The sun came up today in St. Louis!!! So did the humidity.
Man, it’s steamy here.
Sorry for the late blog, but the Wild practiced at 2 and we have early deadlines on Saturday so we can get that awesomely thick Sunday edition onto your doorstep bright and early. So I figured I better write for the paper before the website.
I know, that’s so 1990!
The Blues held a ginormous optional today. The Wild held a full practice.
That’s what happens when one team’s up 2-0 in a series and one team’s down 0-2.
Forward Erik Haula was the only regular who didn’t practice today. Coach Bruce Boudreau said he’s sore, likely from the Scottie Upshall check into the lower part of the wall late in the second period. Boudreau called it maintenance, which typically means that player will play.
As I’ve reported for a week, Alex Stalock was indeed recalled and will serve as third goalie for the rest of the playoffs. He went on the ice pretty much after practice. Victor Bartley has also been activated off injured reserve.
We’ll find out if the Wild makes any lineup changes Sunday during warmups. I do wonder if Boudreau would consider Jordan Schroeder for Jason Pominville or Joel Eriksson Ek IF Haula does indeed play.
The only defense option I’d think is Nate Prosser for Christian Folin.
Devan Dubnyk will start.
Asked the Wild’s mood today, Boudreau said, “I thought probably earlier on in the day it was a little down. As the day went on I thought it got way more upbeat.”
The dirty details?
This is the seventh time in 12 all-time playoff series that the Wild trails 2-0. It rallied to win once in 2014 against Colorado, but the difference was the Wild returned home down 2-0. The Blues have been up 2-0 12 times in history, winning 10 of those series. The two previous occasions the Blues won the first two games on the road, they swept.
According to the Elias Sports Bureau, only 18 teams in NHL history have rallied to win a best-of-seven series after losing their first two games at home. The last to do so was the 2011 Stanley Cup champion Boston Bruins in the first round against Montreal.
Teams that take a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup Playoffs series hold an all-time series record of 305-48 (86.4 percent). Teams that take a 2-0 lead on the road in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup Playoffs series hold an all-time series record of 71-18 (79.8 percent).
The Wild hasn’t had a lead in the series and has two goals in nearly 138 minutes of hockey (no 5-on-5 goals). In fact, the Wild has no 5-on-5 goals in three games Mike Yeo has been the head coach vs. his former team.
Boudreau is digging Marco Scandella’s game in the first two playoff games. Not so much many of the other blue liners.
“His confidence is at an all-time high for me,” Boudreau said. “He’s been really good and just hope it continues to be that way and the rest of the players can get up to his level. … We need … all six defensemen going in the playoffs. You can’t rely on one guy. Bobby Orr’s not playing anymore. So we have to rely on six D to be as good as they can be, and if we’ve got four D or three D, it’s not going to be successful. But Scandy’s playing on top of his game. He’s doing his part.”
One of the many forwards who has been MIA (let’s be honest, only Zach Parise has scored and only 14 skaters have a point) is Mikael Granlund.
He’s passing up shots left and right and throwing pucks away as the Blues’ big defensemen challenge him.
“We’ve always wished he shot more,” Boudreau said of Granlund. “I mean, I think when you’re trying so hard, youre trying for the perfect play. We’ve been trying to tell him for 84 games now that if he’s got good a good shot – he’s got a good shot, use it and let the other guys go to the net and pick up the loose change there. Sometimes these really gifted players are thinking three thoughts ahead, and they want to make the great play.”
One issue is the Wild has held Vladimir Tarasenko to one assist and seven shots, yet the Wild wasted those defensive efforts by not winning either Game 1 or 2.
Now Tarasenko gets to play at home, where Yeo will be able to get him away from the Mikko Koivu line and Ryan Suter and Jared Spurgeon if he wants to.
Boudreau said, “I think if I pay attention on the bench on who's out there I think we can get at least partially the matchup that we want. And hopefully it works out for us. There's nothing we can do on icings. It's cut and dry that we want certain lines out there and they're going to ice it and certain defensive pairings. That's something that can't be helped.”
Boudreau has lost the first two home games of a series three times as an NHL coach. Last year with Anaheim, the Ducks did that, then reeled off three wins in a row, including Games 3 and 4 in Nashville. He only completed the comeback from losing his first two home games once with Washington in 2009 during the first round against the Rangers.
