Isn't it amazing how much focus is put on trying to attain home-ice advantage in the first round and how simple it is to lose it?
Home teams went 3-5 in Game 1 of the quarterfinals. Anaheim was the only team in the West to retain home ice.
"Yeah, unfortunately I know that experience very well," coach Bruce Boudreau said. "I don't know what it is. I wish I had an answer. I think both teams come equally prepared. In the past, and I'm talking years ago, the home ice, a lot of it when they talked about home ice advantage was each building had its own little quirks -- Boston Garden's ice was smaller -- so that's where things like that became more of a home ice advantage. Now everything is pretty much the same everywhere. So the on ice product is the same. The only difference is the last change really."
Personally, I just think it's easier to play on the road initially and frankly teams are lot more even than they were in years past. Plus, steal one of two games and you have home ice.
"Back then, too, it was 1 vs. 16 in the playoffs," Boudreau said. "Now I think when you look at how tight the races are in the regular season, and then you look at 14 of those teams are out, the 16 that are in are really good. That’s why hockey tends to have more upsets than other sports."
Tonight, while it's not a "must-win" per se, it's a must-win. The Wild cannot fall down 0-2 in this series heading into Games 3 and 4 in St. Louis.
"We’d love the split and we’ll do everything we can for the split," Zach Parise said.
Teams that take a 2-0 series’ lead go on to win 87.3 percent of the time, 89.2 percent when that Game 2 win is on the road. Home teams that tie a series at 1-1 go on to win 55.2 percent of the time.
The Wild is 2-9 in Game 2 all-time, including five consecutive losses.
The Wild rallied from 0-2 once in franchise history in 2014, but the difference there is the Wild was returning home against Colorado -- not heading on the road -- and indeed evened the series.
Judging by the morning skate -- that did not include line rushes, same Wild lineup tonight.
That means Jordan Schroeder, Ryan White, Nate Prosser and Victor Bartley are scratched.
Rugged defenseman Robert Bortuzzo (upper body) in, Jordan Schmaltz out for the Blues. Rookie center Zach Sanford looks like he'll make his playoff debut for Jori Lehtera.
"I think we can take away some of their time and space in the O-zone," Bortuzzo said. "They cycle a lot of pucks and like to carry it around the offensive zone. If we can put an end to some of those plays, that's kind of when the crowd gets into it. If you can get in and out of your end and not play in your D-zone, it's a huge part of it."
Said Yeo, "He was playing really, really well for us when he was in the lineup. Since the Shattenkirk trade, obviously his role increased. Big body, veteran guy and he’s got a little nastiness to his game. So obviously in front we know what their game plan is that makes it a little bit difficult, a little bit more challenging to get there, but we said this before, they’ve got guys that can possess the puck, [they’re] strong on the puck, and [Bortuzzo] certainly has the ability to separate some guys down low and make them pay a little bit of a price."
Asked if he's looking for more nastiness, Yeo said, "Certainly we believe there’s many parts of our game where we could be a little bit firmer and that’s both with and without the puck. So we’re not all the sudden gonna start running around like a bunch of idiots out there. We have a structure that we need to make sure we stay in. We have a game that we have to make sure we stay in, but we just have to get a little bit firmer in that game."
As I've reported, I do believe Alex Stalock plays tonight for Iowa and then is recalled in time for the Wild's flight to St. Louis tomorrow to act as third goalie for the remainder of the postseason.
Boudreau said the key tonight is to be "hungrier than them. I mean there's no key as far as the way you play. It's one-on-one battles. You've got to make sure you're winning those battles."
I asked Boudreau about Vegas' first coaching hire of Gerard Gallant by his former Washington Capitals' GM, George McPhee.
Boudreau had a great deadpan at the end referring to the time he was sacked as coach in D.C.
"I think Gerard’s a good coach, and I think George does his work very well and his background checks and all the things that you have to do," Boudreau said. "I think it was a great hire. But I think George makes a lot of good decisions … except for one or two times."
Blues are on the ice now. Please give my featurre today on Jake Allen a read. A little personal look at how a young boy gave him some encouragement this season and how Hall of Famer Martin Brodeur has helped him.
Game 2 strategy: "I think the way we had our forecheck going. We did a great job getting pucks going and getting pucks behind the D and around them. I think we have to play with the same speed they did. That was key to limit their time and space, we just got to continue to do that. But at the same time we just gotta improve and we gotta get more bodies to the net and get those rebounds."
On Allen: "I think you just can’t steer away from shooting the puck. You’re going to have to shoot the puck all the time. I think when a goalie’s playing like that, when you stop shooting he gets even better so we gotta continue to do the same things but get to the net a bit more maybe and bump in a couple ugly ones and we’ll get the win from there."
What can you do to get around the net and finish? "We gotta keep shooting, we can’t get away from that. I think that’s a good thing when we were able to create that many shots. But at the same time, if we can get around the paint and get more of those secondary opportunities, our shots will probably go up and we’ll give ourselves a better chance to get on the board. But we were generating a lot of chances, a lot of shots. That’s a good sign. But you always want more.”
