The fight was back in their game as the Minnesota Wild tried to pull one out, but it just was not to be as the Stars took Game 2 last night in Dallas 2-1. After the poor showing that was Game 1 the Wild had to come back a show the Stars they were not going to cruise to a series win. A win in Dallas would have sent the Wild back to St. Paul with the series tied which is exactly what any team in the playoffs could hope for.
The team is staying positive and looking to build on their successes. It just seemed the whole game that the Wild skated with more confidence and resilience while they worked to pull out a win, which is something that seemed to be lacking in Game 1. Mikko Koivu was quoted by Michael Russo in his postgame report as saying “our game was a lot better, so that’s a good sign. We came short. I believe it’s a matter of time where we get rewarded too w some goals.”
Koivu:"our game was lot better, so that's a good sign. We came short. I believe it's a matter of time where we get rewarded too w some goals
— Michael Russo (@RussoHockey) April 17, 2016
Right now the Wild are facing a virtual must win situation going into Game 3 at the Xcel Center, and seems they have their minds right. Still it seems the overall game of the Wild still needs further tweaks with an eye on scoring more and building on the intensity that they had in Game 2. So when looking back at Game 2 here’s a short list of things the Wild should clue in on as they begin to prepare for Game 3 on Monday night.
Stay Out of the Sin Bin
As they did in Game 1, the Wild had issues with penalties and it seemed that they stung even more in Game 2 as they seemed to come at more critical points in the game. Although the Stars did not score on their power play, the Wild’s penalties took away crucial time needed for offensive attack. Sometimes the worst part of a penalty isn’t the resulting power play, it’s the killing of offensive momentum.
The tripping penalty that Jason Pominville took at 17:08 in the third period was huge and the best example of why the Wild need to keep the penalties down. The Wild were clawing for scoring chances to get the game evening goal in the closing minutes when Pominville collided at center ice with Stephen Johns.
You can debate if the refs were calling the game a little too closely in the final minutes, but none the less it was a trip and it virtually ensured that the Stars would only have to work for one minute vice three to stop the Wild from tying the game. The Wild need to do better and not take penalties to give their team all the advantages it can when the offensive is struggling to figure out the Dallas defensive scheme.
Shoot the Lights Out… And Bury It!
Following the overall trend of improvement from Game 1, the Wild in Game 2 registered more shots on goal. They mustered four more shots for a total of 26, which still fell short of the Stars total of 28. In Game 1 it was a shot attempt issue, in Game 2 it seemed to be an accuracy issue as the Wild missed the net and did so in some case at key times in the game.
Mikael Granlund registered seven shots on goal, but had serious issues capitalizing on at least four very good scoring chances. Michael Russo pointed out in his postgame report last night that Granlund had a chance and whiffed on the one-timer with “half the cage wide open”.
With a sluggish offense that is struggling to produce shots, the Wild need to take advantage of every good look at the open net they get. That’s especially in games that are low-scoring where one goal means the difference between overtime or a straight loss. Granlund himself puts it best I’ve got to put the puck in the net with those chances. That’s the bottom line.”
Mikael Granlund: "I've got to put the puck in the net with those chances. That's the bottom line." #MNWild
— Chad Graff (@ChadGraff) April 17, 2016
Dominate the Opening Frame
In both Games 1 and 2 the Wild have had issues coming out of the gate. Although the Wild have not given up a goal to the Stars in the first period, they have not done much to establish themselves and set the pace of the game. Penalties and being outshot have left the Wild struggling to build a foundation of momentum.
Additionally, a large barrage of shots and pressure will overwhelm the Stars goaltender Kari Lehtonen. Goaltending has been the Stars Achilles heel all season as Lehtonen and his back-up Johnas Enroth finished 23rd in save percentage and 19th in goals against. So the key here is to expose Lehtonen and get the Stars behind and in a situation where they will abandon their defensive posture for a more offensive one where the Wild can more easily move the puck.
The Wild have played solid defense and can handle what the Stars have to dish out offensively. The Wild on the other hand need a leg up on offense and getting the Stars to get away from their defensive scheme is just what the doctor ordered.
The situation for the Wild may be approaching dire, but after Game 2 everyone across the State of Hockey has to be optimistic about the Wild’s chances to make this more of series. A few more adjustments are needed, but the team’s drive is there. If you have question about that just look at the final minute of last game and the talking and intensity on the ice between the players. Anyone watching just knew win or lose this game, the Wild are in the series and will be giving their best win or lose. Let’s just hope that effort translates to a win in Game 3.
Danny Lambert has been covering the Minnesota Wild for some time now, and is back again as contributor to THW staff. A native Minnesotan he’s always had his eye on the State of Hockey and is proud to write and represent such a great market and fans. Follow him on Twitter at @dannylambert17