This year was going to be different.
With balanced scoring buoyed by a true superstar, with depth up and down the lineup and with two veteran goalies, the Wild was built — at least on the surface — for a deep playoff run.
Entering the playoffs with a 30-54 all-time record? Didn't matter. Wipe it all away and turn the page.
Why, then, when the dust settled Thursday in the aftermath of the Blues' rather breezy 5-1 Game 6 win — a series clincher played with all the urgency of a preseason game — did everything feel so familiar?
Short answer: Because a lot of the same problems that have plagued the Wild in past postseason disappointments — and that hurt them this year — reappeared at the worst possible time, as I talked about on Friday's Daily Delivery podcast.
Let's look inside some of the advanced numbers via Natural Stat Trick that help tell that story:
*The Wild was a very good 5-on-5 team during the regular season, and that largely extended into this series. Minnesota had more shots on goal and more high-danger chances 5-on-5 in the series.
The way the Wild played 5-on-5 led to an expected goal margin of 12-9. But the actual goal margin 5-on-5 was a deficit: the Wild scored 10 times and the Blues scored 11 times.
The theme of not cashing in chances is embedded in the Wild's DNA, and even if it wasn't quite as pronounced as in past years it hurt once again.
*St. Louis scored eight power play goals in 26 chances, while the Wild went 4 for 24 on the power play. We knew the Blues had a huge edge on special teams coming into the series, and it played out in critical times: particularly when the Blues stole home ice in Game 1 and when two power play goals Thursday finished off the Wild.
*For the entire series, in all situations, the "expected goals" were almost dead even at 19-19. But the actual goals favored St. Louis 22-16. The Wild actually created more "high danger" chances, 62-55, but they cashed in just five of those high-danger chances for goals while St. Louis cashed in 10.
Some of that is on the Wild's shooters. Some of it is on goalies Marc-Andre Fleury and Cam Talbot, who did the Wild no favors (primarily MAF, since he played five of the six games).
*What really will haunt the Wild is that its superstar, Kirill Kaprizov, absolutely showed up. He was a force all series with seven goals, often looking like the best player on the ice. The lack of scoring beyond Kaprizov, though, was alarming.
Kevin Fiala (0 goals, 16 penalty minutes) was a no-show, and Marcus Foligno wasn't much better (though it will be interesting to learn how healthy he was after being injured in the regular-season finale).
*So where does the Wild go from here? Will the organization choose to look at two consecutive competitive playoff series as a reason to continue on this same path, or will playoff failures and salary cap constraints necessitate a roster overhaul?
Fleury is a free agent and doesn't figure to return. Talbot is under contract for one more year, but he wasn't happy about riding the bench in the playoffs and his wife tweeted after the game about their "next adventure."
Fiala was dynamite at the end of the regular season but struggled in the playoffs for the second straight year. Matt Dumba could be moved, too, as the Wild clears cap room ahead of the buyouts for Zach Parise and Ryan Suter counting almost $13 million combined against next year's cap and almost $15 million each of the two years after that.
There's not one simple thing to fix, but re-establishing trust in and with Talbot seems to be quite important.
Beyond that, the Wild need to start a systemic overhaul of their special teams. This team was too good 5-on-5 and 6-on-5 to struggle to the extent it did 5-on-4 (and 4-on-5).
The lineup would look even better if Marco Rossi makes the kind of leap next year that Matt Boldy made this year.
Beyond that? Try, and try again. Hope that a tweaked approach finally leads to a different result after all these years.