Wild notes: Aggressive penalty kill yielding results

  • Article by: RACHEL BLOUNT , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 26, 2014 - 1:06 AM

Judging from the regular-season statistics, it appeared the Wild would have its hands full trying to contain Colorado’s power play during the teams’ first-round playoff series. The Avalanche finished fifth in the NHL with a conversion rate of 19.8 percent, while the Wild’s penalty kill was among the worst in the league.

The Wild’s players and coaches believed a tighter focus on detail could turn an apparent deficiency into an asset. Through the first four games of the series, they have followed through on that promise. The same penalty-killing group that finished 27th of 30 teams in the regular season now leads the NHL in the playoffs, snuffing out 14 of Colorado’s 15 power-play attempts.

The only goal the Wild penalty kill has surrendered was an empty-netter in the final minute of a 4-2 loss in Game 2. Coach Mike Yeo said he saw flashes of excellence earlier in the season, but one lapse would erase all progress. He credits the current success to the team’s growing ability to shake off mistakes and forge ahead.

“I feel like we’ve been dictating a little bit more,” Yeo said. “We haven’t been as reactive to them. We’ve looked at opportunities for us to pressure, we’ve looked at situations where we can be a little bit more aggressive. But at the same time, we recognize times when we have to play a little bit tighter.

“Little things add up to make the difference. The biggest thing is we have to keep that idea that the next [penalty kill] is the most important.”

Defenseman Jared Spurgeon said the Wild hasn’t changed anything. He noted players are simply doing a better job of clogging shooting lanes, blocking shots and clearing pucks, raising their penalty-killing efficiency from 78.8 percent in the regular season to 93.3 in the playoffs. In Thursday’s Game 4, the penalty killers finished a perfect night by blocking four shots in the final minutes, when the Avalanche enjoyed a 6-on-4 advantage.

Shared history

Darcy Kuemper was in net for the Wild’s 1-0 victory in Game 3 and its 2-1 triumph in Game 4, stopping 33 of 34 shots. According to Elias Sports Bureau, he became the fifth goaltender in the NHL’s expansion era to win his first two playoff starts while allowing only one goal.

Among the others: Wild goalie coach Bob Mason, who had forgotten his own feat until reminded of it Friday. In 1987, in his playoff debut with Washington, he earned a 2-0 shutout over a New York Islanders team that featured Pat LaFontaine and Bryan Trottier. He won Game  4 by a score of 4-1.

Though a concussion sidelined Kuemper for nearly three weeks at the end of the regular season, he played well in relief of Ilya Bryzgalov in Game 2 to earn his first career playoff start in Game 3.

“He got focused and relied on what he does on the ice, on his positioning and instincts,” Mason said. “He’s building a résumé, and a good way to do that is to bank some big games in the playoffs. These are games you can remember and grow off.”

Group effort

In Saturday’s Game 5, the Wild again will try to shut down the Avs’ top line of Gabriel Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Paul Stastny. While Yeo still plans to rely on center Erik Haula to keep MacKinnon in check, he said that playing on the road means he will not always get the defensive matchup he wants. He isn’t worried about it.

“There have been a lot of shifts where I’ve had Mikko [Koivu] or I’ve had [Mikael Granlund’s] line go out there against them,” he said. “Those guys have played against the best centermen in the league and done the job. I really believe, regardless of who we’re playing, we can have anybody go out there in that situation if our team is playing a certain way, because we don’t defend as a one-man unit. We defend as a five-man unit.”

Must-see TV

Thursday’s Game 4 victory earned a 12.7 rating, the highest ever for a Wild game televised on Fox Sports North. The network estimated that more than 219,450 households in the Twin Cities metro area watched the game.

