The most successful team in Wild history (by points percentage) now begins the playoffs on the road in Las Vegas, a team that could easily be the best in the NHL this season. A lot of the predictions and previews out there has focused on the Wild's success against Vegas in the regular season, where the Wild won 5 out of 8 and only lost once in regulation. That's not nothing, and it's always better to line up against a team that doesn't feel like the overwhelming favorite (see: Avalanche, Colorado), but it's also pretty clear that the Golden Knights are an elite team, one of the best in the NHL and there will be no easy wins for the Wild in this series.
I have to be honest, I don't know how I'm expecting this series to go. All the games against Las Vegas were super exciting and fun to watch, so if we get a series full of more games like that with playoff intensity on top of it? That will be something. It's been such a fun regular season, and the road through the playoffs is soooo tough, that it's impossible to say that getting knocked out would be an unexpected disappointment. But disappointment is still the word.
I really loved this look at how each team has scored against each other in the regular season. Granger did a great job of illustrating what each team has done well, and what each team has been able to remove from the other team's playbook.
A quick summary of the Las Vegas offense/Minnesota defense:
- Las Vegas doesn't score when they dump and chase the puck. 2 out of 20 goals came off of dump-ins.
- Las Vegas scores by shooting, they had 0 deflection or rebound goals in 8 games against Minnesota.
- One-timers were their bread and butter (9 of 20 goals).
Minnesota just doesn't allow teams to grind out goals against them. Their defensemen are too good at retrieving dump-ins and clearing the puck and bodies from the front of the net. If Las Vegas can carry the puck into the zone and set up some passing plays, that's when they are dangerous offensively.
A quick summary of the Minnesota offense/Las Vegas defense:
- 13 of 22 Wild goals were scored on rebounds or deflections
- An even split between carry-ins (11) versus dump-ins and faceoffs (11) to set up goals.
The Wild have to control the front of the net in the offensive zone. 13 goals in 8 games off of rebounds and deflections is a remarkable number, and it shows the key to beating the best goaltending tandem in the NHL (Vegas allowed the fewest goals per game in the entire league, the Wild were the only team to score more than 2.4 goals/game against them).
Speaking of goaltending....
Well, it won't surprise anyone that the goalies will go a long way toward deciding the outcome of this series. I expect the Wild to roll with Cam Talbot pretty much exclusively until they are forced to change tactics. The good news is that I don't think they need Talbot to be superhuman and single-handedly steal the series. What they do need though is for him to be solid, probably even slightly above average. That's what they saw from Talbot almost all year, and it's one of the biggest reasons why this has been such a successful year. If one is prone to the pessimistic view of things, one might look at Talbot's last 10 games or so and wonder if maybe above average is asking too much. On the other hand, the Wild haven't played too many high-pressure games this season and so the potential for everyone to elevate their game is there, and we'll soon see what playoff Cam Talbot looks like.
Kirill Kaprizov Corner: