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Bryz by default: Kuemper not with Wild, Harding ‘extreme longshot’ to play

May 2, 2014, 1:52 PM EST

LOS ANGELES, CA - MARCH 31: Ilya Bryzgalov #30 of the Minnesota Wild reacts to play during a break in the game against the Los Angeles Kings at Staples Center on March 31, 2014 in Los Angeles, California. The Minnesota Wild won 3-2. Getty Images

Minnesota’s goaltending saga continued on Friday, as head coach Mike Yeo said that Darcy Kuemper — who started the Wild’s Game 7 win over Colorado — didn’t travel with the team to Chicago due to an upper-body injury, and that Josh Harding, who took today’s morning skate, is an “extreme long-shot” to play in this series.

That means — barring a brazen decision to put 30-year-old journeyman John Curry in goal — Ilya Bryzgalov is your Game 1 starter tonight at the United Center.

The Kuemper development isn’t a huge surprise. He was hooked from Wednesday’s 5-4 OT win against the Avs with less than nine minutes remaining in regulation, after appearing to have re-aggravated his concussion issues (maybe not the right terminology there, but I digress) on a collision with Matt Duchene.

Here’s more, from the Minnesota Star-Tribune:

Duchene collided with Kuemper behind the net. Kuemper fell and his head hit Ryan Suter’s knee. He looked shaken up but stayed in the game. The Stastny and Johnson goals probably should have been stopped. With 8:13 left, Suter went over to Kuemper to talk to him.

He skated to the bench, talked to Yeo and Ilya Bryzgalov stood up and finally entered the game after athletic therapist Don Fuller pulled Kuemper. Kuemper missed the final seven regular-season games and couldn’t start Games 1 and 2 of this series with a concussion. I think he had a relapse.

The Harding development is a little more surprising. While he’s been around the team for a while now and resumed practicing in early April, Harding hasn’t played Dec. 31 after undergoing a chance in his treatment protocol for multiple sclerosis. He took an extended leave from the team because he wasn’t feeling well — something many assumed would lead to him being shut down for the year — but Yeo made a point of saying he hasn’t ruled out Harding’s return (while acknowledging such a return was unlikely, of course).

If Harding’s healthy, the possibility of getting him back is huge. He playing at a Vezina-caliber level prior to going on IR, posting outrageous numbers ( 18-7-2, 1.66 GAA, .933 save percentage) while emerging as the Wild’s first-half MVP.

  1. guitarisgood4u - May 2, 2014 at 2:04 PM

    Mike Greenlay could lace them up for the Wild before the playoffs are over, for all we know.

  2. hennessey1200hp - May 2, 2014 at 2:08 PM

    A rusty Harding may be a better choice than a goalie like Bryz because of his lack of focus. Curry did play well when given the chance but the sniping ability of the Hawks might be too much for him to handle.

    • clarke16 - May 2, 2014 at 2:26 PM

      You’re kidding, right? You’d start a guy in the second round of the playoffs–coming in ice cold who last played an NHL game in 2013 and has next to nothing in the way of playoff experience, over a seasoned, veteran playoff netminder? Wow. Yeo would be fired if he did that.

      • nothanksimdriving123 - May 2, 2014 at 4:24 PM

        “next to nothing in the way of playoff experience”
        To clarify, it really isn’t even that good.
        Curry might well be a diamond in the rough just waiting for his chance to sparkle, but his most recent playoff games were in 2012 with the Hamburg Freezers in Germany. I’m not making this up. Five games, one win, 15 goals against.
        Stay healthy Bryz.

      • guitarisgood4u - May 2, 2014 at 5:01 PM

        nothanks – I believe clarke is talking about Harding.

  3. joey4id - May 2, 2014 at 2:15 PM

    The one good thing about Bryz you’ve got to like is that he’s kind of a kook, and pretty loosey goosey. Kind of what you need heading in a pressure cooker.