More rebound chances as the game went on the other night? “Yeah, I think we missed some. I think he made saves on some. Kind of a mix of both. But I still think that we passed up a few that we could have just put in his feet and created havoc in front of the net. They protect the front of their net really well, so we have to make sure we get people there, get traffic and get those secondary chances.”
On losing home ice: “Yeah, it’s weird. I don’t know if it’s the nerves and the excitement of the first game. Home teams, it didn’t go their way. But hopefully we can change that around tonight and feed off the energy. A lot of guys who maybe weren’t familiar with playoff hockey and stuff like that, the first one is behind us and we gotta look ahead at what’s in front of us.”
strategy for Game 2: "We did play a good game. I think I like the energy level that we had, guys worked hard. Maybe there’s some adjustments that you make along the way and again, like we always do, we’ll watch some video and see where those are.
pressure in an 0-1 situation? "There’s always pressure, Game 1, Game 2, Game 4, Game 5, there’s always a little bit of pressure on both sides. Unfortunately the first one didn’t go the way we wanted and the way that we had hoped but now our right now is to win this game tonight, go into St. Louis 1-1 and then go from there. We’ll give it our best shot and try and tie this thing up."
special teams: "They’re always important. Playoffs you feel like the refs let a lot go, so you might get one or two chances on the power play and you really want to make those count. Goals are tough to come by in the post season. On the same side, you want to make sure you’re killing power plays off and you don’t’ want to put yourself in a hole. We always talk about it, when you’re in a special teams game you’re going to give yourselves a good chance to win. I think our power play can be better and hopefully get us a goal."
strategy for Game 2: "Just make sure we play solid defensively, not give them any turnovers at blue lines or anything and make their transition easy on them, we don’t want that. Make sure we’re good with the puck and make sure we put the puck behind them and make their D-men turn and wear them down in their own end, make them work down there. Be physical, run a tight forecheck and just do those little things and it’ll pay off."
scoring on Allen: "He’s playing well so it’s going to be second, third and fourth efforts; rebounds garbage goals, stuff like that. We gotta get him moving side to side, take away his eyes more and create some more traffic in front of him. It’s tough when a goalie’s playing well. You gotta keep at him, just keep shooting and it’ll go in eventually."
More on Game 2: "We’re ready for Game 2. We’re prepared. We felt pretty good after last game, not so much we obviously didn’t get the win but the way we played, if we keep playing that way and finish some of those chances, it’s a totally different story and we’re feeling a lot better. We’re looking forward to tonight, it’s going to be an exciting game, it’s going to be fun and we’re ready to go. It’s going to be a good battle again and we’re ready for it."
Key to finishing more around the net: "We did a good job of getting pucks to the net [in Game 1] but now we have to make sure we get traffic and make it even harder on Allen. We had a good game last, we have to make sure we get more pucks to the net and get more traffic.”
How to get more inside their big defensemen: “It’s tough. They did a pretty good job of not allowing us in front of their net. That’s why Allen saw a lot of the pucks. On the other hand, we have to try and outmuscle them and try and get to the net to make it even harder on them.”
Want a similar approach to the game, just finish? “I feel like it was definitely a good game for us and we know we can pick it up another notch and even do a few things a little better; net front and getting pucks through even better. It’s think it’s little things.”
Did Parise’s goal provide you with a blueprint to score more? “Yeah, absolutely. The longer the game went, I feel like the more chances we had, eve in front of their net. It was just a matter of time until we put pucks into the net. Even on Zach’s goal, we had a terrific play by Mikko. We had a couple close ones that nearly went in and those are the little things we have to do to get better.”
(countering Minnesota offense)
They’re a good team. There’s no question they were able to bring a lot of energy and create a lot of offense in Game 1. Us group as forwards on our team, we know we’re going to have to play defense at some point, so we’re going to have to be strong. Then just make smart plays, good decisions coming into their zone. A little more offense, a little more zone time. You feel confident as the game goes on if you’re playing with the puck so it’s a big opportunity for us to get back tonight and play with the puck and play a more of an offensive game.
As a group, just sharpen up a little bit. I thought at times we played with an edge, we played aggressive. We just gotta be a confident group, do the things that have been working well. They’re obviously one of the best offensive teams in the League for a reason. They generate tons of scoring chances with shots and funneling pucks. We’re a group that we have a good transition game so you know, limit their chances, block shots, create more opportunities for sure to generate offense through that.
(countering Minnesota forecheck)
Looking at video and playing them all year, there’s no question their forward group plays a very fast game, in your face. They limit our defense, our time in our zone when we get the puck. They ferociously hunt. As a group we gotta be smart, make good plays, get the pucks out. If you have to take an icing sometimes maybe that’s not a best play.
It’s a big difference maker. You gotta stay on the positive side of things. If you can’t create goals through the power play the penalty kill better step up and prevent them. We feel like we’re a group that always bounces back. Our offensive abilities, this group of forwards, has been able to score goals all year. We’re just going to focus on trying to generate more offense tonight and it should be a big test.
I'll be on KFAN at 5:55 p.m.