Rejoice Wild fans! The Minnesota Wild and Vancouver Canucks take the ice on Thursday afternoon for Game 3, the first non-9:30 PM CT or later start time in this series! Your joy will be short-lived though, as Game 4 on Friday will take place, again, at 9:45 PM CT.
But in the ramp-up for Game 3 Thursday afternoon, the Wild are coming off a 4-3 loss to Vancouver that evened the series at one, and that score does not do justice to the actual game.
With no practice on Wednesday to give the players rest before the back to back games, Dean Evason no doubt came up with a game plan for Thursday to try and retake the series lead. Here are adjustments he should come up with as the team's take the ice for the third game in this series:
Start winning faceoffs
The Wild have been downright woeful in the faceoff circles through two games. Combined, they have won 50 out of 129 total draws in the two games, which comes out to a 38.7% rate for Minnesota. None of the team's four regular centers -- Eric Staal, Mikko Koivu, Joel Eriksson Ek and Alex Galchenyuk -- have a win percentage above 50 in the two games. This trend really has not affected the Wild at even strength, but this really comes into play on special teams when you want the puck one way or another.
Bring back the physical element from Game 1
Minnesota deployed a more physical strategy in Game 1, but in Game 2 they really did not bring the same level of intensity. The physical play in Game 1 helped keep the Canucks top-six off the board, but when it ramped down in Game 2 Vancouver's big shooters found their way onto the scoresheet. This is in the wheelhouse of Marcus Foligno, Luke Kunin, Ryan Hartman (if available to play) and even Jordan Greenway.
The Wild need to show a little more physical play in Game 3.
Try literally anything different on the power play
Time and time again in Game 2, the Wild were given chances on the power play to get back into the hockey game. Minnesota came up goalless in six chances with the man advantage, with each power play looking worse than the last. The second unit has been particularly abysmal in this series, so perhaps it's time to shake it up and throw someone else in that was not previously on the unit or mix up the top and second lines. Maybe even try some different strategies for zone entries, as the Canucks were all over the Wild in that regard on Tuesday.
Something, literally anything, has to be tried to get the power play back working.
Time for some line changes
Since the Wild can't play Kevin Fiala for 60 minutes a game, it is time to shake up the forward lines. Had Bruce Boudreau still been behind the bench, the lines would have been jumbled roughly 374 times in the first two games. But Boudreau is no longer behind the Wild bench. Evason has taken a more patient approach to the lines in Games 1 and 2, but the time to make some changes is now. Eight of the 12 forwards that have played in the first two games are still without a point. The ones who have tallied a point are Staal (4), Fiala (3), Zach Parise (2) and Kunin (1).
For instance, take Greenway off the top line and try putting Parise there. Or try moving Mats Zuccarello somewhere else to inject some life into his game. While he has done well on a line with Koivu and Hartman, perhaps it's time to boost the minutes of Ryan Donato to see if he can provide some more offense? Possibilities are endless, but with the Wild still without a 5-on-5 goal in this series, it's time to jumble the lines.
Stay out of the penalty box
Pretty explanatory. The Wild could not get any momentum at even strength on Tuesday because they were all taking turns going to the penalty box. You can't keep giving the Vancouver offense seven chances a night with the man advantage. They will burn you when it's all said and done.