huge step in the right direction considering how his 2012-13 season went), and they will need him to be big in the postseason if the Suter/Spurgeon pair gets shut down.

Erik Haula: For the last four weeks of the regular season, Erik Haula was an unsung hero for the Wild. His speed and skill did wonders while on the fourth line, and he eventually carried that up to the second line while filling for Granlund. Haula quietly put together a solid rookie season, scoring six goals and nine assists while being a +14 in just 46 games (I dont often throw around +/- anymore, but +14 in 46 games is pretty dang impressive for a rookie). With the return of Granlund, Haula will be back on the fourth line and that just may work to the Wild's advantage due to the lack of skill the Avs on their fourth line.

Follow Giles on Twitter @gilesferrell

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