• Editor’s note: Chris Hine will write a North Score from home Wild and Wolves playoff games, focusing on three analytical points from the game and series.
Throughout the regular season, the Wild allowed a lot of shot attempts relative to the ones it took. But its calling card for success has been limiting the number of “high-danger shots” its opponents take from the area around the net and in the slot during 5-on-5 play. The Wild were third in a metric known as high-danger Corsi percentage.
However, in this series, the Jets are beating the Wild at its own game.
For the series, the Jets have 35 shot attempts from the high-danger area during 5-on-5 play, the Wild only 19.
In Game 4, the disparity shows up in the numbers — the Jets had 12 to the Wild’s four. Winnipeg had five alone in the third period. It also happened that the Jets’ lone 5-on-5 goal from Mark Scheifele came on a high-danger shot just inside the right circle. So while the Wild may have led the Jets in shots on goal 30-28, the Jets were getting in the more dangerous areas.
All this came on an “off night” for the Jets, according to coach Paul Maurice.
“We skated harder, better and faster tonight,” Maurice said. “I don’t know that either team moved the puck the way they wanted to, so I thought there was still a lot of missed offense that never generated from the tops of circles to the red lines for both teams.”
The Wild were already behind the 8-ball offensively having to play without defenseman Ryan Suter in this series, but the loss of Zach Parise to a fractured sternum was an additional gut punch. The Jets did a commendable job of keeping the Wild to the outside, especially in the third period and not letting the Wild get into those areas.
“We didn’t give them a whole lot of ice to skate on,” Maurice said.
Added Wild coach Bruce Boudreau: “I have no idea what was said in their room but I guaranteed it was about check, check, check,” Boudreau said. “There wasn’t a lot of room in the third period. We tried to muster some stuff up. We tried long plays, short plays, coming back, dumping it in, but they were really good in the third period.”
The Wild didn’t have as much success gaining and maintaining possession in the offensive zone like it in Game 3.
“It was a tighter checking game,” center Eric Staal said. “They were better. I thought it was a pretty evenly matched game.”
Except when it came to shots in the high-danger zone.
Remaking the lines
With Parise out, Boudreau remade his lines, pitting Staal with Nino Niederreiter and Mikael Granlund. That new-look line was the Wild’s best performing line. It generated more shot attempts than it allowed and it accounted for three of the Wild’s four high-danger opportunities. The rest of the lines, however, had trouble generating any kind of offense. Charlie Coyle and Tyler Ennis, who jumped into the lineup with Parise out, were on the ice for only three 5-on-5 shot attempts — another reverberation of Parise’s absence from the lineup.
Similarly, it was a rough night for the defensive pairing of Nate Prosser and Carson Soucy. The Jets were able to get shots off against again them: Prosser was on the ice for 18 Jets shot attempts, Soucy for 19. That comes after the duo started a shift with a faceoff in the defensive zone just twice.
Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin drove possession among the Wild defensemen, as each was on the ice for 21 shot attempts in over 24 minutes of 5-on-5 time despite tallying seven defensive zone faceoffs each.
But the top tier forwards and defensemen will need more help from the rest of the supporting cast.