The Wild felt Game 1 could have gone either way.
Take away a bad game-winning goal and add a little third-period puck luck, the Wild felt it easily could have skated out of United Center with a win.
That was my concern heading into Game 2. The Wild threw away an opportunity Friday, and if it’s true the Wild got the Blackhawks’ attention like Mike Yeo claimed Saturday, you knew the Blackhawks would respond Sunday and play a better game.
The Wild’s response to the Game 1 loss was awful though tonight and that’s why it fell 4-1. You could see it the first five minutes of the game when the Wild was throwing pucks away left and right. The longer the game stayed 0-0 though, I started to get the feeling the Wild may be able to steal a game the way it did so many road games in the second half.
But the Wild’s mistakes with the puck kept coming and ultimately three of the Blackhawks’ long list of game breakers made the Wild pay.
The Wild may be different. The Wild may be more experienced and more mature and all that. But this is a team that still doesn’t have Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane, and if you keep feeding them, they’ll find a way.
Thomas Vanek, fresh off Yeo’s praise from playing his best game in the playoffs in Game 1, was a team-worst minus-4. Ryan Suter, who had a chat with Yeo on the ice this morning, was a minus-3. Chris Stewart, who came back in tonight’s game after injuring his arm in a violent crash against the end boards on a trip from Johnny Oduya, is now goalless in eight playoff games.
Just not good enough from the Wild.
--First goal with the Wild on a power play, the No. 1 unit not only wasted 90-plus seconds of the power play, it gave up a shorthanded goal when Jason Pominville’s wide shot left the zone. Suter picked up the puck outside the zone and casually played it along the wall while looking for Pominville. Future Hall of Famer Marian Hossa surprised Suter by taking the puck, then leading a 2-on-0 with Toews. And even though Devan Dubnyk stopped Toews’ shot point-blank, the puck perfectly lofted in the air and hit the knob of his paddle and just crossed the line.
“First goal, pretty unfortunate the way that ends up going in the net,” Dubnyk said. “Hit me pretty solid and it was frustrating to watch the replay of that puck go off my knob and back in and be across the line because it’s on edge. That stuff happens. We’ve been comfortable being in those situations all year. Tonight we weren’t able to come back.”
--That’s partially because of the next goal.
Plenty of blame can go around on this Game 2 goal, but in Game 1, Vanek doesn’t touch a puck in the neutral zone on a hand pass. He thought it would be a D-zone draw. By rule, it would have been a neutral-zone draw, meaning there was no reason he shouldn’t touch the puck. Twelve seconds later, Dubnyk surrenders, granted, a bad goal for the winner.
Tonight, Vanek has got to have awareness that there’s 25 seconds left in the period and the Wild could get out down 1-0. Instead of getting the puck deep, he tried to pass to Charlie Coyle. The pass didn’t connect. Nino Niederreiter thought the puck would be dumped, so he strayed too far and was offside. Suter thought the puck would be dumped, so he’s well beyond the red line. Just a bad time for so many players to not be on the same page. Unacceptable, really.
Because of the offside, the Wild had to retreat and Suter had no clue that Kane was cherry-picking at the far blue line behind him. Duncan Keith knew though and hit Kaner with a perfect feed for a 2-0 lead with 19.9 seconds left.
Just brutal and another example of poor execution and guys not being on the same page costing the Wild. Again, as has been said over and over the last few days, this is a quick-strike opponent and if you crack the door open the slightest with the littlest mistake, the Blackhawks storm through.
“Can’t happen,” Zach Parise said of the two last-minute second-period goals in Games 1 and 2. “Those are backbreakers. You always grow up learning you don’t give up a goal in the last minute of a period. Those hurt us the last two games. Things like that, they just can’t happen. We can’t continue to do that to ourselves.”
Added Coyle, “Same story. It’s inexcusable. You can’t afford to make those, especially against this team. They’ll bury it every time. … That last minute there, we have to be tight, we have to be strong. It puts a dagger in us. The game’s not over, but it definitely dampens you a little bit. We have to tighten in those areas.”
Now, Matt Dumba did make it 2-1 with a power-play goal 1:20 into the third, but again, a Wild mistake cost them. On a line change, Jordan Leopold tried to hit Dumba. The pass was off the mark, Teuvo Teravainen intercepted it, banked it to Sharp and he buried it as Leopold took an about-face and tried to chase it down from the bench.
