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Nanne: Wild Need to Make History

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April 17, 2017

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NHL authority Lou Nanne was asked if the Wild can come back to win their opening playoff series against the Blues. “The statistics are really bad against you, but four teams have done it,” Nanne told Sports Headliners. “You just gotta hope you’re the fifth.”

The Wild trail 3-0 in the best of seven series after yesterday’s loss in St. Louis. Nanne, who was a player, coach, general manager and president of the old Minnesota North Stars, referred to four teams in NHL history that came back from 3-0 deficits to win in a playoff series.

Devan Dubnyk

The Wild has lost games by scores of 2-1 twice and 3-1 yesterday. Nanne is “very surprised” the Wild are winless in three games and thought Minnesota would defeat St. Louis in the series. The key difference in the series, Nanne believes, is the goaltending, with Blues goalie Jake Allen out-performing the Wild’s Devan Dubnyk. “This guy (Allen) is giving you nothing,” Nanne said. “He’s playing terrific.”

Allen has stopped 114 of 117 shots in the series from becoming goals. “He’s just been excellent right now,” Nanne said. “You just gotta hope that it changes.”

The Wild had a regular season record second only to the Blackhawks in the Western Conference and was a favorite earlier this month to make the Stanley Cup Finals. Now Minnesota will be desperate for a win Wednesday evening and try for step one in a miracle comeback. Obviously the Wild need to score more goals, but Nanne also believes Dubnyk has to play better.

“They (the Wild) gotta make sure they cut down the chances they give up,” Nanne said. “Dubnky has gotta make sure he doesn’t give up a bad goal. These last two games there’s been a goal a game he should have had. You gotta have them. St. Louis is not giving up those kind of goals. You can’t, then.”

Any other advice for Wednesday night? “Just keep playing hard is the main thing,” Nanne said. “You gotta play hard every shift.”

Worth Noting

The Wild isn’t living up to the potential Sports Illustrated headlined in its latest issue. The six-page story began like this: “The State of Hockey, AKA Minnesota, has never won a Stanley Cup, but with a fiery coach, a resilient core and some homegrown stars, the Wild are giving their loyal fans hope.”

Another feature in the issue included “what if” scenarios for various prominent sports figures, imagining different outcomes in their careers. Included was a photo of legendary college basketball coach John Wooden wearing a Gophers jacket. Back in the 1950s Wooden chose UCLA over the Gophers when Minnesota officials called him later than he anticipated because of a snowstorm and telephone issues. Wooden had already accepted the UCLA job and chose not to go back on his word, even though he was attracted to Minnesota including because of his Midwestern roots.

Don Lucia lost a longtime coaching rival when Red Berenson retired after 33 seasons at Michigan. Berenson retired earlier this month and Lucia recalled that Michigan defeated his Colorado College team in overtime in 1996 for the national championship. “He owes me a ring,” Lucia said with a laugh.

When Lucia had moved on to the Gophers, the two schools met in Frozen Four games. “…I was able to get my revenge in ‘02 and ‘03 because both those years we beat Michigan in the semis,” Lucia told Sports Headliners.

Lucia has long admired Berenson for his competitiveness and professionalism. Lucia thought the Big Ten coaching legend might even retire a year ago. “There was always speculation. I mean, hey, let’s be honest. Not many guys are coaching when they’re 77 years old.”

Don Lucia

Lucia, 58, has been the Gophers coach since 1999 and has a contract with two more seasons. No date has been scheduled but he expects to meet sometime this spring with athletic director Mark Coyle. Adding a year or more to Lucia’s deal certainly could be part of discussions. “More is always better than less in any industry,” Lucia said.

Lucia has been conducting meetings with his players and doesn’t expect to lose any underclassmen to the pros other than junior defenseman Ryan Collins. “I’d be very surprised if anything else happened. …I think we’re pretty much getting our group set for next year.”

The Gophers have elected captains for next season but Lucia said an announcement date hasn’t been scheduled.

The Gophers spring football game on Saturday drew several thousand spectators including school president Eric Kaler, and major athletic department donors Dick Ames, and John and Nancy Lindahl.

Gophers coach P.J. Fleck used the game as a recruiting tool for his 2018 class that already has 10 verbal commits and is so far No. 11 in the nation, according to 247Sports composite rankings.

Stanley Jackson, the Big Ten Network color commentator who analyzed the spring game, said during the telecast the Gophers are a “dark horse” candidate to win the West Division next fall.

Free tickets are being offered to state high school and college head football coaches for the 10th annual Minnesota Football Honors event May 7 at U.S. Bank Stadium. The Minnesota Chapter of the National Football Foundation and College Hall of Fame is hosting the event, and making six tickets per school available upon request. Coaches needing more information can email sean@nffmn.org.

Although the Twins have lost two of their last three games, during that period Minnesota’s starting pitchers have a 0.43 ERA. Preseason Central Division favorite Cleveland is in Minneapolis starting tonight for a four game series.

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David Shama

David Shama is a former sports editor and columnist with local publications. His writing and reporting experiences include covering the Minnesota Vikings, Minnesota Twins, Minnesota Timberwolves and Minnesota Gophers. Shama’s career experiences also include sports marketing. He is the former Marketing Director of the Minnesota North Stars of the NHL. He is also the former Marketing Director of the United States Tennis Association’s Northern Section. A native of Minneapolis, Shama has been part of the community his entire life. He is a graduate of the University of Minnesota where he majored in journalism. He also has a Master’s degree in education from the University of St. Thomas. He was a member of the Governor’s NBA’s Task Force to help create interest in bringing pro basketball to town in the 1980s.

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