Much of the work the Wild did at Saturday’s practice was focused on unclogging the neutral zone, hoping that will provide some flow for the team’s offense.
While being outscored 7-3, outshot 84-37 and falling behind 0-2 in their first-round playoff series with Winnipeg, the Wild has had its offense through the neutral zone disrupted by the Jets.
“Our play through the neutral zone with the puck hasn’t been good, at all,’’ said Zach Parise, who scored the Wild’s lone goal Friday, making him the Wild’s all-time playoff goal leader (13). “That’s a big reason we’re not getting offensive zone time. We’re getting stymied in the neutral zone a lot. So, if we can be cleaner with that, get a little more speed through there, hopefully it would back them off a little bit and allow us to get some entries.’’
Easier said than done.
Jason Zucker said the Jets have run what he called a version of the 1-2-2 trap in which they don’t contest the first pass, then apply significant pressure after that. “They’re staying very patient,’’ Zucker said. “They’re aggressive, but they sit back. They let our D-men have control and one guy kind of forcing. And then, once you start coming up, they have two guys kind of waiting in the weeds. So, if you come with speed, they’re in trouble.’’
Problem is getting that speed.
“We understand [the Jets] are doing a great job in the neutral zone,” Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said. “They’re not giving us much space. A lot of it is what we’re doing. If we start doing it correctly, maybe we’ll get pucks deep and we’ll be able to get in on the forecheck.’’
Boudreau had Zucker, Eric Staal and Mikael Granlund back together as a line at practice Saturday. That group combined for 26 points in a three-game stretch earlier this season. The three combined for one point — Granlund’s assist — in the first two games of this series.
“I don’t think we’re going to get 26 points in three games, but I think it can be really good,’’ Zucker said. “I think we can complement each other really well as long as we skate and we battle and we compete.’’
Said Staal: “Granny is a great playmaker. He’s on the pucks, he makes plays in traffic. It’s tight out there. So you gotta be able to make plays quickly, and he can do that.’’
Boudreau said the move was a no-brainer: “When you don’t muster a lot of offense, you try changes.’’
Day off for Dumba
Defenseman Matt Dumba didn’t practice Saturday. “He’s fine,’’ Boudreau said. “When you play 30 minutes a game and you’re not really used to it? I told him to stay home [to rest].’’
Jets still not in town
The Wild flew home after Friday night’s game in Winnipeg.
The Jets didn’t fly until Saturday, and they couldn’t land in the Twin Cities because of the snow and diverted to Duluth. Eventually, they headed back to Winnipeg and will try again Sunday morning.