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Prediction time: Wild 3, Avalanche 1

Posted by: Michael Rand under Wild coaching Updated: April 30, 2014 - 2:18 PM

 

The Wild has only looked lost in two situations in this series: when Nathan MacKinnon has the puck and a full head of steam ... or when Colorado gets some forechecking momentum in the Wild's offensive zone and Minnesota just doesn't get a clear it desperately needs.

 

We'd say these scenarios have accounted for roughly 80 percent of Colorado's 4-on-4, 5-on-5 and 6-on-5 goals in the series.

To that end, we don't believe Game 7 has to be the best game the Wild has played in this series in order for the road team to prevail. But we do think it will have to be the tightest -- not tight as in breezers in a bunch, tight as in lock it down. Pucks need to be cleared. MacKinnon and co. need to have their space closed down.

When that happens, the Wild is very much the better team. When it fails to do this, Colorado gets the life it needs to steal momentum and games. Remember, the Avs have only led with 90 seconds to play in one of six games. Four other times, Minnesota had the lead; the other, Game 3, was tied.

The game Minnesota needs to play involves poised relentlessness. Colorado's weakest link, clearly, has been its blueliners, so the forecheck needs to remain aggressive. But the play needs to be just as dogged in the other zone, too. There will be 8 to 10 times in this game when the Wild has a good chance to clear a puck out of danger. There cannot be costly turnovers or too-fancy plays in these cases.

Having watched all six games, we think the Wild has the ability to play this type of air-tight game. Ryan Suter, who has been good but also victimized by mistakes, will have his best game of the series. Minnesota will score first and slowly choke the air out of the building. And in the end, if it follows the formula we think the Wild needs, it'll be a 3-1 win and on to Chicago.

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