He told the Wild of his past experiences Saturday. The good news is the Wild has rallied from 2-0 down once and in 2015 also won a couple playoff games in St. Louis, so it shouldn’t be intimidated.
“You've got to look small picture right now and outside of just trying to do things better correct a few things here and there,” Parise said. “You can't dwell. You can't think about Games 1 and 2 right now. Just worry about (Game) 3 and not worry about Game 4. Just Game 3 right now. And then go from there. It's a little disheartening what happened in the first two but it's over.”
The Wild will need a clutch goalie performance from Devan Dubnyk. Boudreau came to his defense today by noting his goalie has allowed four goals in seven periods of play (if you including OT in Game 1) and that should be good enough to win a game or two.
He said he believes in him and believes he’ll be “great” Sunday.
On being down 2-0, Dubnyk said, “I think again it’s about believing in what we’re doing and not changing it. We’ve got to bump it up by 5 or 10 percent and we’ll be there. That’s the challenge of the playoffs, is we’re one bounce away from it being the other way. It’s important how you react and it’s important that those guys have your back and understand that they come back by winning the next game and continuing to do what you’re doing, not going out and thinking you’ve got to change a whole bunch and going full court press and thinking that everything else has to change, when it was one tip, one bounce away from being in a better spot.
“We’ve got a veteran group in here and that’s how we’ve got to be ready to play.”
Please give my articles a read Sunday. The lede to my main is interesting regarding Yeo’s presser today.
Here’s some quotes from the Blues coach today:
On having last change: “We're not going to get so caught up on it that they can put players on and dictate who we put on. Part of how we've assembled the lines was so we would have the opportunity to make sure we have depth and confidence in whatever line we put out there. Certainly there will be times when we're looking for things but other times we'll be focused on our game and keeping the momentum or getting the momentum.”
On Tarasenko: “I think he's played pretty darn well for two games. He didn't score, but I'd say a lot of that is our power play can be better. He obviously made the play to score the overtime winner in Game 1 and by far that line has generated the most scoring chances of all of our lines.”
“It's been a quick turnaround. We played last night and it already feels like it was a couple days ago. There's a lot of emotions, some are high, some are low. I think Jake [Allen] has done a really, really good job of navigating through that, for him to come out with the performance that he had in Game 2 after what he did in Game 1, is equally as impressive as bouncing back from a bad game and that's what he's done and that's what Marty [Brodeur] has helped him with. That's what we're doing as a group. We recognize what Jake did in Game 1 and we have confidence that he's going to play great for us but we didn't sit around and hope he was going to duplicate that. We've tried to get better as a group and we'll continue to do that.”
On shutting own the Wild, Yeo said, “It's not like we've found a magic formula that prevents them from getting to shots and chances. Sometimes it's Jake, sometimes it's a great defensive play, a great stick knocking a rebound out of there. Sometimes it's a PK, whatever the case is, we've found a way. We know they're going to continue
to try to pour more on us and we have to be ready for that.”
On the pride of winning in St. Paul, Yeo said, “It really isn't about me. I've said that right from the start, my team needs me to be right in the moment, to make sure I'm not getting caught up in the emotions and get carried away and making this about me. That's what I'm asking of them so it would not be fair if I wasn't doing the same.”
On what they have to do to go up 3-0, he said, “We need to do a lot of the things that I think we've done well up to this point, from the first game to the second game I think we got better. I think we got better at taking them away from their game and not letting them get to their game. I think we can still get to our game better. I think we can put them under a little more pressure. I think we can continue to grow our physicality. I think coming back home and forcing them to deal with some of the things we had to deal with in their building, as far as the momentum, as far as the crowd noise, we have to find a way to make that impactful tomorrow. I remember coming in here in the playoffs [with the Wild in 2015] and this is an intimidating building and I've seen it in the regular season, I'm excited for tomorrow.
“I've been on that side with that group over there where were down 2-0 and came back to win a series. I know that they're not going to go away lightly. They're not just going to lose, we're going to have to beat them if that's the case, and for us to do that, we're going to have to continue what we've done and try to get better. We have to look at the tape, look at the things we've done well and continue to do those and also be wary of what they might adjust on. We have to look at the areas we need to get better, certainly there are a couple adjustments we can make tomorrow that should give us a chance to get on the attack and get on the hunt a little more and if we do those things, keep building our game a little more, we'll continue to get better.”