Minnesota leads the series 2-1
3.67 Goals For Per Game (8th in the NHL)
2.33 Goals Against Per Game (7th in the NHL)
15.4% Power Play (10th in the NHL)
71.4% Penalty Kill (12th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #97 Kirill Kaprizov ~ 4G 1A = 5pts
2. #14 Joel Eriksson Ek ~ 3G 2A = 5pts
3. #38 Ryan Hartman ~ 0G 4A = 4pts
4. #36 Mats Zuccarello ~ 1G 2A = 3pts
5. #25 Jonas Brodin ~ 1G 2A = 3pts
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #17 Marcus Foligno ~ 14 PIM’s
2. #22 Kevin Fiala ~ 8 PIM’s
3. #14 Joel Eriksson Ek ~ 6 PIM’s
1. #33 Cam Talbot N/A
2. #29 Marc-Andre Fleury (2-1) 2.34GAA .926%
St. Louis Blues
2.33 Goals For Per Game (12th in the NHL)
3.67 Goals Against Per Game (10th in the NHL)
28.6% Power Play (5th in the NHL)
84.6% Penalty Kill (7th in the NHL)
Top 5 Scorers:
1. #57 David Perron ~ 3G 1A = 4pts
2. #90 Ryan O’Reilly ~ 2G 1A = 3pts
3. #91 Vladimir Tarasenko ~ 1G 1A = 2pts
4. #18 Robert Thomas ~ 0G 2A = 2pts
5. #72 Justin Faulk ~ 0G 1A = 1pt
Top 3 PIM’s:
1. #72 Justin Faulk ~ 8 PIM’s
2. #57 David Perron ~ 4 PIM’s
3. #10 Brayden Schenn ~ 4 PIM’s
1. #35 Ville Husso (1-2) 3.02GAA .906% 1SO
2. #50 Jordan Binnington N/A
St. Louis Blues
Greenway~Eriksson Ek~M. Foligno
Game & TV Schedule
Game #4: May 8th, (Away) 3:30PM CST Bally North, TBS
Game #5: May 10th, (Home) 8:30PM CST Bally North, ESPN
Game #6: May 12th, (Away) TBD**
Game #7: May 14th, (Home) TBD**
** – If necessary
Hannibal from the 1980’s action television series the A-Team’s signature line was, “I love it when a plan comes together.” Somehow, I think Wild Head Coach Dean Evason probably thought the same thing as he watched his club roll to a decisive 5-1 road victory in Game #3 against the Saint Louis Blues.
Just 39 seconds into the game, Joel Eriksson Ek set up Jordan Greenway on a well-executed 2-on-1 to give Minnesota a 1-0 lead. They never looked back.
Saint Louis tried to set the physical tone early as Brayden Schenn and other Blues players took every chance to try to dish out big hits to Wild skaters. Despite the big hits, Wild players absorbed the punishment the best they could and did not resort to retaliation or get caught up in many scrums after the whistle.
In fact, Minnesota seemed to embrace a counter punching style, figuratively not literally as they took advantage of Saint Louis’ aggressiveness and turned their opportunities to pinch into odd-man rushes and breakaways the other way. Kirill Kaprizov was denied by Ville Husso on a breakaway but the savvy Russian didn’t give up on the play and sent it back out towards the goal where he banked it off Husso and in. 2-0 Wild just 2:18 into the game to a stunned sold out Enterprise Center.
By staying focused on the task at hand, they didn’t give Saint Louis extra opportunities on the power play. In fact, Minnesota could’ve added to its lead had it been able to take advantages of the power plays the Blues were giving them early in the game.
Eventually the officials started gifting Saint Louis with some power plays of their own thanks to two nice dives by David Perron. But overall the Wild penalty kill was strong. Marc-Andre Fleury again played well and Minnesota supported their goaltender well by sweeping away rebounds consistently.
Defensively, Minnesota looked poised and under control even as Saint Louis did all it could to try to rattle the Wild’s composure. I thought Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin, Alex Goligoski and Jake Middleton were difference makers as they helped the Wild make clean exits from their own zone and seemed to handle the pressure tremendously.
Saint Louis, already banged up on their blueline lost another key player when Torey Krug left the game early and never returned. The Blues are already a few bodies short with Nick Leddy and Robert Bortuzzo out of action. If Krug is still out of the lineup, I would expect the team to activate Steve Santini or former UMD star Scott Perunovich to try to take up some of those minutes.
When Krug went down with an injury, this forced the Blues to lean heavily on veterans Justin Faulk and Colton Parayko who both ended up logging over 27 minutes in ice time.
Minnesota has taken advantage of Saint Louis’ weakened d-corps and I’m sure Blues Head Coach Craig Berube is probably going to ask for more defensive help from his forwards to try to offset that disadvantage.
Another area where Berube might be having some doubts is between the pipes. Ville Husso supplanted Jordan Binnington earlier in the season, but he’s a goaltender with a Stanley Cup to his credit and perhaps just to spark his team he makes a switch. Yet it wouldn’t surprise me if he sticks with Husso either.
If there is any Wild player whose performance has been a bit underwhelming thus far its Kevin Fiala. Fiala hasn’t appeared disengaged, he simply hasn’t had many prime scoring chances. It is an interesting development since he was absolutely on fire offensively in the home stretch of the season.
An area of hidden strength for the Wild was their proficiency on face offs where they won 51% of the draws. Eriksson Ek (56%) and Frederick Gaudreau (60%) were particularly effective and this helped the Wild win the battle of puck possession and this allowed Minnesota to dictate the pace of play throughout most of the game.
So what are the keys to a Wild victory in Game #4?
1. Get out to an early lead – Minnesota plays far more comfortably by taking the early lead. Game #3 showed the Wild how getting a lead could neutralize their normally rowdy and boisterous home crowd. I would expect the Blues will want to be even more aggressive to start the game than they were on Friday and this is an opportunity for the Wild to counterpunch offensively and stonewall their momentum. The Wild struck within the first minute in the 1st and 3rd periods with their GREEF line which was like an emotional punch to the gut of the Blues.
2. Keep avoiding the shenanigans – I thought Minnesota showed tremendous poise and focus on what important throughout the game. They didn’t play into Saint Louis’ attempts to get into some after-the-whistle shenanigans. Avoiding such fruitless confrontations leads to less frustration and potentially costly retaliation penalties. Brayden Schenn will continue to goad, but as long as you’re the one leading on the scoreboard it doesn’t matter anyways.
3. Work pucks deep and force Saint Louis to defend – With the likely new faces in the Blues lineup or banged up players hoping to fight through it, the Wild would be well served working pucks deep and forcing this team to defend deep in its own zone. It doesn’t have to just come from the GREEF line either; any of the lines can work pucks down low and move in close for opportunities to score. If the Blues collapse down low then work the pucks out to the point and let their sore bodies step in front of some bombs from the point.