    • mp1131211 - May 2, 2014 at 2:39 PM

      The series hasn’t evens started and we’re in the pressure cooker? You said so yourself you’ve hardly watched the Wild at all this season. We’re playing better than the Hawks are right now.

      No pressure at all. We’ve come this far after cruising through 5 goaltenders. If we go out, this season has been a success.

      • joey4id - May 2, 2014 at 2:49 PM

        I watched every game of the Hawks/Blues and Wild/Avs series. More than enough to assess a team, and I mean team. They way they execute the small details within the system. I’m curious. How are the Wild playing better than the Hawks right now?

      • jernster21 - May 2, 2014 at 2:59 PM

        The Hawks won 4 straight against the Blues, including a blow in in the last game and the Wild are playing better than they are? Oh ok.

      • tved12 - May 2, 2014 at 3:04 PM

        It’s the pressure cooker because it’s the playoffs dude. Now it’s the 2nd round, every game is pressure filled. To say no pressure is a bit off base. Even if you think there’s not much pressure, there’s got to be some pressure at this point.

        I’ll preface this as I’m a huge Wild fan, but the Hawks are the defending champs and they are coming in on a 4 game winning streak. IDK that we’re playing better right now, but we are playing very well. I’m picking Wild in 6, but I acknowledge that I’m picking with my heart!

      • mp1131211 - May 2, 2014 at 3:10 PM

        You’ve misunderstood my comment. The Hawks are the defending Champs. They’re the ones with the pressure. The Wild having nothing to lose…

      • tved12 - May 2, 2014 at 3:19 PM

        I don’t think it’s fair to say there’s not pressure on any team. If you asked that locker room, do you think any of the guys are satisfied with a first round win? No, they want to win a title.

        Fans might be ok with their season, but professional athletes don’t get to the top being ok with first round wins. These are the most competitive people in the world, the pressure is on to always win.

      • mp1131211 - May 2, 2014 at 3:41 PM

        OK, fair enough. You’re right. As a wild fan, do you think Leipold or Fletcher planned on winning the cup this year?

      • tved12 - May 2, 2014 at 3:51 PM

        I doubt that they planned winning the cup. That said, I truly doubt any GM or owner planned to win the cup this year. But the better question is, do you think any owner, GM or fan isn’t disappointed when their team is eliminated?

        The Avs had a great season this year, exceeding all expectations. I’m willing to bet everybody in Colorado is proud of them, happy they got there. I bet they were disappointed when they lost on Wed night though. ;)

        Go Wild!

      • mp1131211 - May 2, 2014 at 3:08 PM

        jernster – who didn’t beat the blues in the last 15 games? Not many. Blackhawks outplayed the Blues, but they haven’t been tested.

        Joey- I thought I remembered you saying that you haven’t seen the Wild play much lately. Anyway, if you’ve been watching, you might have noticed that they’ve shut down the shooting lanes. Why do you think the Avs had 12 shots in game four? 12. That’s 12 shots on goal as in the goalies only had 12 shots to stop. They learned how to contain Mackinnon’s and Duchene’s speed in the Avs series and speed is a huge part of Chicago’s game.

        The Hawks are probably a better team overall and have great depth. The biggest challenge for the Wild will be adjust to the Hawk’s style and get the same defensive results that they got against the Avs.

      • comeonnowguys - May 2, 2014 at 4:30 PM

        Blackhawks outplayed the Blues, but they haven’t been tested.

        Yes, being down 2-0 isn’t a test against the season long conference favorite isn’t a test.
        Being down 2-1 in the Stanley Cup Final isn’t a test.
        Being down 3-1 to your lifelong rival with a history of beating you isn’t a test.

        Say what you will about it being a tougher series than last year, but let’s not get carried away with your green-and-gold glasses.

