Tag Archives: NHL Playoffs

Playoff Wild Whangdoodle: Game 1 – Minnesota v. St. Louis

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is tonight - 8:30 Central on ESPN.

We've got the best Wild team in history, coming in with a franchise record 53 wins and 113 points in the standings.  They have the second best record in the Western Conference and set a host of new franchise scoring records this year, both individual, and as a team. With all of that, they find themselves in the same division as 2 of the other top 4 teams in the West, and so we get a truly exciting first round series that pits two really good teams against each other and will send a really good team home after 4 to 7 games.


Short answer: They shoot the puck into the net really good.

Longer answer:
The Blues offensive system is based around the idea of creating only the highest quality chances as much as possible. Instead of dumping the puck in and trying to grind out a scoring chance, they prefer to carry the puck into the offensive zone. Instead of shooting and looking for a deflection or a rebound, they prefer to make a pass across the zone to force the opposing goalie to move and make a save at the same time. They are consistently among the top teams in the NHL in "high-danger passes" passes from the middle of the ice or that cross the middle of the ice in the offensive zone.  The Blues don't play for possession of the puck (they are below 50% on most possession metrics, while the Wild are above average).  But they make it not matter because they are constantly seeking those high danger passing plays. To further this, they have assembled a team that works within this system because they have a bunch of forwards with good finishing ability that have had high shooting percentages through their careers.

So, the Blues took a bunch of good shooters and put them in a system that gives them good looks and as a result, they have the highest team shooting percentage in the NHL this season.  They are 29th in the NHL in shots attempted, but 3rd in the NHL in goals scored.


Two questions then for the Wild.

  1. Can they disrupt those in-zone passes consistently? When the Wild really dominated Las Vegas last year in the playoffs it was because they completely shut down passing plays once Vegas crossed the red line and forced the Knights to grind out chances which is really hard to do against the Wild.

    This becomes magnified when the Blues get on the power play. More space for a team already adept at completing those high-danger passes is not a comfortable thing for penalty killers.  The Wild have not been a good penalty killing team this year, and if the Blues can ride a hot power play, this series gets a lot harder to win.

  2. Can they get the Blues to dump the puck in?  Spurgeon and Brodin are amazing defensemen when it comes to retrieving pucks and turning those dump-ins the other direction. This skill is largely negated by the Blues always carrying the puck over the blue line. If the backchecking forwards can force the Blues into close proximity to the Wild defensemen as they enter the zone, we might see some dump ins and that would play into the Wild's strength.


Yep.  The Wild are a really good offensive team. (You read that correctly) and the Blues haven't really shut them down in their three meetings this season. The Blues play a man-on-man strategy in their defensive zone, which is simple, but exploitable especially if the Wild defense can pull some Blues out of position by activating in from the blue line.  To do that with consistency and without creating opposition chances the other way, it will have to happen in tandem with long periods of Wild puck possession.  If the Wild have the puck  in the offensive zone for long stretches, we should see the Blues defensive system start to break down and create some open looks for the Wild goal scorers.

Dump and chase and grinding out possession in the corners is very much what the Wild want, especially with Ek/Greenway/Foligno on the ice. If that line can tilt the ice for Minnesota, then good things will follow.  The Boldy/Fiala/Gaudreau line is good at finding those soft spots in the zone, and Kaprizov/Zuccarello/Hartman can pull any defensive system out of alignment with skating and puck movement, so there's no shortage of weapons the Wild can bring to bear to counter the Blues shooters.

Of course, this is a strategy that works better at 5 on 5 than it does on special teams, so the fewer penalties that are called, the better it plays into Minnesota's hand.

The Blues are one of the biggest teams in the playoffs size-wise, but they didn't play a particularly physical style during the regular season.  The Wild are smaller but hit a lot more.  I'm interested to see how much the physical part of the game changes the series. The narrative is always that the playoffs play "heavier", but it's a little unclear which team that would favor here.


