The Minnesota Wild lost badly to the Chicago Blackhawks in game two of their Stanley Cup Conference Semi-Final Series 4-1. The future of this series is bleak as well. Final score game one 5-2. Final score game one of series with Avalanche 5-4. Final score game two of series with Avalanche 4-2. The Minnesota Wild are in the same hole in series two as they were in series one after surrendering the identical number of goals in games one and two of both series albeit to somewhat different opponents.
So what’s next Wild fans? What is next for your Minnesota Wild? Will the script remain the same and the team come flying out of the locker room and dominate the Blackhawks as they dominated the Avalanche in game 3? Will they? Can they? Are we in for another game three and four pair of wins from the Wild, a game five loss, a game six win and a game 7 thrilling victory to move on again. In the Disney ending yes. Have the Wild done this before? Why yes, they have, back in 2003, against the Avalanche and the Canucks. The Minnesota Wild shocked the hockey world with their performances in those first two series before being handed a big dose of reality by the Anaheim Ducks or to be accurate the Mighty Ducks who spanked the wild in four straight games. Thus ended the Minnesota Wild Stanley Cup fantasy.
The big question is are the Wild living a fantasy again or do they really have the strength, ability and drive to beat the Blackhawks and move on to the next round in the chase for Lord Stanley’s cup? So far the Wild haven’t had the answers. In game one they never led. They managed to tie the game at two goals apiece 6:56 into the third period and keep it that way for a whole 1:26. Then the Patrick Kane show started and the the game was 3-2. Kane made it 4-2 just 8:25 later, effectively putting the game out of reach single handed. The empty net goal that came with 2:41 remaining in the game really had no bearing on the contest other than to show the Wild had little answer for the ‘Hawks late in the final period.
Game two left more questions than answers as well. This game the Wild never led, trailing from the 11:02 mark through the end of the game. Chicago built a two goal lead through exactly 2:00 of the first when Minnesota’s Cody McCormick scored the Wild’s only goal of the game to cut the Chicago lead in half. The Wild would have 15:15 of opportunity to tie the game or take the lead but failed to do so. The Blackhawks would then score two goals in a span of 1:22 to put the game away and build a commanding two games to none lead in the series, Throughout the second game the Wild looked a step behind the Blackhawks physically and strategically.
The Wild generated just 2 shots on goal in the first period rebounded a bit with 13 in the second and then faltered in the third w
ith only four shots. It’s not surprising that this offensive onslaught produced only a single goal. Included in this offense was a single power play that managed a few shots on goal and was wholly ineffective. Just the very fact that this team drew but a single penalty the entire game let alone a single power play signals the fact that this was a team not moving their feet. I can only hope that this is just a two game aberration and not a systematic collapse costing the Wild any chance at all of winning this series or has the series already been lost.
In comparison to games one and two of the first round series against Colorado the loses to Chicago have been worse. The goals scored have been fewer in each game. The power plays have been fewer 5 to 4, the PP goals scored vs Chicago 0, vs Colorado 1. In the Hits category the Wild totaled 62 hits against the Avalanche and 68 against the Blackhawks (one of the few #’s to actually increase).
In the Face off wins category the Wild won 77 of 144 face offs total in the first two games vs Colorado or 53%. The took 42 of 77 (54%) in game one and 35 of 67 (52%) in game 2. In the first two games against Chcago the Wild have won 30 of 53 (56%) in game one and 27 of 53 (51%) in game two, overall that’s once again 53% for the two games. While the gross numbers are down in face off totals the percentages over the first two games of each series have remained the same.
The giveaway vs takeaway categories are an even more stark comparison. In games one and two vs the Avalanche the giveaway vs takeaways were 1/11 and 3/7. Those are pretty good ratios for the Wild. Those numbers against the Blackhawks were takeaway/giveaway ; 8/3 and 5/4. Much worse ratios, from positive to negative area. Even with the downward trend the Wild still managed to lose all four games.
Now these are not at all advanced stats. The are just the most common statistical categories usually found in papers and online. The bottom line is the Wild’s game has eroded in quality from the first to second rounds of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. In terms of games needed to be won, the quantity is the same. If the Minnesota Wild have hopes of winning more than a single game, matching their performance from last season, they better get going because the hole is much deeper and wider than in April. While the Avalanche may have won the division and the Blackhawks finished third with 107 points, a scant 5 points back of the Avs.
