Following Wild games, Manager of Digital Content Mike Doyle will give the Five Takeaways that he remembers from the contest. Tonight, he looks back at a 6-1 loss against the St. Louis Blues in Game 4 of the First Round:
This has been a bi-polar four games between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues. Splitting two in each city, the winning team has looked good in wins, while the losing team has, well, lost.
If you don’t believe in momentum carrying from game to game in a series, tonight’s game was a smoking gun for your argument against. Game 4 is an indicator to why Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo has been so adamant about having a short memory and only concentrating on the next game. So, it’s on to Game 5 in St. Louis on Friday night. The National Hockey League announced that game is at 8:30 p.m. State of Hockey Time.
After getting shutout on Monday, the Blues responded with an offensive outburst and exorcised some of its Stanley Cup
Through the first three meetings, the team to score first, won the contest. That trend has been about the only thing that has been consistent game to game. The Blues struck first and never looked back, tallying three times in the first 10:06 of the game.
Coming into tonight’s contest, the Blues had lost nine straight games on the road in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. On its way to victory, St. Louis finally got some offensive contributions from a few of its top players. Through the first three games, David Backes, T.J. Oshie and Paul Stastny were held off the score sheet. The trio showed signs of life tonight: Backes tallied a goal and an assist, Stanstny scored a goal and Oshie added an assist.
While the forwards finally scored, it was a familiar face that continues to be a hair in the Wild’s soup…
Steve Ott has drawn the most indignation from Wild supporters, but his impact on the series has been a little more than a clogged toilet when compared to the Hoover Dam that Vladimir Tarasenko has been in wins. In just under 11 minutes of ice, Tarasenko scored twice on three shots, including a highlight-reel breakaway.
Jori Lehtera gained control of the puck in the Blues zone and the Russian broke up ice like a wide receiver on a go route. Lehtera threw the puck up ice and Tarasenko caught it in traffic with Wild defenseman Jordan Leopold draped on him. The 23-year-old accelerated with Matt Dumba trying to chase him down on the left side. Tarasenko pushed the puck to his forehand, drawing goaltender Devan Dubnyk along with him. Then, he reached back and dragged the puck across the goal line with one hand on his stick. It was the prettiest goal of the series and the fifth from Tarasenko.
On the Blues’ first goal of the game, the Wild was at a disadvantage, though few observers probably noticed. Before Ryan Reaves scored the game’s opening goal, Alex Pietrangelo accepted a pass near the top of the right circle and wristed one towards the net. Wild forward Chris Stewart blocked the shot with his stick. However, the force of the puck broke Stewart’s twig, not completely in half but enough to make it look like it was held together with a hinge.
The Minnesota forward was in a tough spot because he was in the D-zone while the Blues regained control of the puck and started to set up its cycle. Rather than dropping his stick and go for a change, he decided to hold it where it was cracked, concealing the break. While the Blues cycled, he sagged with his broken twig and as Reaves wound up for a one-timer, he choked up on his shaft, positioning it in one hand like a netminder. However, Reaves put it past him and by the blocker of Dubnyk.
In the second period, the Wild’s ghosts of goaltending playoff injuries past flashed before the team’s eyes. (Quick history lesson: Two years ago, Niklas Backstrom went down during warmups before Game 1 in the team’s first round matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks and was replaced by Josh Harding. Harding was injured during Game 4 and replaced by Darcy Kuemper. Last season, Kuemper was injured in Game 7 of the first round against the Colorado Avalanche and Ilya Bryzgalov finished the contest). In a tough sequence, Dubnyk was hit in the head by Backes and then as he scooted along the ice to make a save, was struck in the man region by the puck. Needless to say, the netminder was in some pain. After a few minutes, he shook it off and was back between the pipes.
Overall, it was a tough day at the office for Dubnyk, who allowed six goals on 17 shots. Though, if there’s a netminder who can rebound from a bad performance, it’s him. His journey from ending last season in the minors to leading the Wild into the playoffs is as worn as a popular bike trail. So, he’ll be prepared to prove himself in Game 5 back in St. Louis.
Stick tap to the girl who kept rocking even when a Wild loss was inevitable. With about five minutes left in the game, “Shut Up and Dance” by Walk the Moon came across the speakers and the young lady danced like she was the love child of Ren McCormack and Alex Owens. She was a boogying maniac on the floor and she danced like she's never danced before.