Minnesota Wild vs Chicago Blackhawks Game 3 Do or Die: Preview


May 4, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Minnesota Wild center Cody McCormick (8) celebrates with teammates after scoring a goal against the Chicago Blackhawks during game two of the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

The Minnesota Wild take on the Chicago Blackhawks in game three of their Stanley Cup Playoff Conference Semi-Final series tonight at 8:00 pm Central Time at the Xcel Energy Center.  You can watch all the action on CNBC starting at 8:00 pm CT.  Fox Sports North (FSN) will have a full hour of pregame and post game action.  Pregame starts at 7:00 pm  and post game at approximately 10:30 pm.  FSN will not be carrying the actual game however, they’re kind of getting hosed by the NHL on that one.  If you want to listen to the best radio call in the business, Tom Reid and Bob Kurtz and a bit of Kevin Falness will be on KFAN 100.3 FM.  KFAN will also have a two hour pregame show starting at 6:00 pm CT.

The Wild return home after a pair of disasters at the United Center in Chicago.  Games one and two went to the Blackhawks by scores of 5-2 and 4-1.  Once before this spring the Minnesota Wild have returned to home ice from a pair of nightmarish losses at the hands of a Stanley Cup Playoff foe.  Minnesota has an opportunity to climb back into this series but only if they are able to dominate the time of possession and keep play in the offensive end of the ice. Oh yeah, they also desperately need to get some decent goal tending.  In the words of an European Wild fan, “The boys need ta’ play dey’ arses off.”

Apr 3, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford (50) makes a save on Minnesota Wild right wing Jason Pominville (29) during the shoot out at the United Center. The Blackhawks won 3-2 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

The two things Minnesota needs most are scoring and goal tending.  So far in this series the Wild have scored a total of 3 goals.  That goal and a half average isn’t going to get the job done with the firepower the Blackhawks have.  Minnesota has been lacking scoring from the top line forwards through two games in this series.  In the first two games the goals have come from the scoring powerhouses of Kyle Brodziak, Clayton Stoner and Cody McCormick. The top scorers to date vs Chicago are Stoner with a goal and an assist, along with Erik  Haula with a pair of assists.   The Wild need some scoring from the top two lines, including the likes of Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Mikko Koivu, and Charlie Coyle.  Those four have been  held goalless with single assists for Parise and Pominville.  The forward lines for the Wild are going to be the same for the most part. Any changes would come to the third and fourth lines.  We’ll have to wait until pregame warm ups to learn if that’s the case.  As of now the forward lines are:

Zach PariseMikael GranlundJason Pominville

Nino Niederreiter – Mikko KoivuCharlie Coyle

Justin FontaineErik HaulaMatt Moulson

Cody McCormickKyle BrodziakDany Heatley

May 4, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) is checked by Minnesota Wild defenseman Ryan Suter (20) during the third period in game two of the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports

Defensively the Minnesota Wild need to step it up a notch.  Giving up 4,5 goals a game isn’t going to win you many games period, let alone games in the Stanley Cup Playoff Conference Semi-Finals.  The Wild’s top 2 defensive pairs will  remain the same for tonight with Keith Ballard playing in place of Nate Prosser.  This will be Ballard’s first game in this season’s playoffs due to injury.  Ballard brings  14 games of Stanley Cup Playoff experience with a single assist and a -5 rating to the table.  The defense needs to be sure to get the puck out of the defensive zone cleanly and efficiently as soon as they have the opportunity.  Too many time in the first two games of this series a failure to clear the puck in a timely manner has resulted a scoring chance or a goal for the Blackhawks.

The Minnesota defense has also disappeared completely on the score sheet as well.  During the Colorado series they made regular contributions to the offense totaling 6 goals and 8 assists for the series. The big slap shots of Spurgeon, Suter and Scandella need to make some appearances tonight, especially on the power play. The Wild need some of that scoring touch from their defensemen and they need it NOW.  The pairing for tonight are:

Ryan SuterJonas Brodin

Jared SpurgeonMarco Scandella

Keith BallardClayton Stoner

Apr 3, 2014; Chicago, IL, USA; Minnesota Wild goalie Ilya Bryzgalov (30) makes a save against Chicago Blackhawks left wing Brandon Saad (20) during the third period at the United Center. The Blackhawks won 3-2 in a shoot out. Mandatory Credit: Dennis Wierzbicki-USA TODAY Sports

In goal once again will be ilya Bryzgalov.  Simply put he’s the last man standing in goal for the Minnesota Wild.  He’s 1-4 with a goals against average of 3.90 and a save % of .830.  Those are some rather ugly numbers for a starting net minder in the post season.  His back up is John Curry and somewhere in the shadows is Josh Harding.  Darcy Kuemper is hurt with no updates on his condition or level of readiness forthcoming from the team.

After dressing 7 goalies and using 5 different ones in games this season this is what the goal tending situation for the Minnesota Wild has come down to. This situation has put even more pressure on the defense and forecheckers to get the puck out and keep it out of the defensive end.  Bryzgalov may have made some great contributions on the road to the Stanley Cup playoffs for the Wild, but he’s been a major pothole since they arrived.

Once again it’s game three in St. Paul and the Wild find them selves in a must win situation.  Win this evening and they are right back in the thick of things lose and the probability of the series going 6 games is slim and none with slim in the trainers room after taking a slap shot to the face.  The Wild have faced this situation before with fairly good results.  In their last four game 3 Stanley Cup Playoff situations the Minnesota Wild have emerged victorious 3 times.  Most recently it was a spanking of the Colorado Avalanche.  With a strong effort from the offense, defense, goal tending, special teams and coaching  staff the Wild can get it done tonight.  I’ll be back after the game with a recap and some analysis of the night’s action.  Until then this is Scott Drain, bearded and hopeful, screaming until the very end, “LET’S GO WILD – BEAT THE ‘HAWKS – LET’S GO WILD”