Kukla's Korner Hockey
Power outage at XCel Energy Centre overnite reduced rink to a puddle. Got it back for skates, but likely slow for tonight.
For the Wild against mega-talented Hawks, maybe it will work a little like letting the infield grass grow long, if you get my drift:)
-Damien Cox via Twitter.
But I do believe the Wild are considered the faster team.
from Sean McIndoe of Grantland,
If you’re a Wild fan, you’re not in terrible shape. They almost certainly need to win tonight, and probably again in Game 4 on Thursday. That won’t be easy against a Hawks team that looks to finally be shifting into Stanley Cup mode right on time. But they’ve got a shot.
The Flames have a weaker case. They’ll no doubt get a boost from a loud crowd tonight, but the Ducks went into a raucous building in Winnipeg in Round 1 and did just fine. Calgary’s biggest problem is that they just don’t look like they’re good enough to keep up with Anaheim. They’ve still got a puncher’s chance here, but not much more than that.
And then there’s Montreal. The Habs certainly didn’t fare well in the various categories that made up this post, and after Sunday night they looked like a team that was closer to a full-scale meltdown than a comeback. So it’s tempting to write them off completely … until you remember Carey Price. The guy is going to be MVP for a reason, and if anyone can single-handedly steal a series his team has no right to win, it’s him. And the way they’re playing right now, the Canadiens might need exactly that.
from Michael Russo of the Star Tribune,
The Wild is familiar with this “2-0 hole” thing in the playoffs.
This is the fourth time in five years the Wild has put itself into a series abyss and third consecutive year against the Chicago Blackhawks. Down 2-0 twice last postseason, the Wild won Games 3 and 4 at home, going on to victory in the Colorado series.
So all hope isn’t lost. But this year was expected to be different, the year the much-improved Wild would be able to force at least a split in Chicago.
So far, nothing has changed. The Blackhawks’ lengthy roster of lethal finishers has yet again broken the Wild’s will with quick-strike conversions seemingly any time a Wild player goofs up.
The Wild’s disappointment was palpable Monday. Hoping to get its act together in Game 3 on Tuesday at Xcel Energy Center, the Wild used Monday as a day to recover mentally and learn from the plethora of glaring, uncharacteristic mistakes it committed during two games in Chicago.
“I think no one was too thrilled about coming here today, but we knew it would be good to look at our mistakes and kind of regroup from that,” veteran Thomas Vanek said. “We’re down 0-2, but we’re down 0-2 because we didn’t play well. We played our game for two periods out of the six.”
from Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune,
Shutting down the Blackhawks’ stars, or playing an error-free game, is probably unlikely, so the Wild will have to become more proficient in the offensive end. That means they’re going to need more help from The Lost Boys: Thomas Vanek, Chris Stewart, Jason Pominville and Mikko Koivu.
Vanek is a defensive liability who doesn’t always skate hard. His failure to get the puck deep into the offensive zone at the end of the second period led to a typically brilliant goal by Kane following a long breakout pass.
Vanek showed up offensively in Game 1 but did nothing in Game 2.
Stewart has given the Wild little during these playoffs, other than one deft primary assist against the Blues. He has played soft along the boards, belying his bulk and his role. To his credit, he returned to the game after leaving with an apparent injury when Johnny Oduya tackled him into the boards, but he has been ineffective.
Pominville missed an open net on a rolling puck in Game 1. He, like Vanek, needs to score to have value, and he has scored 20 goals in 90 games this season, including playoffs. And a handful of his goals this season have bounced in off body parts. Sunday night, he was invisible.
Koivu has excelled at faceoffs and remains effective defensively, but if not for an intended pass that banked into the goal against St. Louis, he would have one goal in his past 26 playoff games.
from Michael Russo of Russo's Rants,
The Wild felt Game 1 could have gone either way.
Take away a bad game-winning goal and add a little third-period puck luck, the Wild felt it easily could have skated out of United Center with a win.
That was my concern heading into Game 2. The Wild threw away an opportunity Friday, and if it’s true the Wild got the Blackhawks’ attention like Mike Yeo claimed Saturday, you knew the Blackhawks would respond Sunday and play a better game.
The Wild’s response to the Game 1 loss was awful though tonight and that’s why it fell 4-1. You could see it the first five minutes of the game when the Wild was throwing pucks away left and right. The longer the game stayed 0-0 though, I started to get the feeling the Wild may be able to steal a game the way it did so many road games in the second half.
But the Wild’s mistakes with the puck kept coming and ultimately three of the Blackhawks’ long list of game breakers made the Wild pay.
The Wild may be different. The Wild may be more experienced and more mature and all that. But this is a team that still doesn’t have Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, and if you keep feeding them, they’ll find a way.