      • mp1131211 - May 2, 2014 at 5:12 PM

        Comeonenowguys – The blues lost that series. When Chicago pushed back against he Blues, the Blues gave way. Chicago only had themselves to blame for game 1 and 2, and they turned around and played better in the next 4. Where as the Wild dominated almost every game, except #2 against the Avs. They outplayed them every single night except the second and only lost because of bad luck and bad calls. They haven’t let off the throttle very much, where as the Hawks have been resting on their laurels not only in the last series G1 and 2, but in some of the later games of the season, too.

      • mp1131211 - May 2, 2014 at 5:16 PM

        Also you should learn our colors a little better. Not that every person who watches hockey would presumably know every teams colors well…. but, someone critiquing a team should… UNLESS they haven’t watched them play much. BUSTED!

        GO GREEN AND BURGUNDY!

      • clarke16 - May 2, 2014 at 6:16 PM

        Blackhawks haven’t been tested? I get a kick out of comments like this…

        THESE are the reigning Stanley Cup CHAMPIONS–not a bunch of zit-faced Colorado punks carrying their first wood to the middle-school dance. Teams like this respond to heat by getting HOTTER…

        You think this is the type of team that is going to collapse at the X just because the fans are loud and like to shake their pom-poms?

        Tested? This Hawk team has passed tests the Wild haven’t even yet earned the right to sit down and take. The Wild better be prepared for the Hawks to punch them in the face–again and again and again…

        Yeo’s been there and will have the team ready–but this is the big league’s starting now

      • joey4id - May 2, 2014 at 7:06 PM

        I wrote that I saw the Wild only once or twice during the regular season. I also wrote that their success against the Avs was largely because the Wild were able to slow down the Avs on the neutral zone and cordon off the the middle of the ice in their d zone. I expect to see the same vs the Hawks, however, on ice and behind the bench experience will make a difference. Pressure! Like many wrote here, pressure is omnipresent in the playoffs. Hawks have been there in the past, and were down 2-zip to win 4 in a row. So, pressure to them is probably less of an issue than it is for the Wild.

  4. r8rbhawk - May 2, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    Sharpie, Tazer, Kaner, Hoss, and the boys are licking their chops…

    • credible316 - May 2, 2014 at 2:53 PM

      I hate to admit it, but you’re right.

      Hopefully we get a great performance out of our defense in the neutral zone and we get the focused Bryz!

      GO WILD!!

    • purpleguy - May 2, 2014 at 3:24 PM

      I hope the chops they’re licking have flu germs.

    • ark465 - May 2, 2014 at 5:25 PM

      You do know that Sharpie,Tazer,Hoss and the boys lost the series to the Wild, right? You do know that the Wild held them to 3 goals or less every time except one, right?

      • whiteoutavalanche - May 2, 2014 at 6:24 PM

        that was the regular season, which doesn’t mean much of anything in the playoffs. You also remember the Avs were 4-1 against Minnesota this year in the regular season right? What did that get them in the first round?

      • r8rbhawk - May 2, 2014 at 6:32 PM

        yup, I am aware of that, just like that was during the regular season. I have a feeling they will come through when it really matters

      • r8rbhawk - May 2, 2014 at 6:37 PM

        oh yeah, and was Bryz the goalie in any of those games? We all know what playoff Bryz looks like, similar to the Flower from Pitt

  5. luvmnsports2012 - May 2, 2014 at 2:40 PM

    In Bryz we trust!! Let’s get em boys!! GO WILD!!!

  6. broadstreetbeatdown - May 2, 2014 at 3:06 PM

    As a Flyers fan, I have to say that Bryz shows extreme flashes of brilliance in net. He has the tendency to get red hot and stay that way for several games. Then again he also has the tendency to have total mental meltdowns and turn into Beach Ball Fleury x10. Hopefully the former shows up and its a great series. Would love to see the Wild and Ducks in the conference finals. Go Wild!

    • dwadholm - May 2, 2014 at 3:33 PM

      I think you have it dead on. It doesn’t help that the fan’s and media treat him like a hindrance to the team (this blog title is a prime example). I know he is a goober but who cares what he is like off the ice.

