When one team dominates another the way the Wild has dominated Colorado in the past two games, hockey announcers like to say the ice is tilted.
This week, the ice at the X wasn’t just tilted.
It was close to vertical.
Whichever end of the Xcel Energy Center Avalanche goalie Semyon Varlamov skated toward at the beginning of a period, he quickly found green sweaters piling up on him as if he were at the bottom of a Goodwill bin after Christmas.
When the series relocated to St. Paul, the Wild dominated the action by a margin that, were this an election, would have caused Patrick Roy to call with congratulations.
Because it’s hockey, the actual results remain more random. Even while dominating almost every aspect of play, the Wild needed overtime to score a mere goal in its Game 3 victory, and even a 2-0 lead in Game 4 led only to a soft goal by the Avs and another third period of drama.
That third period ended with the Avs on a power play, having pulled their goalie, with Minnesota’s Mikael Granlund scrambling to regain his lost stick. The Avs had a 6-3 advantage in skaters with sticks, and yet Granlund blocked three shots in his effort to become a folk hero in a fortnight.
“That was awesome,” Zach Parise said.
“I’m just glad he got his stick back,” Jason Pominville said.
What has become clear in St. Paul is that the Wild is the better and deeper team right now.
If only the Wild hadn’t choked in the third period of Game 1 …
Or allowed rookie Nathan MacKinnon to slice through them in Game 2 the way Adrian Peterson might slice through a flag-football team …
Or if Roy hadn’t pulled his goalie in Game 1 long before most NHL coaches would have risked that stratagem …
The Wild would be in control of this series.
Through four games, it has become increasingly obvious that only two factors are keeping the Avs competitive:
Entity 1: Varlamov.
Entity 2: The Wild’s ability to hit Varlamov with the puck even when he has no other chance of making a save.
The Wild dominated much of Game 1, taking a two-goal lead in the third period before choking it away.