The Minnesota Wild edge out the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 1 in overtime thanks to a Joel Eriksson Ek Goal, but adjustments are needed.
The emotion in Joel Eriksson Ek’s face after his deflected shot gets past Marc-Andre Fleury is the epitome of what the Wild fans were feeling watching from home. Fleury was standing on his head for high-danger chances, Talbot was getting shelled, and the blood was hot on the ice. Hits were thrown everywhere and the intensity was high.
Minnesota enters Game Two tonight up on the series 1-0 but it certainly wasn’t a perfect game.
With only one goal in the game, it doesn’t make much sense to recap the game. Instead, we’ll give the changes the Wild needs to make the series 2-0 heading back to St. Paul.
Start on Time
It was debatable whether or not if the Wild were ready from the word “Go”. In the game’s first faceoff, Jordan Greenway and Ryan Reaves take a few shots at one another. But, the Knights get some of the better looks, and just 2:55 in Matt Dumba, who has struggled since coming back from his injury scares, puts the puck over the glass for the automatic delay of game penalty.
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Minnesota kills that penalty but does not generate much offensive pressure the entire period. They were outshot 19-5, with the Wild’s last shot occurring with 8:27 left in the first frame. Just isn’t good enough. Kevin Fiala was called for a slashing penalty with under two minutes to go, which was a softer call based on what they were letting go, but Minnesota again killed it off.
The Wild were bailed out by some real solid defensive zone play to limit the quality of shots and Cam Talbot was fantastic in net. 45% of his saves in the game came from the first period alone.
Now to Minnesota’s credit, they turned the ship around in the second and third. The Wild outshot the Knights in the second period 13-11 and were only one shot behind in the third 10-9. But for Game Two, Minnesota has to start on time. Talbot was back in prime form, but he shouldn’t have to wear the cape in the first period all the time. Not sustainable.
Maybe Stop Shooting Glove High on Marc-Andre Fleury?
Fleury might need to send the Wild shooters Thank You cards for filling his highlight tape for the next couple of seasons because he was letting the glove around like it was a glorious windmill in the Dutch countryside.
Now realistically, they don’t need to be terrified of Marc-Andre Fleury’s left hand. Those were spectacular saves, and the only High Danger Shot he allowed for a goal was the Joel Eriksson Ek goal. Fleury went eight for nine in High Danger Saves, a .889 save percentage.
Remember, this isn’t the first time the Wild have seen Marc-Andre Fleury whip the mitt around this season.
But the Wild solved him that night and won 4-3. Even in Game 1, Fleury nearly got bit by a bit of glove hand theatrics when he got the shot in the palm of the glove hand rather than the webbing and created a very dangerous puck.
However, Minnesota is able to take advantage of rebounds either goaltender the Knights ice. Jesse Granger of The Athletic examined how the Knights and the Wild scored goals against one another, and the results for the Wild showed that nine of the twenty-two goals Minnesota scored were off of rebounds. Of the other goals, five were wrist shots, four were from one-timers, and four were from deflections.
So should the Wild completely abandon challenging Fleury’s glove hand? No, absolutely not. A lot of those chances came on breakaways so it’s hard to put a shot on that’ll generate a viable scoring chance on the rebound. Take the shot that has the best opportunity to beat the goaltender. Just diversify the looks, put Marc-Andre off his rhythm.
Also for his own sake, I hope Ryan Hartman finds a way to wire a goal tonight. He had eight shot attempts and seven scoring chances and couldn’t get one past Fleury.