      The coach and players have nothing but good things to say about him…perhaps if he got support from the market (fans/media) it would boost his mental game and allow him to shine. Just a thought…we don’t always have to be negative Nancy in Minnesota.

      • clarke16 - May 2, 2014 at 4:01 PM

        Exactly. Well said. This team almost certainly wouldn’t even be in the playoffs if it weren’t for Bryz and this fickle fan base rags him every chance they get… Amazing.

      • tved12 - May 2, 2014 at 4:06 PM

        Is Halford a Wild fan? From MN?

        IDK, I think fans here have had realistic expectations for Bryz. And of course MN fans of all sports don’t have much faith after having their hearts torn out so many times. All of that said, I agree that we could be more supportive, if that’s what Bryz needs.

        Clarke, I don’t agree that we wouldn’t have made the playoffs without him. He had a great stretch and certainly helped us in the seeding, but I think we would have made the playoffs regardless. Also, I haven’t heard many fans ripping Bryz, mostly just guys like Cory Cove on the local morning show. But we all know that Cove is a douche and will find anything like that to bring up on the show.

      • clarke16 - May 2, 2014 at 4:23 PM

        Who would they have started, tved? An injured Backstrom on his way to surgical prep? That was an absolute clutch run Bryz made through the cream of the league’s elite to round out the season. If the Wild would have lost the games within that stretch that they would have been expected to lose–it touch/go for that last WC position…just like last season… The botton line is–Bryz showed up–and in a big way. We’re damn lucky to have him right now.

      • tved12 - May 2, 2014 at 4:33 PM

        Clarke, I do agree that he came through and played great down the stretch. And I’d rather have him right now than John Curry. But I still think we would have made the playoffs regardless of who started when Keumper went down. Possibly in the last wild card spot, but I think we would have made it.

        Also, I’m of the belief that the Wild defense has more to do with the success of their goalies then the actual goalie themselves. In those last games we were averaging like 22 SOG per game. I’m hopeful that’s what we continue to do in this series.

        Go Wild!

    • slickvb82 - May 2, 2014 at 3:43 PM

      Exactly right. When Kuemper originally got hurt at the end of the season, Bryz came in and posted some pretty great numbers against some pretty good squads. Record was something like 9-2-1, other stats I can’t remember. My concern is how fast he can unravel!

      Go Wild!

      • guitarisgood4u - May 2, 2014 at 4:55 PM

        I think it’s a matter of confidence. I said it before, but I felt like it was downhill for Bryz after the last game of the regular season when he slipped playing the puck leading to a goal, and was not the same goalie.
        Here’s hoping he got his confidence back.

      • guitarisgood4u - May 2, 2014 at 5:03 PM

        The confident Bryz that was encouraging Jets fans to heckle him.

  7. purpleguy - May 2, 2014 at 3:25 PM

    I’m getting tired of our “complex” goaltending situation.

    • therealjr - May 2, 2014 at 3:54 PM

      Seriously, the Wild really sold this team short when they decided to go into this season with a 36 year old declining Nicklas Backstrom and a guy who has a serious medical issue. Bryz is not the answer, either. HIs last non-wretched playoff was 2007.

      • mp1131211 - May 2, 2014 at 5:21 PM

        Not really. Look how well they’ve done. There were other parts that needed to fall into place. They’re in. Now they’ve got fix the goal tending issue for 2014-15.

  8. earpaniac - May 2, 2014 at 4:25 PM

    Wow. Okay I realize I’m probably going to start an argument, and I realize the Wild just won a series, but to say the Hawks are “probably a better team”? These are the defending champions. They have overall team depth other teams aspire to. They have no glaring weaknesses. (I dont mean they dont have any, just not ones that are obvious, i.e. goaltending, defense, injury, etc. I’m certainly not saying the Wild can’t win by any means, but if the Wild win it will be a massive upset.

