The Minnesota Wild entered Game 2 of the first round playoff series with a chip on their shoulder after being held scoreless in the opener against a goaltender in his first ever postseason startt. While Ville Husso deserves some recognition for his performance in Game 1, the high-octane Wild lit him up on Wednesday and powered their way to a tie series.
Joel Eriksson Ek started the night off right with a massive first goal in the series on the first shot of the night. Gaudreau and Kaprizov would prove that the power play is in-fact capable of scoring as they caught fire and never looked back.
Kirill “Record-Breaker” Kaprizov has shown up determined to carve his name into every page of the franchise’s history books as he became the first ever Wild player to score a hat-trick (take that Perron) in a playoff game.
Erikkson Ek nearly managed the feat but was unfortunately ruled offside after a Blues’ challenge, but still managed a three point night while also managing to be a plus-three player.
With a large portion of the fan base questioning the decision of starting Marc-Andre Fleury for the second game in a row, he politely reminded everyone that he can be an absolute game-changer. He made 32 saves, good for a 94.1 save percentage, with some of them coming at crucial moments in the game.
Heading to St. Louis it should be no surprise if Fleury continues being the starter while Cam
Talbot will have to wait to continue his recent dominance.
With the Wild heading into St. Louis for Game 3 carrying the momentum here are some keys to claiming a series lead:
Don’t Let Up
The Blues have a great team and are more than capable of beating the Wild. Minnesota will need to be aware that the Blues will come back stronger and more prepared, while also gaining home ice advantage and the ability to dictate the line match ups.
One win is just that, one win, and the Wild will need to put together three more in order to move on. Game 2 might have been better than the opener. But in St. Louis, the Wild need to be even better.
As much as we would like to watch Kaprizov get a hat-trick every night, it isn’t going to happen. With no home ice advantage the Wild are going to need their depth to step up and make the Blues question who they should be targeting.
The line of Kevin Fiala, Matt Boldy , and Frederick Gaudreau was commanding in the last month of the regular season and has been fairly quiet as of yet. The GREEF line, while doing great at a regular shutdown game play, has not converted those battles into much offensive zone time. Tyson Jost looked excellent in Game 2 , but his line-mates in Duhaime and Deslauriers looked a little overwhelmed at points.
Both of these teams are deep when it comes to scoring, but the team that is able to get the most lines rolling will likely be moving into the second round.
If there is one place where the Wild should have a clear cut edge over the Blues, its on the back-end and yet no Wild defensemen had a corsi percentage above 50. Four of the six Blues D had a 58% or better. The Blues D-core on paper is not strong and with former Wild player Marco Scandella out and Nick Leddy down, the opportunity is there for the Wild to take advantage.
Completely opposite to the Blues, a fully intact Wild roster has great defensive depth with Middleton and Spurgeon seeming to have developed some chemistry,, The Brodin/Dumba duo that has been a Wild mainstay for years, and the bottom pair rotation of Merrill, Kulikov, and Goligoski.
The Wild D need to step up their game and limit the Blues scoring chances after allowing 29 last night.