Souhan: Series takes seismic shift after two dominating Wild efforts

  • Article by: JIM SOUHAN , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 25, 2014 - 12:24 PM

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.

The Wild dominated the first period of Game 2, before its defenders bought tickets, sat back on their heels and watched MacKinnon do a figure-skating routine.

The Wild dominated almost every aspect of Game 3, although the team’s well-known penchant for wasting scoring opportunities made an overtime necessary.

Proving that Game 3 wasn’t merely a function of desperation and embarrassment, the Wild thoroughly dominated Game 4.

In the past two games, the Wild has outshot Colorado 78-34. Thursday, Minnesota set a playoff record for fewest shots allowed, with 12. Now that Kuemper has replaced Ilya Bryzgalov, the Wild should win this series.

Varlamov was often spectacular again on Thursday. If his agent is smart, he insists that Varlamov be paid on commission.

Varlamov has little choice but to be spectacular, because the Avalanche defense is remarkably weak, and the Wild’s deep set of aggressive forwards has made Colorado struggle to merely clear the puck.

For all of its dominance, the Wild struggles to score. Watching the Wild with the puck is like watching a slugger hit fly ball after fly ball to the warning track. The arc is majestic; the results are negligible.

To summarize: The Wild dominated most of Game 1, some of Game 2, all of Game 3 and all of Game 4. Its reward is a 2-2 tie with the series heading back to Colorado on Saturday.

By now, the Wild has to believe it is the better team, and that its superior depth will win out if it can only find a way to deflect in the occasional goal past the always-sprawling Varlamov.

After Game 2, it looked as if MacKinnon would be the irrepressible youngster who would make this series his own.

Thursday night, after Game 4, it was Granlund who looked like the most complete, and gutsy, youngster on the suddenly tilted ice.

 

Jim Souhan can be heard weekdays at noon and Sundays from 10 to noon on 1500 ESPN. His Twitter name is @SouhanStrib. • jsouhan@startribune.com

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions

ADVERTISEMENT

Team Irvin 32 FINAL
Team Carter 28
Miami 96 FINAL
Chicago 84
Oklahoma City 98 FINAL
Cleveland 108
Dallas 106 FINAL
New Orleans 109
Indiana 106 FINAL
Orlando 99
LA Clippers 120 FINAL
Phoenix 100
Minnesota 100 FINAL
Atlanta 112
Detroit 110 FINAL
Toronto 114
Milwaukee 95 FINAL
San Antonio 101
Boston 111 FINAL
Golden State 114
Washington 117 FINAL
Denver 115
Houston 99 FINAL
LA Lakers 87
Team Toews 17 FINAL
Team Foligno 12
South Florida 53 FINAL
Connecticut 66
Boston College 64 FINAL
Georgia Tech 62
Virginia 50 FINAL
Virginia Tech 47
Indiana 70 FINAL
Ohio State 82
Stony Brook 61 FINAL
Binghamton 54
Cincinnati 56 FINAL
UCF 46
Maine 70 FINAL
Hartford 61
Monmouth 64 FINAL
Manhattan 71
Fairfield 67 FINAL
Marist 73
Rowan 48 FINAL
Princeton 96
St Bonaventure 48 FINAL
Rhode Island 53
Duke 77 FINAL
St Johns 68
Saint Peters 69 FINAL
Siena 55
Drake 40 FINAL
Wichita State 74
Vermont 61 FINAL
UMass Lowell 50
Seton Hall 57 FINAL
Butler 77
NJIT 72 FINAL
South Alabama 55
Northern Iowa 54 FINAL
Illinois State 53
Louisville 80 FINAL
Pittsburgh 68
UMBC 55 FINAL
Albany 69
Niagara 64 FINAL
Iona 87
Notre Dame 81 FINAL
NC State 78
Belmont 63 FINAL
Tennessee St 55
Creighton 50 FINAL
Villanova 71
Northwestern 67 FINAL
Maryland 68
Washington 56 FINAL
Utah 77
Senior-North 34 FINAL
Senior-South 13
Seton Hall 99 FINAL
Georgetown 85
St Johns 69 FINAL
Villanova 81
Arkansas 58 FINAL
Florida 72
Maine 56 FINAL
UMBC 42
Vanderbilt 55 FINAL
Alabama 52
Lafayette 60 FINAL
Lehigh 65
UCF 61 FINAL
SMU 57
Utah 51 FINAL
Washington 63
James Madison 73 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 53
Delaware 56 FINAL
Drexel 61
Hofstra 56 FINAL
William & Mary 57
Hartford 58 FINAL
Albany 82
Binghamton 54 FINAL
Stony Brook 67
Towson 63 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 71
Wake Forest 80 FINAL
(17) Florida State 110
Georgia Tech 68 FINAL
Virginia 62
(22) Georgia 51 FINAL
(5) Tennessee 59
Drake 79 FINAL
Evansville 62
Iona 80 FINAL
Canisius 62
Fairfield 33 FINAL
Monmouth 59
Northwestern 75 FINAL
Penn State 76
Wisconsin 71 FINAL
Michigan State 77
Ohio State 79 FINAL
Purdue 71
Northern Iowa 57 FINAL
Indiana State 55
Butler 58 FINAL
Xavier 54
Creighton 93 FINAL
Marquette 75
Providence 42 FINAL
DePaul 90
Northeastern 77 FINAL
Elon 80
(2) Connecticut 96 FINAL
Cincinnati 31
Oregon 78 FINAL
Arizona 81
Bradley 46 FINAL
Loyola-Chicago 45
NC State 49 FINAL
(23) Syracuse 66
(7) Maryland 84 FINAL
Indiana 74
Illinois State 35 FINAL
Missouri State 58
Colorado 68 FINAL
Washington St 73
Tulane 45 FINAL
South Florida 64
(14) Kentucky 83 FINAL
Missouri 69
(9) Oregon State 68 FINAL
(13) Arizona State 57
Vermont 63 FINAL
UMass Lowell 72
Iowa State 58 FINAL
(8) Texas 57
Southern Ill 61 FINAL
Wichita State 80
(15) Duke 74 FINAL
(12) North Carolina 67
Miami-Florida 55 FINAL
(4) Louisville 68
(21) Minnesota 61 FINAL
(25) Rutgers 66
California 72 FINAL
UCLA 57
(11) Stanford 71 FINAL
USC 60
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

question of the day

Poll: Does a Stadium Series outdoor Wild game get you excited?

Weekly Question

ADVERTISEMENT

ADVERTISEMENT

 
Close