    • tved12 - May 2, 2014 at 4:59 PM

      I agree that it would be an upset, but I don’t believe the Hawks are a night and day better team than the Wild. Some folks would be shocked if the Wild win this series, I wouldn’t. I think they match up well, play a great style that could give the Hawks fits.

      If you look at the Wild, they’re building their own depth. The unfortunate thing is the goalie carousel. Other than that they really don’t have any glaring weaknesses either.

    • mp1131211 - May 2, 2014 at 5:23 PM

      Well since you already know who is better, they might as well not even have a playoff and just hand the cup to whoever got it last year, huh?

    • mp1131211 - May 2, 2014 at 5:24 PM

      This is the kind of one sided arrogance we are going to be dealing with this whole series on this forum, isn’t it?

      • whiteoutavalanche - May 2, 2014 at 6:30 PM

        geez, stop getting so butt hurt every time someone disagrees with you…internet tough guy…:-)

      • mp1131211 - May 2, 2014 at 8:57 PM

        Internet tough guy? I’m flattered but have never tried to be tough here. Just stating that it’s pretty arrogant to be calling the winner when the series hasn’t started yet.

  9. purplove1 - May 2, 2014 at 5:18 PM

    Even if you a Chicago fan, (I’m not) you can’t help but pull for Harding. He is trying to battle thru this dreaded disease and do something besides feel sorry for himself. I for one admire this guy greatly, even if he never plays again.

    Get em Hards!!!

  10. earpaniac - May 2, 2014 at 5:19 PM

    Tved12 – Thank you for your response. I come to this site to read and discuss hockey, as I have loved it since I was a kid, but most of my friends do not. Your response was logical, and most importantly, civil. I may disagree with you, but respect your opinion. Usually, especially Cup time, people get to be idiots on here. I was referred to as a “ja***ss” on here yesterday because someone disagreed with me. It is possible to disagree w/someone without getting personal. In the Internet age, people have forgotten this. In person, most people wouldn’t refer to people this way, as they’d get punched, etc. So thanks once again for reaffirming my faith on this blog, and I wish your team the best of luck! (But not TOO much! Lol)

    • tved12 - May 2, 2014 at 5:24 PM

      Well I enjoy the hockey conversation as well. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve called people jackasses before, but not for simply stating their opinion on a series.

      I appreciate your opinion, it’s fun to debate. I’m hoping mine proves right. I wish your team the worst of luck my friend! The Hawks don’t need any!

  11. phxyotes - May 2, 2014 at 5:49 PM

    Bryz is nothing but swiss cheese. The Wild better be prepared to put up at least 4 goals to even have a chance at beating the Blackhawks.

  12. ipaintrinks - May 2, 2014 at 6:37 PM

    Please stop comparing regular season series to what you think Minnesota will do in the post season. St. Louis also topped the hawks in the regular season and we all saw how that ended.

  13. zraskovich - May 2, 2014 at 8:01 PM

    Good point there on pressure. If the Wild steal 1 in Chicago that pressure will be real…looking at playing at the crazy X twice with Cookie coming back. Nobody expects much from Minnie except us diehards who’ve seen how differently they play from behind this year….no matter what arena they’re in. That’s been the most enjoyable part to watch all season. They don’t pack it up when they’re down. Gonna be a wild one tonight!

  14. pariserules - May 2, 2014 at 9:02 PM

    In my opinion there are 3 keys to this series. Can the Wild match the intensity of the Hawks for 60 minutes. Can the Wild goal tending hold up to the odd man rushes that they will be facing. Can the Wild’s top lines consistently create mismatches and wreak havoc in front of Crawford. The Wild’s defense is very solid but they are well supported by the back checking of the forwards. The Wild’s top scorers need to match the Hawk’s talented front lines and that will make for an interesting series. If the Wild’s goal tending breaks down it will be a short series. Power plays and penalty killing will not be a huge factor as both teams have talented special teams and neither team takes many penalties..

    GO WILD!!

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