With a big Game 3 win at home, the Blues now own a commanding 3-0 series lead over the Wild. Though the Blues have emerged with three wins in three attempts, the style and manner in which the team has won has been vastly different in each contest. The Blues keep finding ways to win.
Game 1 was ugly. Jake Allen was the hero as the Wild completely controlled the game and were extremely unlucky to drop the result. Game 2 was significantly better for the Blues as they were able to limit the Wild’s offense and secure better entries into the neutral zone and over the blue line. Game 3 was still another flavor, with the Blues doing well before shrinking back into a defensive shell which nearly cost them. They finally found a goal with the man advantage and all of a sudden the Wild are facing elimination.
Those are some extremely quick summaries, but let’s hope you watched the games and you’re all caught up.
Though the manner in which the Blues win keeps changing, there have been some constants. Allen has been awesome. Really, really awesome. The Blues defenders have been pretty awesome too, blocking 63 shots through three games. There have been some lapses, but the overall play by all of the defenders (as well as the forwards coming back to help) has been right on the money.
So, where can the Blues improve? Despite their three wins, there’s still a lot of room for improvement.
For starters, they need to play more like they did in Game 2 where they kept the Wild out of sync. The Blues looked strong in the first period of Game 3, but old habits are apparently hard to break and they nearly coughed up several goals by backing in and giving the Wild plenty of space.
The Wild need to be disrupted in the neutral zone. That’s where you can completely derail their strategies. At times, the Blues’ forecheckers got caught a bit too deep in Minnesota’s end. A dangerous chance was then created as the Wild used their insane speed and a couple passes to put the Blues out of position. It may be wise to keep the forecheck pressure, but back off on it a little bit so that obtaining the neutral zone is a bit trickier rather than trying to find a turnover deep in the opponent’s zone.
Avoid icing the puck. Sometimes it’s just going to happen, but the Blues are pressing their luck by giving the Wild – a team that has killed the Blues in the circle – draws in threatening positions. It’s actually surprising that the Wild didn’t capitalize on one of the many icings by the Blues in the third period of Game 3.
Keep. Pressing. This goes back to the whole “don’t pack it in when you’re winning” strategy, but it’s worth repeating. If you’ve got the Wild where you want them, keep attacking.
All in all, it’s kind of crazy that the Blues have a 3-0 lead. I’m not totally sure how we got here, but it’s pretty awesome.