4 Reasons The Wild Are Facing Elimination

It wasn’t supposed to be like this in the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the Minnesota Wild.

This was supposed to be the year the Wild made a playoff run, a year they contended for Lord Stanley’s cup. Minnesota had a historic regular season, finishing second in the Western Conference with 106 points. That mark is a franchise record.

But none of that matters when the playoffs start. Sure, the momentum is nice. But all that matters now is getting four wins before your opponent. The Wild are having a terrible time scoring, and Devan Dubnyk is playing well but giving up weird goals at inopportune times.

Here are four reasons the Wild are facing elimination and if things don’t change, the season ends Wednesday night in Game 4.

Jake Allen Playing His Best

Sometimes all you need in the playoffs is for your goaltender to be the best player on the ice. That couldn’t be more evident than with the Blues having a 3-0 lead on the Wild. Devan Dubnyk has played well for Minnesota, but Jake Allen has been outstanding for St. Louis. Dubnyk has a .923 save percentage and a 1.86 goals against average against the Blues in this series.

In three victories, Allen has a .974 save percentage and a .91 goals against average. Quite simply, he’s standing on his head and playing out of his mind. He made 51 saves on 52 shots in Game 1. He’s made 114 saves on 117 shots on goal in three games. For the series, the Wild has a 228-142 advantage in total shots. That includes a 117-79 advantage in shots on goal. Sometimes you just have to tip your cap to the other team. The Wild has been the better team in the series in terms of puck possession and scoring chances, but it doesn’t matter when the goaltender is the best player on the ice.

Top Wild Players Not Scoring

The Wild prided itself during the regular season on having a balanced scoring attack, not being able to shut down one player. That’s great, but you still need to have a premiere goal scorer to have success in the playoffs. The Wild has just three goals in three games, and two of them are from Zach Parise. Charlie Coyle has the other. The Wild’s top six scorers heading into the playoffs have a combined four points. Nino Niederreiter and Jason Zucker haven’t gotten on the score sheet.

Only six players have a point in the series, and Jake Allen has a lot to do with it.  The Wild need better play from their best players if they want to get past Game 4.

Blues Taking Advantage Of ‘Puck Luck’

The Blues are playing a physical style that’s helping them win puck battles and frustrate Wild players. When they get a good bounce, they seem to take advantage of it. Colton Parayko’s goal early in the first period Sunday seemed to deflate the Wild, even though they came back to tie the game in the second period. The tie lasted less than three minutes as St. Louis took the lead on Jaden Schwartz’s power-play goal.

The Blues aren’t necessarily the better team, but they are taking advantage of scoring opportunities when they get them. They’re doing just enough to beat the Wild, and it has to be frustrating for Minnesota when it has the puck more and takes more shots, yet loses the game. The biggest issue for the Wild when it has the puck is a majority of their shots aren’t point-blank, Grade A opportunities. The Blues defense isn’t letting Minnesota crash the net, and when they do, they get punished for it. And when you get frustrated that the puck isn’t going in the net, you make mistakes and the next thing you know, you’re behind.

One play on Sunday epitomized the Wild’s luck in the series so far. Eric Staal had an open net and a chance at a wrap-around goal that would’ve given the Wild the lead, which they haven’t yet had in the series. Instead his stick wasn’t quite long enough and the puck got jammed into the post before Allen eventually made the save.

gettyimages 663764090 4 Reasons The Wild Are Facing Elimination

(credit: Norm Hall/NHLI via Getty Images)

Mike Yeo Capitalizing on Knowledge of Wild?

The Minnesota Wild had to be cringing just a little bit when they learned of their draw against the Blues in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Sure, the Wild has more talent and skill. But the one thing you don’t want to be doing is facing a team led by a coach you fired last season. Yeo isn’t saying it publicly, but we all know he wants nothing more than to stick it to his old team. The roster is largely the same, and it presents a challenge for Minnesota. Yeo knows his former team’s tendencies. He knows how they operate mentally, what makes them tick, what puts them in their comfort zone and what frustrates them.

If you know enough about your opponent and what they do on the ice, you can counteract a deficit you might have in depth or skill. The ice may look a bit tilted in the Wild’s favor, but the Blues are doing just enough to win games. It helps that your goaltender is at his best right now, but if and when the Blues advance, Yeo will make adjustments for whoever the next opponent is.

Only four other times in NHL history has a team come from down 3-0 to win the series. That can’t be the focus, not right now. The Wild’s sole focus Wednesday needs to be crashing the net to score goals, and finding a way to get the series back to St. Paul. Make the Blues feel uncomfortable about their game, and you might have a chance. But the bottom line is to find a way to score goals, which have been few and far between in this series.

If they don’t figure it, Wild players will be on golf courses and booking vacations by the end of the week.

More from Jeff Wald
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