By Joe Perovich, KFAN FM 100.3
Playing second fiddle in their second consecutive home playoff game Friday night was the Minnesota Wild, which fell 2-1 to the St. Louis Blues in Game 2 of the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
Wild left wing Zach Parise scored his second goal of the postseason on Friday in which Mikko Koivu and Mickael Granlund also tallied assists.
The consensus opinion propped up Minnesota for Game 2 "if they could play the same as they did in Game 1" since it wasn't thought to be conceivable that any team could accumulate that many opportunities (52 SOG), of any quality, and fail to score more than once.
Instead, it proved out to be more inconceivable that the Wild would accumulate 52 opportunities, or shots on goal, again in Game 2.
The Wild finished Game 2 with 24 shots on goal. Compare that to the 26 shots on goal Minnesota had by the end of the second period in Game 1.
If you take away the shot-on-goal advantage Minnesota had in mostly tightly-played Game 1, you may lose in regulation potentially instead of overtime - which is what played out in Game 2.
It wasn't all bad.
The Wild won 63 percent of their faceoffs compared to 57 percent in Game 1.
They also bested St. Louis in penalty minutes (six to the Blues' eight) and had 17 more hits than St. Louis for the second consecutive game.
Parise scored on of one Minnesota's three power-play opportunities in Game 2, compared to the Blues, which have yet to score a power play goal in the series (0 of 5 through two games).
For St. Louis, the win marks the third 2-0 road-series lead in Blues franchise history. In both the Blues' 1993 and 2001 playoff campaigns, the previous two times it happened, they ended up sweeping the series.
The developments early into Friday's Game 2 mirrored the early action on the ice in Game 1.
Minnesota began relentless penetration into the St. Louis zone and won two-thirds of the face-offs in the opening period.
Tie games though, are endangered around this version of Joel Edmundson.
The surging St. Louis defenseman Joel Edmundson. That firecat.
In the early minutes of the second period, Edmundson uncorked a slap shot that whizzed by Wild goaltender Devan Dubnyk's glove on its way to the net.
At the 16:34 mark of the second period, the Blues were called for the first of what became two costly minor penalties. Alex Steen and Scottie Upshall were penalized a minute apart, which overlapped their penalty time and provided Minnesota with a few minutes of ice time with a two-man advantage.
That short-stinted 5-on-3 advantage was necessary for the Wild and Parise, who used the newly-cleared space on the ice to tie the game 1-1 at the 17:44 mark of the period.
The tie score was broken a period's length of time later, amid 4-on-4 hockey in the game's final period.
When St. Louis left wing Jaden Schwartz's wrist shot beat Devan Dubnyk glove-side at the 17:33 mark of the third period, the Blues and head coach Mike Yeo had procured the final dagger they needed for the eventual 2-1 victory.
So, were in a fairly straightforward place where the Wild are in desperate need of finishers outside of Parise, the team's lone playoff goal scorer.
Even he too wasn't herculean as the beneficiary of two separate man advantages in Games 1 and 2 (a 6-on-5 and 5-on-3) that led to Minnesota's only two goals of the series. Minnesota as a team combined to score 266 goals during the regular season, the second-best mark in the NHL.
In his postgame press conference, Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said Minnesota's lack of goals in 5-on-5 situations could be attributed to the size and physicality of St. Louis' defense.
"They do what they do," Boudreau said. "They clog the middle of the ice up, and they have six, big defensemen. It's hard to get through."
The Blues' Yeo redirected attribution to one key cog in that clog: Blues goaltender Jake Allen, whose tremendous performances in net through two games are the most glaring of the common denominators in both of his team's wins.
Yeo thinks so.
"We looked at some things, and obviously, Jake [Allen] was the biggest issue in Game 1," Yeo said when asked how the Blues defensemen have been able to slow Minnesota's variety of
scoring options. "We looked at some other things [that] we did do a little bit better today, but we needed [Allen] to be great again tonight."
Despite the dip in Game 2, Minnesota's top-down talent is conducive to a varied array of scoring opportunities. If they continue to mostly come up empty, they'll continue to be frustrating pluralities.
Boudreau explained in the postgame that St. Louis' physicality and size on defense is suitable reasoning for why Minnesota's struggling in 5-on-5 situations, but the Blues were indeed dealt the second-highest scoring team in the league in round one and that should suck too.
Boudreau isn't wrong about what's happening, but why is it 'St. Louis' defensemen affecting Minnesota's offense right now' rather - than the other way around?
It's probably not fun for the players to talk about why the Blues are better at imposing their identity onto the Wild than the Wild are on the Blues. But, it's-an-elephant-in-the-room-at-the-Scottrade-Center type of situation ready to pop off if Minnesota can't communicate and solve problems by the conclusion of Game 3.
by Joe Perovich, KFAN FM 100.3