The Wild is now 0-8 in Chicago in the playoffs and 3-10 vs. Chicago in the playoffs.
The Wild doesn’t have the finishers to win this series if it plays with the puck the way as carelessly as it did tonight.
That’s plain and simple. The Wild doesn’t have Toews and Kane and Hossa and Sharp. When the Wild gets breakaways, it’s Kyle Brodziak and Stewart (like tonight), and they’re not finishing.
Suter said, “They have some good players and you make mistakes and most of the time it ends up in the back of the net. It’s too bad. When you make mistakes, they make you pay. That’s what happened tonight.”
"They have that killer instinct," Suter said. "Their top players know how to score. I made a mistake on that first one, and it's in the back of the net."
"We just to protect the puck," Suter said. "I don't think that was our style of game tonight."
Suter said, “We’re going back home. We have a great crowd. They won their two games. We have to hold serve now and win at home and go from there. For us, we have to focus on playing the way that we played to get to this point. We were trying to run and gun I think a little too much and it cost us.”
Dubnyk said, “We’ll try to keep getting better. We understand that the next game’s huge and we just have to treat it like a big game and just be focused and prepared to play our game and not think any more than that.”
Leopold said, “They have prolific scorers and if you give them an inch, they make you pay. For us, we just have to get to our consistency and get to our game. We showed spurts of it. We gave them those opportunities and we ended up paying for it, It’s unfortunate.”
“We didn’t make those mistakes. I don’t know what team played that game, but it wasn’t us tonight. It was 0-0 through the midway point of the game. We were doing some OK things without the puck to keep it at 0-0, but with the puck, like I said, that’s not us.”
SURPRISED? “I think it probably caught us all by surprise. I should have found a way to correct it during the course of the game. It was tough the way we started. That’s on me, but I’m never surprised by anything. I think it is fueled by emotion. I think the way we went into this game, obviously we put a great deal of importance, but when that happens quite often you have to make the sure the focus is right and the focus is on the process. I think we were focused on the goal and focused and the win and not focused on the things we needed to do.”
THEIR STARS BEING STARS: “I don’t really care about them to be honest. I only care about our team right now. They’re a good team and they’re here for a reason. We’re a good team and we’re here for a reason. First game had a different feel to it. This game, like I said, this was not us. The good news is this will be the last time we say this in this series. We’re faced with a similar that we were in last game. We’re coming home so we should be excited to play in front of our crowd, but we have to treat it like a Game 7 right now. We can draw upon the past. Last year we were able to win a couple games and get back in the series, but we have to make sure we learn from this.”
LINEUP CHANGES? “Yeah, we’ll consider everything. It was not a personnel thing. It was a between the ears thing. We’ll use tomorrow to collect ourselves. You have to have to the ability to bounce back, and you have to have the ability to take whatever you can out the game to be better the next game. That’s as simple as I can put it.”
“I’m sure they feel really good. I’m sure they think they’re going to win the series, but I still think we’re going to win the series. I think our team does too. Our confidence is not shaken. We just need to learn from this stuff and try to be better the next game.”
MISTAKES AT END OF SECOND PERIOD: The one thing I’ll say is obviously goals went in the net and we made critical mistakes. There was a lot of plays that didn’t end up in the net where we were making the same mistakes. Those players are going to get credit for that one, but all game long we were doing [bad] things.”
Parise said, “We did make some mistakes. … They capitalized when they had the chance. I don’t remember them having a lot of zone time, so we’re doing well in that aspect. But I thought through the neutral zone we turned the puck over a lot. Have to re-watch everything, but it just didn’t seem like we played a very good game.”
“Years past don’t mean anything. We have to play better. It doesn’t matter what happened last year, the year before. It doesn’t matter. We have to play a lot better than we did tonight,” Parise said.
Parise added, “Just win the next game and go from there. It’s easy right now to look at all the negatives and point fingers. We’re not going to do that. We’re going to stick together and win game 3. That’s what we have to do and then we’ll go from there.”
Wild won Games 3 and 4 last year at home after falling 0-2 against the Hawks. We’ll see if the Wild can do it again. But if the Wild’s best players aren’t bigger and if the Wild keeps coughing up pucks to the Blackhawks’ prolific scorers, there could be a quick, painful finish to this series.
Talk to you Monday.