Not only are you dealing with the dejection that comes with 3 straight losses, there’s also a track record to consider. 182 NHL playoff series have started with one team taking a 3-0 lead. Just 4 teams have overcome those odds.
I get it. You just witnessed the Minnesota Wild going down 0-3 to the St. Louis Blues on Easter. You’re perfectly justified in seeing that 2.2% and thinking, “Maybe I’ll sit Wednesday out.” After all, this series is over.
Ehhhh... maybe not.
Dom’s model is weirdly optimistic about the Wild’s chances of taking 4 straight against the St. Louis. 11% is 5 times as much as the 2.2% of teams that have actually done it. And the model doesn’t seem to be overly kind to other teams in 3-0 holes- Columbus’ odds of knocking out the Penguins are just 5%.
The State of Hockey is engaging in an autopsy of the Minnesota Wild right now, looking for any explanation for this disaster of a series. Can this veteran core accomplish anything in the playoffs? Did Jake Allen get in their heads? Are the Wild losing because they still lack that coveted superstar? Did Mike Yeo out-coach Bruce Boudreau? Did the Martin Hanzal trade ruin the Wild’s chemistry?
But while all of Minnesota is dissecting this from every angle, there’s an all-but-forgotten fact at play: The Wild could still win this. The 11% chance Dom’s model gives them makes a lot of sense, when you think about it.
Until Minnesota makes a series of this, the story in this match-up is going to be Jake Allen. Allen has a .974 save percentage in these last 3 games. At 5-on-5 play, Allen has stopped an absurd 93 of 94 shots against him (.989!!!). What he’s done is outstanding.
And it’s been extremely necessary for St. Louis. Because even though the Blues have gotten the better of the Wild in terms of the final scores, Minnesota has been by far the superior team this series.
The Wild have been nothing short of dominant. Minnesota has crushed St. Louis in Corsi, out-attempting the Blues 176-102 at 5-on-5. That 63.3% Corsi For mark is the best of any playoff team by far (Montreal’s second at 56%). And it isn’t skewed due to one game, either. The “worst” outing Minnesota had was in Game 2, where they still controlled 58% of the shot attempts.
Nor is this skewed by one line. Only in Game 2 did the Wild have a player that finished with a negative Corsi. And even then, it was just one (Zach Parise). Everyone else has finished at 50% or higher in every game of the series.
“Sure,” you may say. “But don’t the Blues want to let the Wild take a bunch of shots?” And yes, that’s kinda true. Yeo has his team running similarly to how the Wild were earlier this season. In both instances, the aim was to cede the perimeter in order to protect the middle. The idea is you give up more shots, but they come from less dangerous areas.
But that’s not really what St. Louis is accomplishing. Despite what the talking heads have said throughout the series, Minnesota has done a very good job of getting in Allen’s face. You can see it in the heat maps for Games 1, 2, and 3. Look at the hottest spots on them. They’re right in Allen’s crease. Even though Minnesota’s taken shots on the perimeter, too, the Wild are getting closer to the net than anyone in the playoffs.
So what can we take away from this?
The overarching narrative of this series is that the Wild can’t figure out away to get through the Blues’ defenses. That Yeo has out-coached Boudreau, leaving the Wild’s offense stymied and unable to beat Allen.
Very little of that is actually true. Yes, the Wild haven’t solved Allen, who is being the textbook Hot Goalie in the Playoffs™ right now. But little of this has to do with Yeo or his defensive system. Other than managing to slow down the Wild’s attack a bit in Game 2 on Friday, Minnesota’s been more or less able to do whatever they want with the puck.
They’re getting past the Blues’ defenders. They’re firing from close to the net. They’re taking a ton of shots, and they’re doing a better job than St. Louis at protecting their net, as well.
In short, Yeo’s only answer to the Wild’s offense is Allen. And Allen has needed every bit of that .974 save percentage to keep his team afloat. Each game has been decided by basically one goal.
What happens when Allen can’t stop 97% of the pucks he sees anymore? Even a slight drop-off in play means the Blues will be in hot water, given the fact that Minnesota isn’t giving them many looks at Dubnyk.
And if that happens, you could easily see Minnesota’s talent taking over, opening them up to a series comeback.
Do I believe the Wild will pull off this upset (albeit, an upset to avoid an upset)? No, not really. Minnesota’s margin for error is so thin, and Allen is clearly capable of slamming the door on the Wild’s Cup dreams. Especially with 4 cracks at it.
