The Minnesota Wild are in Denver to face the Colorado Avalanche in game five of their Stanley Cup Playoff Divisional Series. Tonight is another late start with face off at 8:30 pm Central Time. This has become a best of three match up after the Wild took games three and four in St. Paul to even the series at two apiece. The home team has won every game in this series, something the Minnesota Wild have to change for them to win this series. Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said, “We’re going to have to win a game in their building. I would certainly like to make that be the next game.” Momentum is definitely on Minnesota’s side after a pair of dominating performances at the Xcel Energy Center. Even though the scores both ended up being one goal victories for the Wild. The Wild defense dominated in games three and four limiting the Avalanche to just 34 shots over the two games while the offense generated 78 of their own. In the series the Minnesota has out shot Colorado in every game with the total shots 143-94. The singular reason these games have not been blowouts for the Wild is Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov who has been announced as a Vezina Trophy finalist. Darcy Kuemper for the Wild has bee outstanding in the last two games as well allowing just a single goal over that span.
Kuemper has been the best so far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs with a .979 save % and a fantastic 0.40 goals against average. He’s become the first Wild net minder to achieve a playoff shutout, along with a scoreless streak over three games that lasted 124.11, another Minnesota Wild team record. He entered game three in relief of Ilya Bryzgalov and made 14 straight saves to end that game, then stopped 33 of 34 over the two games in St. Paul. Kuemper is looking every bit as good as he did earlier in the season when he helped turn the Wild’s stumbling season around starting in January. He is going to have to continue to be sharp in net tonight for the Wild to have a chance to take the series lead.
Another area the Minnesota Wild have been excelling in is the penalty kill. The Wild have killed off 14 of 15 power play opportunities for Colorado. The only PP marker for the Avs came in an empty net situation in the waning moments of game one. Since that time the Avalanche power play has come up empty against the Wild penalty kill. Minnesota would be best served by NOT heading to the penalty box and forcing Colorado to take the penalties. However if they Wild end up a man short the PK has been up to the task to this point in the series and the best in the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs to date.
The forward lines for the Wild tonight look to be the same as game four. Why change what’s been working as of late. Minnesota has been getting scoring form secondary sources with second liner Charlie Coyle leading the way with three goals so far. The top line of Zach Parise, Mikael Granlund and Jason Pominville have just a single goal by Granlund, but Parise has five assists and Pominville two. So far in four games 7 players have scored a goal for the Minnesota Wild and 9 have at least one assist. That kind of balance scoring is going to have to continue tonight, not that it wouldn’t be nice to see Parise, Pominville, and Mikko Koivu get into the goal scoring column. The forward lines for tonight should be:
Defensively the Minnesota Wild have been dominating as of late. That is something they will have to continue tonight. They will need to keep playing tight, physical defense against the Avalanche’s talented young forwards. The 12 shots allowed in game 4 were the fewest ever recorded by the Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Playoffs and a club record for the lowest number allowed by the Minnesota Wild. The Colorado top line that put up 17 points in the first tw games has been shut down in the last two by a smothering, pounding Wild defense and forecheck. The Minnesota D has also jumped in on offense scoring a trio of goals by Marco Scandella, Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon so far in the series. Tonight the pairings will remain the same as should the punishing defensive style. The pairs are:
This is once again the biggest game in the series for the Minnesota Wild. A win this evening at the Pepsi Center puts them in the driver’s seat heading back to St. Paul for game six. It’s a whole new series, a best of three, and it starts at 8:30 Central Time. You can watch all the action on Fox Sports North (FSN) in Minnesota and nationally on NBC Sports Network (NBCSN). I’ll be back after the action with a full recap and analysis. Until then this is Scott Drain still screaming, thought the voice is hoarse from Thursday, “LET’S GO WILD – BEAT THE AVS – LET’S GO WILD!!”