A little over a week ago, the Minnesota Wild knocked the St. Louis Blues out of the playoffs. The Wild looked unstoppable at the end of Round 1; the team had incredible goaltending, speed, grit and more goals than anyone could’ve imagined.
Today, two games into Round 2 against the Chicago Blackhawks, the Wild looks like a team that doesn’t even deserve a spot in the post-season. Minnesota has gone from a team that looked to be a solid underdog choice to a team that Chicago could quite possibly sweep in four games. Minnesota’s game has completely fallen apart.
Now I think it’s unfair to put all the blame on one player, but Ryan Suter is a big reason the Minnesota Wild are in an 0-2 hole. Again, he’s not the only problem, but he’s made some big mistakes that led to many of Chicago’s goals.
The Blackhawks have picked Suter apart the past two games, and Suter just hasn’t been able to respond. The star defenseman made some huge errors in Chicago and has not been anything close to his regular season form. Before the playoffs, Suter was a +7; in the post-season, he’s a -7. It’s not a coincidence the Wild has given up four goals in both games, and Suter is a -4.
Ryan Suter has now made glaring errors on four of Chicago’s six goals this series. Not much they can do… They just need him to be better.
— Dan Myers (@1DanMyers) May 4, 2015
I can’t possibly think of what is causing Ryan Suter to fall apart at such an inopportune time. Minnesota has historically had a tough time beating Chicago, and to get through this series, they needed everyone to play perfectly. That has obviously not been the case. Maybe Suter’s injured? Maybe the Blackhawks have gotten inside his head? Who knows. All I know is if Suter doesn’t turn things around quickly, the Wild are going to have an incredibly difficult time making this series last more than four games.
I don’t want to sound like a pessimist, but it’s true. The Wild are not going to beat Chicago with offense, so this team’s defense needs to be above par. Minnesota had a lot of things going in its favor heading into this series, but the Blackhawks have put all that to a stop.
Ryan Suter’s defensive collapse has left Devan Dubnyk vulnerable, as well.
Throughout the regular season, it was rare Dubnyk gave up more than three goals in a game. Now, in two games against Chicago, Dubnyk has given up eight. I really don’t believe these losses are Dubnyk’s fault, though. I’m sure there are people out there wondering if Dubnyk has lost his mojo and hoping the Cinderella story is finally over. Well, whether Dubnyk plays phenomenally or not, if the team in front of him isn’t playing just as well, then yes, the fairy tale ends here.
A good goaltender is a key piece, but Dubnyk can’t win this series by himself. He may have been able to carry the Wild into the playoffs, but playing Chicago in Round 2 is a completely different beast. The Blackhawks have eliminated the Wild two years in a row, and I’m sure they know exactly what this team’s weaknesses are. Not only that, but the Blackhawks are a solid team. Players like Kane, Toews and Hossa
are going to exploit any chance they get. Weaknesses don’t do well here.
Minnesota looked like it had fixed those weaknesses coming into this series, but now I’m not so sure.
A previous weakness of the Wild’s was their inability to win at the United Center. Coming into Round 2, this didn’t look like it would be a problem for Minnesota, but apparently history does like to repeat itself.
This shouldn’t be a problem for the Wild. I honestly think this team is its own worst enemy right now. Minnesota could very well be the better team in this series, but Chicago is in these guys’ heads. Maybe that’s why Suter is playing so poorly. Maybe that’s why the Wild has only scored four goals – Chicago is playing a mental game.
That might sound ridiculous, and maybe I’m biased, but I believe the Minnesota Wild has (or had) a good chance at winning this series if they just go back to playing hockey. This team needs to stop thinking and start shooting – forget it’s the Blackhawks and play like they’ve played since January. Minnesota has what it takes.
With Game 3 tonight in St. Paul, I sincerely hope this team proves me right and finally shows they’re not going down without a fight. The Wild have come too far to let it all slip away now. Minnesota hasn’t lost its mojo; it’s just gone away for a bit.
This is still a seven-game series, and the Wild have a perfectly good opportunity to make this an entertaining round if it can turn things around tonight at the X.
Alli covers the Minnesota Wild and has been a contributing writer with THW since August 2014. She is currently a journalism and sports management student at the University of Minnesota. For all of your Minnesota Wild news and updates, follow her on twitter: @allibaker23