ST. LOUIS – The pure numbers would lead one to believe it’s the Wild that has a 3-0 series lead, not the other way around.
The Wild has directed 228 shots at the Blues’ net compared with 142 aimed at the Wild net. The Wild’s Corsi For (5-on-5 shot differential) is 63.3 percent, by far the best in the Stanley Cup playoffs. The Wild’s faceoff advantage is 133-89, and its hit advantage is 102-70.
Yet, it’s the Blues who are up 3-0 in a series for the first time since 2001 and eighth time in history. It’s the Blues who have not trailed at any point during the series (197 minutes, 48 seconds). And, it’s the Blues who have held the lead for 103:51 of total playing time (52.5 percent).
So how did the Wild find itself in this most precarious of positions?
A complete lack of finish (a hard-to-believe .026 shooting percentage) and Jake Allen, the first goalie in Blues history to win three playoff games in a row while allowing no more than one goal in each game.
In fact, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, this is only the sixth time in the past 32 years that a goalie began a playoff campaign in that manner — Mike Richter with the Rangers in 1994, Allen’s goalie coach Martin Brodeur with the Devils in 2001 and 2006, Chris Osgood with the Red Wings in 2009 and Braden Holtby with the Capitals last year.
“I keep saying, ‘Unbelievable.’ He’s been phenomenal,” Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. “It’s fun to watch, fun to be a part of. It’s great to see him doing so well because he’s a great goalie.”
Allen, who won 11 of his last 15 regular-season starts with 26 goals allowed in that span, has stopped 114 of 117 shots (.974 save percentage) and has a 0.91 goals-against average.
“He’s been great,” said Wild winger Charlie Coyle, who has one of the Wild’s three goals in the series. “We’ve got to find ways to put it past him some more. He’s obviously playing awesome. Their goalie is playing good. You throw anything in there and you’ve got to take away his eyes. You’ve got to have second, third, fourth efforts.”
As the Wild took a day off in the Twin Cities, Blues coach Mike Yeo gave his team a break to recharge.
“I know the way [the Wild’s] going to come out, I know there’s a lot of pride in that locker room but more importantly there’s a real good hockey team that is going to bring their ‘A’ game, so obviously we’re going to have to be ready to match that,” said Yeo, the former Wild coach. “We’re in a good spot, but we know that there’s an awful lot of work to be done.”
The Blues are a league-best 25-8-2, including the three playoff wins, since Yeo took the reins from Ken Hitchcock on Feb. 1. They ended the regular season with a league-best 1.88 goals-against average, 1.53 even-strength goals-against average, .937 save percentage and 88.8 percent penalty kill under Yeo.
So their ability to shut down the NHL’s second-best offensive team during at least the regular season is no fluke.
“We had to fight to get into the playoffs. It was not an easy task,” said Yeo, his team 18-2-2 in its past 22, said. “And every game was meaningful, and along the way, you lose [Kevin] Shattenkirk [via trade], you lose [Paul] Stastny [to a foot injury], we lost [Jori] Lehtera for a while, we lost [Robby] Fabbri, and there was never a time where we buckled, there was never a time where guys accepted anything less than our goal.”
Vladimir Tarasenko, who has no goals and two assists in the series, was downright giddy after Sunday’s win.
“We just stick [up] for each other, stay together, play for each other,” he said. “This is part of our game that I really like and we all really enjoy our time together right now. When we go on the ice, we try to leave each other in a good spot, just support each other everywhere. Now we have [a] 3-0 lead, but nothing’s over yet.
“We have a day to recharge our batteries, practice one more day and then Game 4’s coming.”
The Blues are preparing for what Allen said is “the hardest game yet” Wednesday.
Parayko said the “series could have gone either way,” so the Blues know they have to be better.
“That fourth one is going to be tough,” said winger Jaden Schwartz, who has two game-winning goals in the series. “They’re going to do everything they can to bring it back to Minnesota. Both teams have a couple of days to get ready. It should be another fun one.”