So, I’m packing up at the arena to meet some of the Blackhawks ink-stained wretches and national scribes for dinner, and it suddenly dawns on me I never blogged after availability earlier Wednesday.
Apologies for the late blog, but I got going on the stories for the paper and it slipped my mind.
No news today in terms of the lineup for Game 4 Thursday night as the Wild tries to stave off elimination and live for another day.
Remember, with an 8:45 puck drop, the morning skates are 11 a.m. and noon, so we won’t know the lineups until at least then. And I say, “at least,” because coach Mike Yeo kept us guessing until warmups Tuesday night. That’s when we learned the lines and confirmed that Ryan Carter was in for Erik Haula.
No injury updates on whether or not Chris Stewart or Justin Fontaine are available for Thursday’s Game 4.
Both teams didn’t skate today. The Blackhawks had availability at their Minneapolis hotel. The news of the day there is Brent Seabrook wore hotel slippers to the presser. The Wild held availability here.
The common theme from everybody around the Wild today is staring at an 0-3 hole as a whole is too overwhelming a task, so start small, take Thursday’s game and then hopefully do it all again Saturday.
Only four of 180 teams in NHL history has rallied to win a series down 0-3. It has never happened in the NBA and happened only once in Major League Baseball. My colleague from ESPN Boston, Joe McDonald, talked to Big Papi, among others who have accomplished that feat, today and his story will be on later on tonight. He’ll probably tweet it out at @ESPNJoeyMac.
“I think you try to avoid looking at it as we’re down 3-0 and just try to worry about one thing, and that’s tomorrow’s game,” Kyle Brodziak said. “You don’t want to look at the big picture at this time right now. I think it’s important for us to come to the rink tomorrow to try to win one hockey game. I think when you look at the big picture it might seem a little daunting, but I think the only way to go about it is take it one game at a time. Tomorrow night’s the first game, and we’ve got to try to come out with our best and try to get a win and go from thereafter.”
Yeo said, “I hate the word, I’ve never been swept, and I don’t think our players have. That’s pretty motivating in itself. We wouldn’t even be here if we didn’t have that kind of pride. How we approach it right now is what matters most. For me, I’m just doing everything I can to make sure that our guys are ready. I’m ready to coach the best game that I can tomorrow.”
Matt Cooke said it’s been tough around the team the past day.
“It’s not the situation we drew up, it’s not the situation we wanted,” Cooke said. “With that being said, we need to focus on tomorrow. That’s plain and simple. As frustrating as it’s been, we’ve faced adversity before. The picture’s tomorrow. It’s not any larger than that. It doesn’t matter further than that. It doesn’t matter. The focus is tomorrow.”
The Wild has scored four goals in the series – the same amount as Patrick Kane.
The Blackhawks have this way of ripping out your soul. The Wild has given up the first goal in all three games, has been outscored 10-3 in the first period. Even Tuesday, the Wild trailed 1-0 at the 14:06 mark, but yet despite having so many chances in the second and third periods, it just felt like the deficit was 2-, 3-, 4-0.
Everybody looks at the Blackhawks as this offensive juggernaut, and obviously they have the finishers. But this team defends so well and if you think about it, the Wild has never been hemmed in its zone for flurries on end. All its goals have come off rushes with the Blackhawks waiting for the Wild to mess up and then pouncing.
So Cooke said it’s important for the Wild to get back to not panicking if things don’t go right Thursday initially.
“It’s not that we need to change our system, it’s not that we need to go out and run around like there’s not a puck on the ice,” the veteran forward said. “We need to go out and play the way that we can – tight, fast, physical game for 60 minutes.”
There’ll be plenty of time for postmortem stuff if the Wild is eliminated, but I crunched the numbers today and there are some bigtime playoff indictments.
You can read all that in the main story in Thursday’s paper, but the numbers by Mikko Koivu, Jason Pominville, Thomas Vanek and Ryan Suter the past three playoffs have to be concerning to Wild brass.
Like I said, I’ll get more into it after the season if the season indeed ends this round, but the go-to guys don’t produce in the playoffs. That is a fact and the Wild will need to face that fact and figure out why or how to fix it.
Yeo is also going to have to find a way to get through to Vanek. I watched the game again this morning. I counted six times he stopped inside the blue line, five where he turned the puck over and once where he basically did because his pass didn’t connect with Charlie Coyle when Coyle drove the net.
This is absolutely not the way the Wild is supposed to play. This is absolutely not the way Vanek said umpteen times he’s supposed to play just one day before.
The Wild’s gameplan is to get pucks behind Chicago’s defense and try to wear the Blackhawks out. The one time it has done that in this series, it was successful. That is how it rallied from three goals down in the first half of the second period of Game 1.
The problem with playing deep in the offensive zone is it requires hard work. It requires hard work to score and it requires hard work to retreat if the puck is turned over.
Perhaps that why Vanek is seemingly unwilling to follow the gameplan. These turnovers just feed into the Blackhawks’ counterattack game.
Yeo bemoaned the offensive blue-line turnovers by the team today. As you know, Yeo rarely publicly criticizes the vets and he wouldn’t discuss Vanek specifically today when I asked about Vanek contradicting himself and the Wild’s gameplan.
“He is part of it,” Yeo said. “Our whole team was part of it. Again, if you’re going to create offense it’s pretty tough if you’re backchecking. So, with the way that they’re playing you have to be stronger against that. If you’re forcing plays that aren’t there then again you’re going to be playing in your own zone, and we’re not going to score from our own zone. Right now it’s a matter of instead of forcing what isn’t there, it’s taking what they’re giving you. Obviously, if there’s a chance off the rush we have to be quick. We have to be sharp. We have to take advantage of it, but if it’s not there we have to try to force them to make mistakes by playing on the forecheck and playing in the offensive zone.”
This is not new. This is how the Wild has played all year.
Zach Parise said, “I don’t think we’ve got to sit here and change anything, change our system, change things. I don’t think that’s the solution. We’ve got to be better. I think it’s just about being better in different areas and doing a little more in the offensive zone and try to break through.”
I’ll be on KFAN from 10:15-11 a.m. Thursday and the NHL Network Arena Cam at 5:45 p.m. I hate to tell you this: I’m fairly sure the Wild’s record is like 0-100 all-time when I’m on the Bald Spot Cam.
OK, that’s it for me. I should leave the rink. It’s dark and spooky. Talk Thursday.