Wild’s Self Control Falters in Game 1 Loss to Blues

With a game they’ll want to forget, the postseason is officially underway for the Minnesota Wild as they faced the St. Louis Blues for Game 1 of their best-of-seven series on Monday night. The game started with tensions high and the Blues found the back of the net twice in the first period while the Wild were unable to get anything on the scoreboard. Things didn’t get any better as the game went on, as the Blues added a goal in the second and third to extend their lead to 4-0 and eventually come out with the win.

The Wild elected to use Marc-André Fleury in goal, and despite his efforts to keep his team in the game with some marvelous saves, it wasn’t enough. Neither was having Marcus Foligno in the lineup and Mats Zuccarello back from injury. Blues goaltender Ville Husso had the Wild’s number all night long, as he made save after save and secured a shutout in his very first playoff game.

Wild’s Special Teams Unsuccessful

The Wild’s special teams were once again on display, but not in a good way. They had six power-play chances and didn’t score on any of them. They had a lot of opportunities and peppered Husso with shots but couldn’t get any past the young goaltender. He stopped everything that came at him and the Wild were stumped. Their top scorers on the power play, Kirill Kaprizov, Joel Eriksson Ek, Kevin Fiala, and Zuccarello tried and tried, but no matter what they did, nothing went in. While the Blues’ penalty kill was perfect, the Wild’s struggled, as it has all season long.

Kirill Kaprizov Minnesota Wild
Kirill Kaprizov, Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

The Blues, like the Wild, had six chances on the power play but unlike the Wild, they scored twice. Both goals were scored by David Perron and he scored from the same spot each time, the weakside pipe. He went on to score an even-strength goal later in the game to record a hat trick. For some reason, the Wild just can’t figure out how to fix their special teams, but they’ll have to soon if they want to come back and win this series.

One of the biggest problems the Wild had was their love for passing the puck instead of shooting. They did better than they have in weeks past, but they gave up the puck several times when they were too busy passing. In their next game, they’ll have to take the shot first more often and try to catch Husso off-guard, who will more than likely be in net for Game 2.

Wild Played Undisciplined

The Wild were the third-highest penalized team all season, which did contribute to their struggles on the penalty kill. Despite the high number of penalty minutes, there were only a few times that they appeared to be undisciplined. However, that all unraveled against the Blues. They were the most unhinged they’d been all season and were not controlling their emotions at all.

A couple of Wild players were caught in situations where they let things get to them, as Tyson Jost had drawn a penalty, but ended up getting called for one as well after slashing the player in retaliation. Jared Spurgeon was probably the biggest surprise of the night, as he rarely gets called for penalties and is almost always up for the Lady Byng Trophy that goes to one of the most gentlemanly players in the NHL.

Spurgeon uncharacteristically slashed a player across the back of the legs in anger and it may result in a suspension that would be rightfully deserved, as he is a better player than that. It was only his sixth penalty of the season for a total of 12 minutes in the box.

Jared Spurgeon Minnesota Wild
Jared Spurgeon, Minnesota Wild (Amy Irvin / The Hockey Writers)

In their next game, they can’t allow their emotions to get the better of them. Obviously, it’s hard not to be heated in the moment with everything on the line, but they have to be controlled. If they can stay out of the penalty box in Game 2, they’ll hopefully have more chances at even strength and possibly on the power play as well.

Wild’s Defense Ups & Downs

When four goals are scored, it may seem like the Wild’s defense was not doing its job, which is partially true. They did struggle to keep pucks out of the net, but they also kept themselves in the game until the end. Jonas Brodin broke up several scoring chances by having a well-placed poke check or blocked shot, while the same can be said about captain Spurgeon until he lost his cool in the end and made a big mistake that may cost his entire team.

Related: 3 Reasons the Wild Could Win the 2022 Stanley Cup

While it wasn’t all the defense’s fault, it wasn’t all Fleury’s either. A combination of mistakes made by the entire team led to the goals scored by the Blues. For the power-play goals, had the player in the penalty box not taken the penalty, those goals could’ve been prevented. Had the team played better as a whole they could’ve held off the other goals as well. No one player is at fault, especially Fleury after his great penalty shot save along with numerous others in the game.

The defense will need Brodin to continue his strong play, but all of them will need to increase their blocked shots to help out their goaltender. They had only six the entire game, while their average for the season was 13.39 per 60 minutes. That’ll be key for Game 2 along with more shots of their own.

Wild vs Blues Game 2

The Wild will remain in front of their home crowd for Game 2 and hopefully, they’ll have their normal style of play back because they’ll need a win. They know what they need to improve for their next game and they have to play controlled. Fleury will more than likely get the nod because their loss was not his fault and he does have the experience to bounce back. Besides the defense, they’ll need Kaprizov and Fiala to find ways to step up, even more, as they had plenty of chances in Game 1, but they really have to force the issue and get in the Blues’ faces.

It’ll also be interesting to see if players lose their edges as much as they did in this first game, as it seemed like a lot of players were falling more than usual, which threw several players for a loop as they tried to make plays. The Wild may have to bring up a defenseman to replace Spurgeon if he receives a suspension. Thankfully, they have a veteran in Alex Goligoski who would be ready to go if needed.

Game 2 will be a big one for both teams as the Blues could jump out to a commanding 2-0 lead or the Wild could prove they are the comeback kids and win it to tie the series. Regardless, it’ll be a very high-intensity game and entertaining to watch yet again. Hopefully, the Wild can get back to their style of play and score some goals to get the win they need before heading out to St. Louis for Game 3.

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