CHICAGO – Two games into the Western Conference semifinals, and the Wild looks like a completely different team against the Chicago Blackhawks than it was against the Colorado Avalanche.
Sure, the Wild trailed 2-0 last series, too, but the puck possession, forecheck and overall energy pale in comparison, especially in Sunday’s 4-1 loss to the Blackhawks.
“I will make sure that us as a staff, we’ll look at whatever we can do on our part to make sure there are any adjustments we can make,” coach Mike Yeo said. “Anything we can do tactically to give us an edge. We’re not going to sit around and hope the guys will be better.”
One adjustment Yeo won’t make is in goal. Darcy Kuemper is injured, so Ilya Bryzgalov, 1-5 in his past six starts dating to the regular season, must remain the man between the pipes.
“He’s in the net,” Yeo said. “We’ve got to find a way to get out a win. And that’s all of us. That’s him, but that’s our team, too. We’re not going to sit around waiting for another option [like Josh Harding]. This is the guy. So let’s quit even talking about it right now. We shouldn’t even be talking about who’s backing up. This is the guy for us right now. It’s on him, for sure, but it’s on our group too. It’s on our staff. It’s everybody to find a way to get a win.”
Bryzgalov said he didn’t play “well enough if you lost. Nobody wants to lose. Nobody’s satisfied with the results we get here.”
Searching for an answer
From the first period on Sunday, Yeo juggled lines to try to spark his snakebit top six forwards.
The Wild especially looks to be struggling to find a place for Matt Moulson, who has one playoff goal, has been a turnover machine and seems to slow every line he’s on.
Asked about Moulson specifically, Yeo said: “We were mixing up a lot of things trying to get guys going. We’re going back home and us as a staff will make sure that we do what we have to do as far as not just standing pat. But at the same time, we do have to have a bit of a short memory here.
“This is a good team we played. You can’t let them get in your head.”
Moulson, who has one goal in the postseason, said he’s not feeling the pressure.
“You can’t let yourself get frustrated,” Moulson said. “You have to play your game, and for me, that’s getting around the net and putting in those dirty goals. You just have to tell yourself to keep working and try to raise it up another level.”
Chicago block party
Perhaps even more difficult than squeezing the puck by Blackhawks goalie Corey Crawford is getting a shot past Blackhawks defenseman Niklas Hjalmarsson. Through eight games this postseason, Hjalmarsson leads the NHL with 30 blocks.
None required more dedication than the Jonas Brodin shot he took to the neck in the first period Sunday. The six-year veteran immediately collapsed to the ice before being helped back to the bench by one of the Blackhawks trainers. And in what’s become standard operating procedure for the Swede, he was back out there for his next shift.
“We talk about how he blocks a shot and doesn’t miss a shift, but I don’t think we’ve seen him get hit where he did today very often,” Chicago coach Joel Quenneville said. “Very rarely does he miss shifts after big blocks, important blocks, and he’s willing to do everything he can to keep the puck away from the net. But he’s special in that area.”
Added Blackhawks winger Bryan Bickell: “To do what he does is tough. I can’t imagine doing that, and to have that one hit him in the neck, I was just happy he was OK.”
• Chicago forward Jeremy Morin made his playoff debut and veteran Kris Versteeg also returned after missing Friday’s game because of illness. Brandon Bollig was scratched.
• Wild right winger Justin Fontaine, scratched in Game 7 of the first round and Game 1 of the second round, returned to the lineup Sunday. Stephane Veilleux was scratched.
• John Curry backed up Bryz- galov for the second consecutive game.