But as Boudreau mentioned after yesterday’s loss, it’s all Game 7s for the Wild from here on out. And anything can happen in Game 7s.
Anything. Even a Boudreau team coming out on top.
|Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports|
Wild takes 'a mental health day'
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau addressed the media Monday morning, the day after a 3-1 loss in St. Louis dropped his team to 0-3 in its first-round series against the Blues. The team will practice at Xcel Energy Center tomorrow before returning to St. Louis for Wednesday's Game 4, but the coach chose to give them Monday off.
Boudreau said he knew it would be impossible for the Wild to forget about what has happened in the series thus far. Still, he hopes they can relax for a day before Wednesday's must-win game at Scottrade Center. He and his staff continued to work Monday, searching for ways to fix an offense that has scored three goals--including only one five-on-five--in three games.
Mr. Russo remained in St. Louis and will be writing from there today. Here's a sampling of Boudreau's comments from the X this morning after giving the players what he called a "mental health day.".
--On why the offense can't finish: "Their goalie is playing pretty well. Their defense is protecting pretty well. And when we get the opportunities, we're either overhandling it or a little bit nervous, or holding the sticks too tight because things aren't going in. ... We want to do the right things, but things aren't going the right way.''
--Thoughts on the huge difference in shots on goal, with the Wild logging 117 shots to the Blues' 78: "(That) tells us we can tweak a lot of things. You're down 3-0, but it certainly says you haven't played that bad. Can we play better? Of course we can. I think there are certain times that things happen that we should be able to adjust a little bit better. But overall, is the care and the fight and the try there? Yeah, it has been.''
--Is there anything you can learn from other teams that have rallied from 0-3 deficits?: "Because it's been done, we know it's not impossible. ... I'm sure St. Louis is going to be very aware of it, and they'll want to close it out in four more than anything. But it's an amazing thing, this momentum thing. If you can get on a roll and things start going for you, it could be made into a series.''
--On Devan Dubnyk's play in goal: "We believe in him. In the end, he hasn't given up more than two goals a game. If I ask my goaltender just to give up two goals a game, we're going to succeed. During the course of the season, one of the things we always say is, 'Two goals or two minors (penalties) or less, and we're going to win.' So far in the postseason, that same thing hasn't happened.''
Bruce Boudreau explodes, proves goalie Jake Allen has gotten to Wild
ST. LOUIS — It took Wild coach Bruce Boudreau about three and a half minutes to prove Blues goaltender Jake Allen has gotten to his team.
When prodded about his team’s struggles following the Wild’s Game 3 loss to the Blues on Sunday at the Scottrade Center, the 62-year-old Boudreau completely emptied the clip before storming out of his postgame press conference.
“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. Quit trying to put words in our mouths that make us look like we’re bad because we’re not.”
To be fair, that’s exactly how Boudreau should’ve handled the situation in order to keep spirits up with his team trailing 3-0 in the best-of-seven series. That, and there’s also a lot of truth to his message, as the Wild have been the better team in the best-of-seven series except for the fact that Allen has been absolutely spectacular between the pipes.
Still, the fact that Boudreau lost his cool shows that the Wild are starting to get frustrated.
Who could blame them? Allen has been a brick wall, recording 114 saves in three games to hold the second-best offense in the NHL throughout the regular season to a measly three goals.
“We aren’t playing bad,” veteran defenseman Ryan Suter said dejectedly. “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. Obviously chances aren’t good enough.”
When asked whether he thinks Allen has gotten to Wild players, Blues coach Mike Yeo unsurprisingly refused to bite.
“I don’t know,” he said. “I don’t know what they’re thinking, or what’s going on over there. I mean, we have enough on our plate over here.”
Yeo obviously knows the Wild well, though, and he has to have a hunch Allen is getting to them, whether he’ll say it or not.
No player showed that more than Wild captain Mikko Koivu postgame.
“I don’t know what it is,” Koivu said with a perplexed tone as if he was racking his brain for the perfect answer. “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.”
That might be an understatement, as Allen continues to endear himself to Blues fans with each highlight-reel save.
“He’s been great,” snakebitten winger Charlie Coyle added. “We got to find ways to put it past him some more. He’s obviously playing awesome. … You throw anything in there. You’ve got to take away his eyes. You’ve got to have second, third, fourth efforts.”
That sounds like a good idea, in theory, though with the way Allen has been playing as of late, it might not matter.