Game highlights are below...
from Mark Potash of the Chicago Sun-Times,
What is it about the Hawks that makes them so resilient in close games? “Number one, it’s skill,” Yeo said. “And it’s the ability to finish on opportunities. You can chalk it up to a bounce or whatever you want to call it. At the end of the day, you give them an opportunity and they can capitalize on it.
Yeo still seems to think his team controls its fate against a team that wills itself to victory almost out of habit. “When it comes down to it, it’s a matter of us getting better,” Yeo said, “just being a little more determined in certain situations and limiting a few more of those mistakes that they can capitalize on.”
As Blues coach Ken Hitchcock observed last year against the Hawks, it might not be that simple. “You’re trying to beat their resolve,” Hitchcock said. “You’re not trying to beat their skill. Everybody’s got skill. And it is one hell of a challenge.”
It remains to be seen if the Wild are up to that challenge.
“They’ve won two Cups, so they know what they can do,” Wild defenseman Marco Scandella said of the Hawks. “They have a good team. We just have to bring a lot of speed. We’ve got to be faster next game. It’s definitely one thing we’re going to bring next game that’s going to have an effect.”
Maybe it will and maybe it won’t. The Hawks are like a high-wire act working without a net in the playoffs — always at risk of a calamitous fall. In 24 of their last 27 playoff victories, they’ve had no more than a one-goal lead in the third period, including 19 times when they’ve been tied or were losing. In Game 1 against the Wild, they lost a three-goal lead in 8:09 and didn’t flinch.
from Jim Souhan of the Star Tribune,
The Wild held one obvious and one possible advantage entering the second-round playoff series with the Blackhawks.
The obvious advantage: Devan Dubnyk had played like one of the top three goalies in the NHL for four months, while the Blackhawks had benched Corey Crawford before reinstating him.
The possible advantage: The Wild’s defensive system has thrived since Dubnyk’s arrival.
The latter betrayed the Wild in the first period, and the former betrayed the team when it mattered most.
The Wild’s usually-reliable defense handed Chicago three goals in the first period, and Dubnyk whiffed on a long shot in the last minute of the second. The Wild lost 4-3 instead of finishing what might have become the most remarkable comeback in franchise history.
“I just have to work harder at the beginning of that play,” Dubnyk said. “I have to get down and move to where I can see the puck the whole way.
“I didn’t see it until it was six or eight feet out, and I put my glove where I thought it was going, and I missed it. Simple as that.”
Game highlights below...
“I feel like I’m a lucky guy but it’s not just me, it’s my entire staff. I’m lucky because I’m well-surrounded by my staff. Our leadership group is outstanding, but we’ve got a bunch of guys and I consider them winners. They’re willing to do the things, the little things, things that go unnoticed, but they’re willing to do those things to win hockey games. There’s a lot of pride in that room.”
-Mike Yeo, head coach of the Minnesota Wild. Joe McDonald of ESPN has much more on Yeo.
from Michael Russo of the Star Tribune,
Patrick Kane knows it’s coming, but he still gets a chuckle every time Zach Parise skates up to him before a faceoff and says, “What’s up, Darryl?”
“He spilled the beans?” Parise laughed.
Parise’s greeting is an inside joke about the skills coach he shares with Kane. It’s just one of those funny things that link two of the NHL’s best American forwards who, frankly, have little in common yet will clash for a third consecutive year in the postseason starting Friday when the Wild takes on the Chicago Blackhawks at the United Center.
“I could be here all day talking about their differences. I don’t know if they have a whole lot of similarities other than their skill and ability to score goals and make plays,” Blackhawks captain Jonathan Toews said about Kane and Parise, the Wild’s top scorer whom Toews knows well because of their similar path to the NHL by way of Shattuck St. Mary’s and the University of North Dakota.
“Kaner’s a little more laid back and goes with the flow. Zach’s the go-getter and task-oriented, the what-can-I-do-next type of guy.”
Off the ice, Parise and Kane have different personalities. On the ice, they have completely different styles.
from Joe McDonald of ESPN,
It was only fitting for Journey's "Don't Stop Believing" to be blaring from the sound system in the Minnesota Wild locker room Sunday evening.
The Wild had just eliminated the St. Louis Blues with a 4-1 win in Game 6 of their Western Conference first-round Stanley Cup playoff series.
"It's a great accomplishment what we just did ... and we're not done," said Wild coach Mike Yeo.
Standing right below one of the speakers was Wild assistant captain Zach Parise, who scored a pair of goals, including a short-handed tally. It's been an emotional season for him and his teammates.
Now, it's only going to get more intense.
Minnesota will face the Chicago Blackhawks in the second round, the third consecutive postseason the teams have met, with the Blackhawks winning the previous two series.
"Don't get me wrong, it's great for us to win and beat a really good St. Louis team, and we should enjoy it for a couple of days and we'll be looking forward to our series against Chicago," Parise said. "That's a team that's knocked us out the last couple of years, so we've got to be ready for them."
About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
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