Wild prove their worth among Western Conference elite with strong performance in playoffs

Throughout an up-and-down season, the Minnesota Wild lagged behind the leaders of the Central Division.

With an extended test against two of the top teams in the playoffs, though, the Wild clearly passed.

Despite their season-ending overtime defeat in Game 6 of the Western Conference semifinal series on Tuesday against the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, the Wild proved they can play with and beat the top teams.

General manager Chuck Fletcher's moves have begun to bear fruit, starting with the hiring of a young head coach in Mike Yeo and staying with him throughout some rough stretches. Addressing Yeo's contract is one offseason priority for Fletcher. Also high on the list is determining a dependable goalie tandem.