It sure helps.  The Blues will start Ville Husso in his first postseason start tonight, but he's been good most of the year for them, while it sounds like the Wild will go with Marc-Andre Fleury in Game 1.

We all know what Fleury is capable of in the playoffs, so the best possible outcome is more of that this year.   Talbot has been awfully good as well down the stretch, so I would imagine it won't take much to switch goalies as the series progresses.

NHL PLAYOFFS: Game 7 – Wild @ Vegas

It's the last time the Wild will play the Golden Knights this season. The final game of the first round playoff series is here.  There is just nothing left to say about this series. You know what we're looking at.

Two teams playing each other for the 7th time in a row will never lack for stories. This series is no exception. Talbot and Fleury have gone back and forth.  The Wild managed to figure out how to break up almost every single Las Vegas offensive zone pass in game 6, but have struggled to sustain that disruption in almost every other game. Goals have been called back on both sides in pivotal moments.  It's been a ride, and as good as you could hope for a playoff series.

Winner gets to start round 2 on Sunday against the Avalanche who haven't played a game in a week.

Continue reading NHL PLAYOFFS: Game 7 – Wild @ Vegas

NHL PLAYOFFS: Game 6 – Las Vegas @ Minnesota

Tonight the Wild get an elimination game at home. A win here forces game 7 back in Las Vegas on Friday. The home team hasn't fared well in this series so far, with Vegas getting the only home win in game 2.

The Wild didn't make it look super easy, but they got a win in game 5.  At this point in the series, it no longer matters how well the team plays, it just matters if they win and keep the series going. Continue reading NHL PLAYOFFS: Game 6 – Las Vegas @ Minnesota

NHL PLAYOFFS: Game 4 – Vegas @ Minnesota

I am honestly not sure what to say about game 3. The first period looked so good. Wild players were in front of the net. Pucks were finding their sticks and actually getting past Fleury. Spirits were high!

And then the Wild turned in the worst two periods of the entire season series against the Golden Knights. Vegas got more goals than the Wild got shots over the last 40 minutes of game 3. It was an intensely frustrating game to watch. Continue reading NHL PLAYOFFS: Game 4 – Vegas @ Minnesota

NHL PLAYOFFS: Game 3 – Vegas @ Wild

The series is tied, and now moves to Minnesota for the next two games.  The Wild have dominated in general as the home team, and have had three years of success against Las Vegas in Minnesota.

On the other hand, they will probably have to score more than one goal per game to win these two games. Continue reading NHL PLAYOFFS: Game 3 – Vegas @ Wild

NHL PLAYOFFS: Game 2 – Wild @ Vegas

Late night hockey for game 2 as the Wild look to take another game in Las Vegas.

Road teams that win games 1 and 2 in the NHL playoffs win 80% of the series (79 out of 99 historically).  Road teams that win game 1 and lose game 2 win 43.5% of the series (70 out of 161 historically). Unsurprisingly, it would be good to win this game. Continue reading NHL PLAYOFFS: Game 2 – Wild @ Vegas

NHL PLAYOFFS: Game 1 – Wild @ Vegas

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. Continue reading NHL PLAYOFFS: Game 1 – Wild @ Vegas

Game Log: Minnesota Wild @ Chicago Blackhawks, Game 1

Another series that everyone is picking as too close to call.

I'm not sure I can take the Wild being eliminated by the same team three playoff seasons in a row (even the Twins never lost to the Yankees three years in a row).  So I think I'll cheer for the Wild in this round as well.

Historical pessimism:

  • The Wild have lost all six playoff games they've ever played in Chicago.
  • The Wild have never won a game 1 in the second round (0 for 2).

The big question is whether Crawford in goal for the Blackhawks can give them a chance.  If he keeps games close, most people seem to think the "veterans who just know how to win" on the Hawks will prevail over the Wild.

The Wild didn't have to win any games that were too close in round 1 (no overtime, only one lead change all series).  It will be interesting to see if they can continue to lock down and extend leads in the same way.  (also:  scoring first is always good - something they struggled with against Chicago the last two years)