It’s not time to hit the panic button, State of Hockey, but it is time to hit the reset button. After a stunning Game 1 overtime loss, the Minnesota Wild looks to even the best-of-seven series tonight against the Colorado Avalanche.
Minnesota played a good road game in Thursday’s, 5-4, overtime opener, just not good enough to take the series lead. However, the club will take a few valuable lessons from Game 1. After two periods, the Wild led the Avs by two goals, but costly turnovers allowed a Colorado comeback and eventual win in sudden death.
In the first period, the Avs came out physical, finishing every check. The pace of play was unsustainable and after the Wild adjusted to the rough stuff, it went to work. However, the rough play continued on for both teams and proceeded to scrum in front of both nets at every opportunity. Both head coaches, Mike Yeo and Patrick Roy, said that the scums were not a part of the game plan, but sometimes become a part of playoff hockey.
After offsetting minor penalties, the teams played four-on-four three times. Colorado took advantage of the more open ice once, on a goal off the stick of Ryan O’Rielly.
“We certainly don’t mind the four-on-four,” Roy said this morning. “It opens the ice a bit more, which is great…We try to get away from the scrums, it’s not good for the game of hockey.”
Yeo also wants to stay out of the scrums, but said that sometimes it is in the heat of battle, with tempers flaring, the pushing and shoving after the whistle happens.
“That’s not our focus,” Yeo said. You take enough cross checks in the back and it is kind of tough. I think it’s a tactic they’re tying to employ, and no question when they’re down. Of course they want to play four-on-four and open a little ice.
“We want to play harder between the whistles.”
While both teams want to stay out of the fray after the play stops, the Wild wants to continue playing physical.
“We’re going to keep playing in-your-face hockey,” Yeo said. “We want to do it between the whistles.
“Physicality is part of it. This is what makes our game great, especially this time of year.”
Expect both teams to try and set the tone early and often. In a best-of-seven series, every little bump, every battle, adds up in the long run.
In the defensive zone, the Wild needs a better effort battling and retaining body positioning.
“One thing is making sure we’re staying on our feet,” Yeo said. “You look at three of the goals they scored we’ve got guys who are in front of the net or behind then net that are down on the ice.
“We’ve got to make sure we’re a little more engaged in those battles.”
While Yeo wanted to wait until he could speak to netminder Darcy Kuemper to divulge his status for tonight’s game. However, the 23-year-old was the second goaltender off the ice, while Game 1 backup John Curry remained practicing with tonight’s scratches.