The Wild has gone into a playoff series before with an edge at the goalie position. I helped cover the 2002-03 playoff series against Vancouver, and it didn’t matter if Minnesota was throwing out Manny Fernandez or Dwayne Roloson. Either one was going to be better than the Canucks’ Dan Cloutier, who ultimately gave many gifts to an offensively challenged Wild team that scored 16 goals in the final three games of the series.
The Wild has gone into playoff series before with a clearly defined No. 1 goalie. Niklas Backstrom was that guy in the 2008 postseason, starting the vast majority of regular season games and all six playoff games in a series loss to the Avs.
But in the majority of the playoff series the Wild has been a part of (an admittedly small sample size within a short franchise history), Minnesota either had no clear No. 1 goalie, lacked the edge in the goalie matchup or (many times) both.
And I dare say until this year, the Wild had never gone into a series with the clear-cut best goalie of the two teams playing AND a clear-cut number one guy in net.
The Wild most certainly enjoyed that edge against St. Louis, which picked between Jake Allen and Brian Elliott and watched Allen give up back-breaking soft goals in both Games 5 and 6.
The same holds true in this upcoming series against the Blackhawks. Corey Crawford has been awfully good in the past against the Wild, but he was lit up in the opening round by Nashville and yielded four starts in the series to Scott Darling. Crawford is getting the Game 1 nod against the Wild, but he’s also probably going to be looking nervously at the bench if even a moderately soft goal goes in.
When Mike Yeo is asked (jokingly) who he’s going with, he just laughs. It’s a nice feeling for a coach — and a feeling a Wild coach has never had before.
Heading into the draft, we are giving the recent history at each of the Vikings’ seven draft slots.
We conclude this series with pick No. 11, the first of the Vikings’ seven selections. To say the 11th pick is rich with historical greatness would be an understatement. Seven Hall of Famers have been selected 11th overall. And there will be more to follow. The last 10 players to be picked 11th overall have combined for 21 Pro Bowl appearances.
Before we look at the good, bad and ugly, here is a list of the last 10 players to go 11th overall:
2014: Taylor Lewan, T, Titans
2013: D.J. Fluker, T, Chargers
2012: Dontari Poe, DT, Chiefs
2011: J.J. Watt, DE, Texans
2010: Anthony Davis, T, 49ers
2009: Aaron Maybin, DE, Bills
2008: Leodis McKelvin, DB, Bills
2007: Patrick Willis, ILB, 49ers
2006: Jay Cutler, QB, Broncos
2005: DeMarcus Ware, OLB, Cowboys
The good… There are three choices. You take any two and I’ll be happy with the third. Willis recently retired with five first-team All-Pro selections and seven Pro Bowls. Ware earned All-Pro first-team four times and went to eight Pro Bowls. Watt just won his second Associated Press NFL Defensive Player of the Year Award and has been first-team All-Pro three times while going to three Pro Bowls.
The bad… “Bad” is a stretch for Cutler, but considering the strength of this group, the heightened expectations that come with quarterbacks and how little he did for the team that picked him, we’ll put Cutler here. In 2004, Ben Roethlisberger was the 11th overall pick. He has helped the Steelers win two Super Bowls. Two years later, Cutler was the 11th overall pick. Denver traded him after he went 17-20 in his first three years.
The ugly… Easy. Maybin. He lasted only two years with Buffalo, two with the Jets and was finished. He had one career start, with Buffalo in 2010, and six sacks, all of which came with the Jets in 2011.
Having the Vikings ever picked 11th? Yes. Twice. They picked defensive end Derrick Alexander in 1995 and quarterback Daunte Culpepper in 1999. Alexander never made a Pro Bowl in five years. Culpepper played seven years with the Vikings, making three Pro Bowls.
Best 11th pick in NFL history? Like we said, there are seven Hall of Famers and more that will reach the Hall once they’re eligible. The Hall of Famers are receiver Michael Irvin (1988), receiver Fred Belitnikoff (1965), receiver Paul Warfield (1964), guard Billy Shaw (1961), defensive end Doug Atkins (1953), halfback Frank Gifford (1952) and defensive tackle Leo Nomellini (1950). If I had to pick, I’d go with Nomellini, the for Gophers standout. He was first-team All-Pro six times and made 10 Pro Bowls in a 14-year career with the 49ers.
Big thanks to Pro Football Reference and their invaluable Draft Finder for making our work easy.