One of the major reasons the Wild got past the St. Louis Blues in the first round is because it skated away when the Blues tried to provoke after-the-whistle altercations.
The Wild was shorthanded 1.8 times per game in the first round (11 times), the lowest in the NHL.
Discipline comes in different forms, and self-control will be just as important in this series against the Blackhawks. Beginning with Friday’s opener at United Center, the Wild will need to find a way to defend a quick opponent while avoiding obstruction penalties like interference, hooks and holds.
“These guys, they’re more of a skill, high-speed, high-tempo type team,” Wild defenseman Ryan Suter said. “It’s going to be a lot different in that regard. I don’t think we’re going to have to worry as much about extracurricular stuff after the whistles.”
The Wild did a quality job of limiting penalties in the regular season. It tied for seventh in fewest times shorthanded (234); when it did take penalties, the Wild was the NHL’s best at killing them off, with an 86.3 percent success rate.
Coach Mike Yeo said it’s important for the Wild to take care of the puck so it doesn’t feed into Chicago’s rush game. When the Blackhawks do come at them, the Wild needs to move its feet and keep sticks down.
While Yeo said the “stupidity part’’ of trying to goad opponents isn’t the Wild’s style — and isn’t likely to be effective against Chicago, anyway — he also emphasized that the Wild cannot be passive.
“When we’re at our best, we are a disciplined hockey team,’’ Yeo said. “But we play physical between the whistles as well. We should be finishing checks, especially on their key guys. We should be going in straight lines, arriving on the body, but also going to the hard areas, being strong on our sticks and strong in front of both nets. That’s the physical type of hockey that we have to play.
“[Chicago] has won two Cups for a reason. They’re a mentally strong team; they have the ability to play against different kinds of hockey teams. I don’t think we can go into this series thinking we can go break them. We’re going to have to beat them, and we’re going to have to do that with good hockey at both ends of the ice.”
The Wild has taken great pride in its ability to stay out of the penalty box and its effectiveness on the penalty kill. The Blackhawks have taken note. Their power play was average in both the regular season and the first round; in five regular-season games against the Wild, it scored on two of 11 chances.
“They play pretty disciplined hockey,’’ Chicago winger Marian Hossa said of the Wild. “We want to make sure if we get an opportunity, we want to get [the power play] going. Even if we don’t score, we want to create momentum. That’s important.’’
More Dubnyk honors
Wild goalie Devan Dubnyk, named a finalist for the Vezina Trophy last week, was named a finalist for the Masterton Trophy on Thursday.
The trophy is presented annually to the NHL player who best exemplifies the qualities of perseverance, sportsmanship and dedication to hockey and is named after Bill Masterton, the North Stars player who died on the ice in 1968.
The other finalists are Ottawa’s Andrew Hammond and Pittsburgh’s Kris Letang.
Josh Harding won the Masterton Trophy in 2013 to become the first player in Wild history to win a voted-on NHL Award.
Dubnyk was nominated by the Twin Cities chapter of the Professional Hockey Writers’ Association because of his remarkable second-half run after being traded from Arizona. After playing for three teams last year and ending up in the minors, Dubnyk went 27-9-2 with the Wild with a 1.78 goals-against average, .936 save percentage and five shutouts.
Wild winger Jason Pominville, who missed Wednesday’s practice because he was ill, practiced on Thursday. Yeo said there were no concerns about Pominville’s health, adding that the winger took Wednesday off just to “make sure he got all his energy back.’’
Chicago winger Kris Versteeg did not practice Thursday and is listed as day-to-day because of a lower-body injury. Versteeg finished the first round with one point in six games and was expected to be scratched in Game 1. Coach Joel Quenneville plans to reinsert rookie Teuvo Teravainen into the lineup on a line with center Antoine Vermette and winger Patrick Sharp.
• The online gambling website Bovada released updated odds on the playoffs Thursday. It lists the Wild as its fourth choice to win the Stanley Cup at 11/2 odds, behind the New York Rangers (13/4), Chicago (4/1) and Anaheim (9/2).
• The Wild will host a pep rally Friday at the IDS Center Crystal Court in downtown Minneapolis. The event will run from noon-1 p.m. and will feature Wild mascot Nordy and former Wild captain Wes Walz.