Welp, the playoff series against the St. Louis Blues got off to a rough start in St. Paul this week, with a 4-0 loss in Game 1. It was ugly and made plenty of Wild fans nervous. The emotion was high at the beginning of the game, both on the ice and in the seats. The game plan for the Blues was evident – be physical from the start and get the Wild back on their heels. They took the life out of the crowd, and the Wild, as the Blues cruised to a rather easy road win. It may have been the worst loss of the season for the Wild and it just happened to be in the playoffs. That sucks.
However, the beauty of the Stanley Cup playoffs, is that it’s a best-of-seven series and in Game 2 and last night in Game 3, it was a complete reversal of fortunes between the teams. After Game 1, the Wild have outscored the Blues 11-3 in the past two games
Wild Head Coach, Dean Evason, did not panic and kept his lines and his starting goalie intact in Game 2. Wild goaltender and future first ballot Hall of Famer, Marc-Andre Fleury did not panic either. The rest of the team was much more focused, disciplined and as a result, they were rewarded with a 3-0 lead after the first period, setting the franchise record for number of goals in the first period of a playoff game. Joel Eriksson Ek, Freddy Gaudreau and Kirill Kaprizov all tallied goals in the first, the latter two goals were on the power play.
The Blues got on the board late in the second period and added another goal in the third, before Kaprizov ripped his second goal and then a third just past the mid-way point in the final frame. Kaprizov’s hat trick was the first playoff hat trick in franchise history and came about a minute after Joel Eriksson Ek thought that he had a hat trick. The Blues challenged Eriksson Ek’s goal saying that the Wild were offsides. After hundreds of hats (and one bra) were thrown on the ice in celebration, the goal was reviewed and disallowed. Replays clearly showed that Wild were, in fact, offsides.
By game’s end, the Wild definitely had put the Blues and the rest of the NHL on alert, that this team is not like other Wild teams from years’ past. The team that showed up in Game 2 & 3 of the series, is the same dominant Wild team that we’ve seen for most of the year.
In Game 3, the Wild immediately took charge with a Jordan Greenway goal with just 39 seconds gone in the game. Just over a minute later, Kirill Kaprizov whiffed on a breakaway chance, but then shot it backed towards the net from behind the goal and banked it in off of Blues goalie Villo Husso’s left skate. The rest of the game was all domination from the Wild. Mats Zuccarello and Joel Eriksson Ek had goals and Jonas Brodin had a long empty-netter to close out the game.
Overall, the Blues have scored just one goal in the series that really mattered, and that was the first goal in Game 1. Since that goal, all other Blues goals have been insignificant with no real bearing on any of the games. Fleury has been solid in the past two games and you can just see the confidence that the Wild have since being shutout. They have taken a couple of dumb penalties which have resulted in Blues power play goals, but again, none that really mattered.
Keys for the rest of the series:
- Stay out of the penalty box. The Blues power play can be down-right lethal at times and we don’t need to help them out. You can see the Blues just trying to bait the Wild into stupid penalties and for the most part, we haven’t fallen for it. Keep that up.
- Keep emotions in check – which will help with #1.
- Stay healthy – enough said.
- Do a better job at clearing the puck in the defensive zone. That has caused the Wild trouble at times throughout the season and like special teams, they need to improve in getting the puck out of the zone.
Since Game 1, you can see how the Wild have matured and made adjustments in the previous two contests. The results of that have been clear. The Wild are dangerous and they are playing even better than the regular season. This. Is. Playoff. Hockey.
Game 4 against the Blues will be on Sunday afternoon at 3:30 PM from St. Louis. Go Wild!!!!!!
P.S. Happy Mother’s Day to all hockey moms and Wild fans out there!!!!!