Wild coach Bruce Boudreau admitted his third defensive pair — Jonas Brodin and Christian Folin — looked “a little bit nervous” Wednesday, when the Wild lost 2-1 to St. Louis to open the first round of the NHL playoffs. That said, Boudreau doesn’t plan any lineup changes when the playoffs resume Friday with Game 2 at Xcel Energy Center.
Folin had a rough night in his NHL playoff debut. He played 11 minutes, 4 seconds — less than half as much time as Brodin, who had the next-fewest minutes among the defensemen — and the pair made mistakes that led to the Blues’ first goal. Though Boudreau could opt to use Nate Prosser in place of Folin, he said Thursday he wants to extend Folin’s minutes rather than cut them.
“I think we have to play him more, to get him more involved,” the coach said of Folin, who had one hit, one blocked shot and was minus-1. “When he plays more, he’s a better player.
“I thought [Brodin and Folin] looked a little bit nervous. The first [Blues] goal, they scored off a won draw. That’s a standard play by us. That should be an easy play, but I think we panicked a little bit.”
On that goal, Eric Staal won a faceoff in the Wild end, but Brodin’s clearing attempt was corralled by Alex Steen. Steen passed to Vladimir Sobotka, who found an opening when Folin fell, then put a shot off Folin and past goalie Devan Dubnyk.
Boudreau was pleased with his second defensive pair. He said Marco Scandella was “the best player on the ice” in Game 1, and he noted that Matt Dumba played only two seconds shy of 30 minutes. “With them, it’s fine,” he said.
He also got the usual steady performance from workhorse Ryan Suter. Boudreau wanted Suter to play fewer minutes in the regular season and trimmed his average ice time to 26:55 per game, the lowest of his five seasons with the Wild.
Boudreau said he didn’t do that to keep Suter fresh for the postseason, calling the reduction “the natural thing to do” in a system where he expects all six defensemen to contribute. Suter, who played a game-high 34:32 Wednesday, didn’t see the nerves Boudreau noticed in the third pair but is prepared to aid the group as needed.
“I thought everybody played well,” Suter said. “Everybody makes mistakes. It’s a game of mistakes. I thought they did fine. But if [Boudreau] thinks that, maybe we’ll have to come back a little bit harder and focus a little bit more defensively to help the young guys out.”
The theme in the Wild’s locker room Thursday was to remain undaunted, no matter the frustration that Jake Allen created in Game 1. Though the Blues goalie stopped 51 shots and surrendered only one goal, Boudreau and his players thought their game plan was effective. The only change necessary for Game 2, they said, is to push a bit harder and get more pucks and bodies to the net.
No one had more reason for angst than Charlie Coyle. The forward saw Allen stop all six of his shots on goal, and when Coyle got a great open look on a power play in overtime, his stick shattered.
“He was snakebit, for sure,” Boudreau said. “I don’t know if there’s anything he can do different. I guess the only thing we would say is bear down more. We’ve seen it happen before. When you get into those shooting areas, just bear down and try to put it right through the goalie, or right through the net.”
Coyle still was shaking his head Thursday over the ill-timed equipment malfunction.
“What are the odds?” he said. “That’s probably game over. That’s how it goes sometimes. But like I said, we have to stay positive through it and get that next one.”
Suter committed two penalties in Game 1, with the most agonizing one a slashing call in overtime. He had little choice but to use his stick on Alex Pietrangelo to stop a two-on-one, but that didn’t make his time in the box any easier.
The Wild’s penalty kill came through valiantly, as it did all night. The Blues were 0-for-4 and recorded only four shots on goal with the advantage.
“Oh, man, that was awful,” Suter said of his overtime penalty. “My uncle [longtime NHL defenseman Gary Suter] told me when he used to play and he was in the box, he would always keep his fingers crossed under his gloves. I tried that [Wednesday], and it worked.”
Pietrangelo also was penalized for slashing during overtime, so he could commiserate. “It’s not a good feeling, I’ll tell you that,” he said. “But it’s why we have a good penalty kill.”