  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


New England 2/1/15 5:30 PM
Detroit 69 FINAL
Philadelphia 89
Portland 94 FINAL
Cleveland 99
Sacramento 102 FINAL
Toronto 119
Boston 98 FINAL
Minnesota 110
Dallas 94 FINAL
Houston 99
Denver 93 FINAL
New Orleans 85
Brooklyn 102 FINAL
Atlanta 113
Oklahoma City 92 FINAL
New York 100
Charlotte 86 FINAL
San Antonio 95
LA Clippers 94 FINAL
Utah 89
Washington 98 FINAL
Phoenix 106
Toronto 1 FINAL(SO)
New Jersey 2
Pittsburgh 0 FINAL
Washington 4
Chicago 3 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Temple 86 FINAL
UCF 62
Winthrop 75 FINAL
Coastal Carolina 68
Lafayette 59 FINAL
Colgate 54
Northeastern 60 FINAL
Drexel 65
Wake Forest 76 FINAL
Florida State 82
Rhode Island 64 FINAL
Fordham 63
Delaware 82 FINAL
James Madison 88
South Carolina 58 FINAL
LSU 64
New Hampshire 63 FINAL
Maine 58
Seton Hall 80 FINAL
Marquette 70
Binghamton 68 FINAL
American Univ 54 FINAL
Navy 64
Elon 65 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 82
Wright State 76 FINAL
Oakland 84
Minnesota 58 FINAL
Penn State 63
Duquesne 55 FINAL
Richmond 86
South Florida 52
Hartford 66 FINAL
Stony Brook 72
Albany 47 FINAL
Vermont 44
Hofstra 79 FINAL
William & Mary 100
UNC-Asheville 74 FINAL
Longwood 64
Radford 84 FINAL
Char Southern 77
Holy Cross 0 Postponed
Loyola-Maryland 0
Duke 73 FINAL
Notre Dame 77
Texas Tech 36 FINAL
Oklahoma 81
Oregon State 55 FINAL
Arizona State 73
Morehead State 82 FINAL
Austin Peay 69
Drake 69 FINAL
Bradley 57
Lehigh 62 FINAL
Bucknell 68
Rice 48 FINAL
Houston 59
Missouri State 57 FINAL
Illinois State 67
Loyola-Chicago 47 FINAL
Wichita State 58
Nebraska Omaha 64 FINAL
South Dakota St 86
Northern Iowa 59 FINAL
Southern Ill 52
Louisville 81 FINAL
Boston College 72
St Johns 74 FINAL
Creighton 77
East Carolina 58 FINAL
Memphis 70
Georgia Tech 70 FINAL
Miami-Florida 50
Miss State 73 FINAL
Ole Miss 79
Clemson 68 FINAL
NC State 57
Indiana 67 FINAL
Purdue 83
Kansas 64 FINAL
TCU 61
Oregon 56 FINAL
Arizona 90
Air Force 66 FINAL
San Jose St 52
Stanford 84 FINAL
Washington 74
Rider 56 FINAL
Siena 49
Dayton 76 FINAL
Richmond 62
Eastern Kentucky 53 FINAL
Jacksonville St 73
Saint Josephs 0 Postponed
Saint Louis 0
Binghamton 55
Akron 60 FINAL
Ohio U 72
Ball State 72 FINAL
Miami-Ohio 55
Memphis 56 FINAL
Cincinnati 44
East Carolina 32 FINAL
(2) Connecticut 87
Murray State 59 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 75
Kent State 63 FINAL
Central Michigan 65
UT Martin 64 FINAL
Tennessee St 58
Eastern Michigan 56 FINAL
Western Mich 83
Bucknell 61 FINAL
Lehigh 76
Indiana 57 FINAL
Michigan State 72
Colgate 56 FINAL
Lafayette 58
Fordham 66 FINAL
Davidson 45
Duquesne 76 FINAL
St Bonaventure 64
George Mason 66 FINAL
VA Commonwealth 70
Detroit 59 FINAL
Youngstown St 58
Army 0 Postponed
Boston U 0
Loyola-Maryland 0 Postponed
Holy Cross 0
Tulsa 74
Oklahoma St 54 FINAL
Kansas State 52
West Virginia 57 FINAL
Texas Tech 73
Denver 56 FINAL
South Dakota 82
Northwestern St 46 FINAL
Central Arkansas 63
Austin Peay 67 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 87
Kansas 61 FINAL
Iowa State 56
Bowling Green 50 FINAL
Northern Ill 67
Penn State 64 FINAL
Minnesota 75
San Jose St 80 FINAL
Air Force 83
Boise State 82 FINAL
Colorado State 83
Utah State 51 FINAL
Wyoming 86
San Diego State 50 FINAL
Fresno State 57
Nevada 52 FINAL
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters





question of the day

Poll: What chance does the Wild have of making the playoffs?

Weekly Question