Four games against the Mike Yeo-coached St. Louis Blues dating back to the regular season, and the scores have been:
Blues 3-1 (with an empty-netter, so basically 2-1).
This would explained the stunned looks by Wild players inside the locker room late Sunday when they tried to piece together how the heck they could be down 3-0 in this best-of-seven series.
Three goals in three games despite 117 shots, including 90-plus attempted shots in Game 1 and 79 tonight compared to the Blues’ 46 shot attempts. The Wild's now 2-11 in its past 13 playoff games.
Jake Allen made another 40 saves (114 in the series for a .974 save percentage and 0.91 goals-against average) and the Blues blocked 23 shots.
This time, just 1:13 after Charlie Coyle tied the score for a Wild team that has yet to hold a lead in this series, Ryan White was called for a penalty that Martin Hanzal actually took. Jaden Schwartz skated into Hanzal’s back swing of a faceoff. Here's the replay.
According to the NHL’s video rulebook here, a player is permitted accidental contact on an opponent if the act is committed as a normal windup or follow through of a shooting motion, or accidental contact on the opposing center who is bent over during the course of a face-off.
Schwartz isn’t a center, but NBC analyst Mike Milbury said on NBC between periods that this was a blown call. I talked to Milbury tonight via text and by phone. He maintains this was a blown call because they clearly thought White clipped Schwartz by virtue of them bringing the wrong guy to the box and that if the ref saw it correctly, they would have understood Schwartz skated into the follow-through and thus would have shown discretion by not calling it.
The ref right there didn’t call it. The other ref two zones away by the far faceoff circle did.
Don’t shoot the messenger (Blues fans), but a league official I corresponded agreed with this summation because they brought the wrong guy to the penalty box.
Regardless, the Wild needed to kill the penalty and 1:07 into the power play, the Wild was unable to get a clear and Schwartz of all players got a beat on Marco Scandella to the right post and banged in Alex Steen’s wraparound pass.
So, Coyle tied the game at 12:59 of the second. The Blues had their lead back by the 15:19 mark.
Allen then made 19 saves in the third.
Is Allen in the Wild’s heads?
Yeo: “I don't what they're thinking, or what's going on over there. I mean, we have enough on our plate here to make sure we're focused on our guys.”
What’s amazing about this series besides the fact the Wild has three goals in three games after scoring four goals or more IN A GAME 34 times in the regular season, the Wild’s usually a good rush team.
But the Blues have done a sensational job in the neutral zone. In fact, that’s why it was so stunning when Ryan Suter caught them with a 60-foot headman to create the 3-on-2 before Coyle scored.
It was one of the rare times the Wild came with speed and didn’t have to dump and chase against their big defensemen.
“We’ve got to move pucks quick through the neutral zone,” Suter said. “On that goal, that’s exactly what we did. For us to have success, we have to get pucks in and if they’re packing it in, we’ve got to score off rush.”
Couple other things:
White played tonight and was put on the third line with Hanzal and Nino Niederreiter. I thought their speed was an issue, I thought evidenced by the two 2-on-1’s they helped cause in the first that led to two Suter penalties.
Bruce Boudreau disagreed.
“If you’re looking for me to criticize our team, it’s not going to happen,” Boudreau said. “We were friggin good tonight and we didn’t get the breaks. So quit trying to put words in our mouths that make us look like we’re bad because we’re not.”
Suter and Mikko Koivu also had tough nights on the Wild’s power play that had four shots at trying to tie the game and didn’t.
Suter had a number of turnovers, including a drop pass to Kyle Brodziak that almost resulted in a goal.
“We couldn’t get in the zone,” Suter said. “Skating up and down the ice I think the whole power play. We had some looks, but for the most part we couldn’t get set up.”
Here are some other quotes:
Boudreau: “Well, if you’re looking for things, you can nitpick and find ways ... reasons we’re not that successful. But I don’t think we’re playing that bad. We had 79 shots at their net today, compared to, I think it was 47. Not that that’s an indicator of anything, there are some parts of our game that could be better, there’s no doubt in my mind. The one thing I’m not going to criticize is our effort. These guys are trying right to the end; they’re trying as bad as everybody. They want to bring it home to Minnesota but right now, it’s just not working.”
On Wednesday’s game, Boudreau said, “I think it would change for sure. We gotta look at it like it’s a Game 7 on Wednesday and not worry about the series at all. That’s why, during the course of the season, you have goals of one week. It’s short-term goals; it’s one Game 7 on Wednesday. If we play like we played tonight with a few little tweaks, who knows, I think we can be successful.”
Four teams out of 184 have completed 3-0 comebacks in the playoffs. Said Boudreau, “Well, it is possible. It’s been done. It doesn’t happen very often. When you have three games that were as close as ours, it doesn’t take a lot to turn it over. I think it’s two pretty evenly-based teams. Like our whole goal is to win Wednesday. Win Wednesday and we’ll be happy for a day and we’ll see what happens on Friday.”
Eric Staal on the offense: “It’s tight. I mean, it’s playoffs. It’s been one goal difference. It’s not like they’re getting chance after chance. It’s playoff, it’s tight, it’s one-shot difference. We’re just not capitalizing when we have the chances and then they have. It’s two good teams, tight-checking. There’s not a lot of room, and you’ve got to fight to find ways to get there and you’ve got to cash in when you can, and we haven’t been able to do that.”
On the power play, Staal said, “It’s frustrating, especially since theirs did and got the winner. Special teams are huge in the playoffs and it’s an area we needed to be better and we weren’t tonight.
Suter: “We’re not playing bad. We just can’t score right now. If we can find a way to score a goal, I think it’s a different game. we have chances, but obviously chances aren’t good enough.”
On the disappointment, Koivu said, “I don't know what it is -- well it's obvious that it's offense. We can't find any holes there right now. We have to figure that out soon. … You know what we're trying to do things, trying to find holes to get there. He's playing good. It's not an excuse. We have to be more patient. It's tough to point to one thing.”
On regrouping: “Well we've got to get ready for the next one. That's all we can do right now. And make sure that we start again 0-0. We can't start cheating. We have to continue to stay with our strengths and do the things and offensively we have to be better.”
How do you stay positive in this situation? “We don’t have a choice. We’re working hard. We played three pretty good hockey games and if we get frustrated and start changing what we’re doing, it’s not gonna work for us. We just gotta keep playing hard, putting pucks to the net and try to get some bounces, and see if we can turn the momentum.
Do you feel like this should’ve been a win? “It’s another one that could be. I think when they get a power-play goal, it’s the difference in the game. Really, it’s all three games have been that way. It’s a bounce one way or another and it’s pretty crazy to be in this situation with three games like that. But again, all we can do is keep pushing the way we’re pushing. Guys are working, guys are there and everyone’s working as hard as they possibly can. We just gotta start with one on Wednesday. That’s what it all comes down to.
What about this team leads you to believe you can battle back? “Well, like I said, three games are one bounce one way or the other. When they’re up 2-1 or 3-0, obviously that’s easy to say, but they have been that close and we’ve had our chances and we’ve had some that just found a way to stay out of the net. If we were getting smoked every game, obviously then that’s a different story. But that’s not the case. Like I said, guys are working and playing hard and that’s what we’re gonna keep doing here.”
That’s it for me. It’ll be a long three days. Wild returned home to Minnesota. Not sure yet what type of access they’ll have Monday.
Blues have the day off and are making Mike Yeo available.
I kept a ton of Blues leftovers, and I’m actually staying in St. Louis til Wednesday’s game. Several back in Minnesota will have the Wild covered for ya.