In the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs the Wild totaled 22 goals (3.14/game) to the Avalanche’s 20 (2.86/game) with five of the 7 one-goal games and 4 of those needing overtime to determine the victor. In the Chicago Blackhawks vs St. Louis Blues series Chicago totaled 20 goals over 6 games while The Blues totaled 14 goals. That comes out to an avg. of 3.33 goals/game to the Blues 2.33/game. Now in the Stanley Cup Playoff Conference semi-final series to date the Minnesota Wild have 3 goals total an average of 1.50 /game while the Blackhawks have have totaled 9 goals, averaging 4.5 a night. In comparison to the Colorado series the Wild have yielded the same number of goals against in both games, 4.5 avg, way to many for a team that allowed just 2.42 goals per game in the regular season.
In both post season series this year the Wild are scoring more than their regular season average. In five games against the Avalanche the Wild scored an average of 2.20 goals/game in the playoffs that average climbed to the previously mentioned 3.14. tn the regular season Minnesota surrendered and average of 3.20 vs 2.86 in the post season. The numbers over 7 games equaled a series victory for the Wild. So far in the Chicago series the trends are in the opposite direction. During the regular season Minnesota averaged 2.80 goals/game vs Chicago. So far in the current series that’s dropped to 1.50 goals/game, a precipitous decline in production. Defensively the Wild held the ‘Hawks to 2.80 goals/game in 5 regular season meetings. That average has soared to 4.50 goals/game in this series. Unless these numbers change drastically and quickly the Minnesota Wild are going to be making tee times sooner rather than later.
Of course the Wild’s goalie situation could be a major component of their success or failure in this series. So far this post season Ilya Bryzgalov is 1-4 with an .830 save % to go with a goals against average of 3.90. Ugghh! Not the stats you want to wee out of a Stanley Cup Playoff goalie, heck those aren’t the stats you want to see out of a backup goalie in the Stanley Cup Playoffs! All time in the post season Bryzgalov is 18-23 in 43 appearances with a .903 save % and a 2.91 goals against average. Not exactly all-star numbers. Darcy Kuemper is 3-1 in 8 outings with a goals against of 2.26 and a save % at .906 pretty good numbers, BUT we’re dealing with an extremely small sample size though.
The current backup on the bench, John Curry, has NO NHL post season experience and just 10 games playoff experience in the AHL. Josh Harding is on the trip with the Wild and while a long shot to play, he does have some Stanley Cup Playoff Experience, but it’s less than Kuemper’s. In 6 appearances Harding is 1-4 with a .918 save % and a 2.72 goals against average. So right now the well is pretty dry when it comes to net minders. Will Bryzgalov come up big, will it be Kuemper in an amazing return to action, will Harding come back to the adulation of the fan base, or is the light at the end of the tunnel an oncoming train.
Game three coming up Tuesday night. Unlike last series my confidence level in the Minnesota wild is not as high on any level. Even my gut instinct tells me that even if the Wild pull a rabbit out of the hat Tuesday the chances of them winning the series is getting more and more remote with each passing minute. The Big guns aren’t scoring, the goals are few and far between, the defense is faltering, the special teams are shaky and the goal tending is extremely suspect. Do I want the Wild to win, YES. Do I think they can win a game or two in the series, YES. Unless the goals start coming fast five on five, four on four, rive on four and even 6 on 5 the potential for a long series is bleak. If the goal tending situation doesn’t approach all-star level or at least the level of their opponent, this series will be over sooner rather than later.
I’ll be back Tuesday morning with a preview of Minnesota Wild vs Chicago Blackhawks game 3. This should be one heck of a battle if the Wild can bring their “A” game out of the locker room Tuesday at 8pm at the Xcel Energy Center. Be sure to follow GonePuckWild.com on Twitter @GonePuckWild, @Dakota_Csse, @DrainScott, @Ger_Devine and @dlukenelson for all the in game commentary and chirping you need. Until next time this is Scott Drain still calling out, “LET’S GO WILD - BEAT THE ‘HAWKS – LET’S GO WILD!!”