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No team in the ultra-competitive Western Conference has made the playoffs more times in a row than the Minnesota Wild http://www.broncosauthorizedshops.com/authentic-isaac-yiadom-jersey , with six straight appearances to share the current streak lead with the Anaheim Ducks.

 

That regular season consistency has only led, however, to April dissatisfaction. Ousted in five games by Winnipeg in their first-round series, the Wild were sent again to an early exit from the Stanley Cup tournament. They were shut out by the Jets in the last two contests and finished with a scoreless streak of 141:47.

”It’s really disappointing. I don’t think that’s indicative of the kind of team that we have. It was just a really tough night,” center Matt Cullen said after the 5-0 loss in Winnipeg on Friday. ”Obviously with our backs against the wall, I think we all expected more and hoped for more, and I think if we could do it all over again every guy would like to give more.”

There was no shame in being beaten by the Jets, a deeper, faster team with an exceptional goalie in Connor Hellebuyck that finished with the second-best record in the NHL in 2017-18. For the Wild, though, there’s an overarching theme of staying stuck at a good-but-not-great level since the franchise-altering signings of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter helped start this remarkable-but-unfulfilling run of making the playoffs every year with the two stars on the roster.

”We want more. We expect more from ourselves. We let another one slip away,” right wing Charlie Coyle said.

Here are some key angles to the end of the Wild’s season:

LOOKING BACK

The Wild are 2-6 in series and 15-29 in games in the postseason during the Parise-Suter era that began on July 4, 2012. The 17-year-old franchise’s only advancement past the second round remains the 2003 surge to the Western Conference finals Rasmus Dahlin Sabres Jersey , where the Wild were swept by the Ducks.

The postseason trouble encountered by the Wild used to be in the form of the Chicago Blackhawks, who eliminated them in 2013, 2014 and 2015. The Blackhawks won the Stanley Cup in the first and third of those years. They lost in the first round in 2016 and 2017, though, and failed to make the playoffs this spring for the first time in 10 years. So Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews are no longer the problem.

Now Nashville and Winnipeg have taken the lead in the daunting Central Division, with the Predators taking the Presidents’ Trophy with the league’s best record one season after reaching the Stanley Cup finals. Six of the seven teams made the playoffs either last year or this year.

”We certainly believed that we could give these guys a real run for it even though nobody seemed to be giving us a chance,” goalie Devan Dubnyk said. ”We’re one play away each game. I know that’s easy to say, but it’s really how close it was besides tonight.”

BANGED UP

This year, in fairness, one of the hurdles to postseason success became the rare absence of Suter, who has long been one of the NHL’s most durable players as a puck-moving, tough-minded defenseman. His broken ankle diluted the blue line in the final week of the regular season.

Then Parise, whose late-season surge signaled he was all the way back from the back injury and surgery that kept him out for the first 39 games Durham Smythe Color Rush Jersey , was knocked out of action with a broken sternum suffered in Game 3 against the Jets.

”Every team has injuries, right?” captain Mikko Koivu said, adding: ”For sure that hurts, there’s no question about that. But we can’t go behind that.”

CULLEN MULLING

Matt Cullen, after winning the Stanley Cup with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016 and 2017, put off retirement for another year and returned to his home-state team with 11 goals, 11 assists and valuable leadership at age 41. He wasn’t ready to address his future after Game 5.

”My only thought here the last while was getting it back home for Game 6,” Cullen said. ”So to be honest I don’t have an answer right now.”

QUIET COYLE

Not every forward will be productive in a playoff series, of course, but the Wild were hurting without any goals or assists by three of their top-nine forwards: Coyle, Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker. Coyle, who had only 11 goals during the regular season, was especially ineffective against the Jets.

”Had plenty of chances to finish. I didn’t finish. Or the goalie came up big Eddie Rosario Minnesota Twins Jersey ,” Coyle said. ”Whatever it is I didn’t get the job done. That hurts.”

 

Kyle Seager was asked before Thursday’s series opener against the Boston Red Sox what it’s like to face a knuckleball pitcher.

A look of horror crossed the face of the Seattle Mariners third baseman.

“Is that tonight?” Seager asked.

Told the Mariners wouldn’t be facing Steven Wright until Saturday’s game in Seattle, Seager exhaled.

“Wow, don’t scare me like that,” said Seager, who could be excused for losing track as his wife is expecting their third child.

Seager said he has faced knuckleballers Wright, R.A. Dickey and Tim Wakefield during his career. He is 2-for-6 against Wright.

“It’s just a difficult pitch, one you don’t see that often,” Seager said. “They all throw it a little different; it goes all over the place. It can be fun, you just have to laugh at it a little bit.”

Mariners first baseman Ryon Healy, whose locker is next to Seager’s in the home clubhouse at Safeco Field, said he got his first major-league hit off Dickey.

“My hitting coach said don’t worry about your approach,” said Healy, who was with the Oakland Athletics at the time. “Just swing and hope it’s in the strike zone.”

Wright (2-0 Cassius Marsh Color Rush Jersey , 1.21 ERA) is 2-1 with a 1.32 ERA is three career appearances against the Mariners, including one start.

This will be Wright’s third start of the season. He hasn’t allowed an earned run in the previous two. He post a 6-0 victory over Detroit on June 5 in which he allowed two hits in seven innings with three walks and six strikeouts. He gave up four hits in 6 2/3 innings in a no-decision on Monday at Baltimore, when he walked three and struck out five in a 2-0, 12-inning Red Sox victory.

“Out of the bullpen he was lights out, and then these past two starts have been pretty unreal,” Red Sox utility man Brock Holt told NESN. “That knuckleball dances around. It’s funny when you’re playing defense behind him and guys get on, they let you know how much it moves. It’s a difficult pitch to hit and he’s been able to throw strikes with it.”

Wright hasn’t allowed a run in his past 22 2/3 innings, the longest active streak in the majors.

“The thing with knuckleballs is people think you throw just one knuckleball, but the thing is, they’re big-league hitters,” Wright said. “The biggest thing is timing, and a pitcher’s got to disrupt their timing. So, for me Malik Jefferson Color Rush Jersey , especially as a starter … I really just try to go back and forth with the velocity.”

The Mariners are scheduled to start left-hander Wade LeBlanc (2-0, 3.00), who has a 6.00 ERA but no decisions in two career starts against Boston.

LeBlanc, in his second stint with the Mariners, hasn’t lost in 16 starts for Seattle, tied for the fifth-longest such streak for a pitcher starting his tenure with a team in the live-ball era. LeBlanc is tied with former San Francisco starter Noah Lowry (2004-05), trailing only the New York Yankees’ Whitey Ford (22 starts in 1950-53), Montreal’s Kirk Rueter (22, 1993-94), Cincinnati’s Brooks Lawrence (18, 1956) and the Yankees’ Jim Coates (17, 1959-60).

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