STANLEY CUP PLAYOFFS-FIRST ROUND-GAME 2
MINNESOTA WILD VS ST. LOUIS BLUES
TV: NBCSN, Fox Sports-North
Streaming: Fox Sports Go app
Radio: KFAN 100.3 and affiliates
I’m just going to leave this here…
“I do believe that Allen is the biggest factor in this series. If he frustrates the Wild in the opening games, it could be a quick series in favor of the bad guys. However, as we saw just two short years ago, when the Wild knocked off these very Blues in the opening round, Allen can get rattled… Game 1 will truly say a lot about how this series will go, because if Allen is lights out, I anticipate a Blues victory. But if Minnesota gets to him early and often, the Wild will surely win this series.” – Jim Dowd’s Pants, April 12, 2017
I really hope I end up being wrong about the “short series” bit, because so far Jake Allen has certainly given us reason to think that he’s interested in single-handedly taking down Minnesota, and he also proved on Wednesday that he is capable of doing so, at least in the short-term. Allen was unbelievable, putting out perhaps the best playoff goaltending performance we’ve seen against the Wild since Jean-Sebastien Giguere in 2003, when he gave up one goal in four games to sweep the Jacques Lemaires out of the Western Conference Finals. It’s too early in the series to compare the two, but my goodness that was a ridiculous performance by a guy who we have seen crumble under pressure in the past.
There were a ton of positives to take from Game 1, which we’ll get into a bit in the Storylines section below, but the fact of the matter is that the Wild’s position is suddenly a bit tenuous for the first time all season. Even during the awful March slump, there was never a question as to whether or not the Wild would make the playoffs, but now it’s suddenly trailing in a playoff series. Heading to St. Louis down 2-0 is absolutely not where the Wild wants to be, so finding ways to beat Allen tonight is of the utmost importance.
Though it’s still early in the series, this is a pivotal game for Bruce Boudreau and the Wild. A bounce-back win tonight would do wonders for the psyche of the team… and hopefully hurt the psyche of Jake Allen a bit.
ST. LOUIS BLUES
Man, that was a total Mike Yeo win for the Blues in Game 1, wasn’t it? Just let ’em shoot… let ’em shoot… let ’em shoot… find a lucky goal… let ’em shoot… hold on for dear life and pray that your goalie can bail out your team. That’s pretty much the formula.
We know from firsthand experience that this brand of hockey is not sustainable for a deep playoff run, but the Wild under Yeo did get past the first round a couple times, including beating St. Louis. What was very comical was Yeo saying after the game Wednesday that the 52 shots against Allen were inflated because the Blues kept shots to the perimeter. We’ve heard that one before, Mike. Sure, St. Louis defenders made a lot of plays to thwart Wild shooters in prime positions, but they also got rescued by their netminder a LOT of times and got downright lucky to not allow goals on at least five occasions that I can recall. Offensive zone pressure is offensive zone pressure, and Minnesota dominated the Blues in every aspect (except the one that matters).
Vladimir Tarasenko was pretty quiet throughout most of Game 1, so I’m sure he’ll look to assert himself a little more tonight. Mikko Koivu pretty much shut down the all-world scorer, but Tarasenko did create the winning goal in overtime by driving to the net and pulling three Wild defenders to him, before losing the puck right onto the stick of a wide open Joel Edmundson. There were a few flashes of his elite skill during the course of the night, but a quiet Tarasenko is exactly what Minnesota will hope to have for the rest of the series.
St. Louis is better than what it showed on Wednesday. For the last couple months of the regular season, the Blues were certainly carried to some degree by Allen, but as a team, they are capable of pushing the pace of play. They didn’t show this in Game 1, so there is certainly a higher level of play that the Blues are capable of finding. Let’s hope that they don’t find it before the end of this series.
The Wild players were very confident in their comments to media yesterday at practice, and the general mantra was that if they again play the way they played in Game 1, then they will win Game 2. I couldn’t agree more. Yes, Allen was fantastic, but there were plenty of lucky breaks for him as well, including Zach Parise sweeping a puck OFF OF THE ST. LOUIS GOAL LINE instead of poking it into the open net. Allen can be beaten if enough pressure is applied and the Wild keeps throwing pucks from every angle at him from in close. He’s hot enough that he will not be beaten by long shots with no traffic in front of the net, but if the Wild can work the puck low and keep him guessing, there are goals to be found.
I felt a lot better about a 2-1 OT loss than I would have felt about a 1-0 regulation loss. If we were heading into Game 2 uncertain about whether or not Minnesota would be capable of putting the puck in the net AT ALL in the series, it would be a really bad situation. Battling back, even if it ended up to be futile, to force overtime and remind Zach that he is a goal scorer was a very VERY good thing for this team as it heads forward. Plus, I’d argue that that was the best game we’ve seen Minnesota play since February, so it definitely has found its game, and as long as it brings that effort every night, it does absolutely deserve to win the series.
Devan Dubnyk was exactly what Minnesota would want him to be on Wednesday. He made all the saves he was supposed to make, and a few that he wasn’t supposed to. Dubnyk always appeared to be in position the entire night, except for the overtime goal, on which he had no chance. There was nothing overly flashy, which is an indication that he is on his game and the defense in front of him is limiting quality scoring chances. He was obviously out-shined by Allen, but he played a solid, sustainable game that should have Wild fans feeling good about their netminder.
The Wild remains [knock on wood, knock on wood, knock on wood] healthy.
There’s nothing new on the Blues’ injury front. Still no Paul Stastny, and I didn’t see anything that would indicate he returns tonight, but he’s listed as day-to-day, so who knows? Robby Fabbri is out for the year.
The Gamethread will post at 6PM Central. Below are the projected lineups, thanks to dailyfaceoff.com, as well as the Tale of the Tape, thanks to @keisarikine. Thanks for reading, and LET’S GO WILD!
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