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Wild Takes Day to Rest, Regroup Before Game 4

Boudreau: Monday an important 'mental health day' ahead of daunting challenge

by Dan Myers @1DanMyers /

Boudreau Looks Toward Game 4

Bruce Boudreau Looks Toward Game 4

Bruce Boudreau spoke with the media during an off day about keeping his players focused on Game 4 and not the possibility of elimination

  • 10:04 •

ST. PAUL -- With the players away from the rink, Minnesota Wild coach Bruce Boudreau and his staff have assembled in the bowels of Xcel Energy Center on Monday hoping to chart a different course forward ahead of Game 4 against the St. Louis Blues on Wednesday.

At this point, as Boudreau noted, there isn't a lot the staff can change. After five regular season meetings and three more in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, there aren't many surprises left in the coach's bag of tricks. 

Instead, winning Game 4 and surviving for a potential Game 5 back in St. Paul this weekend will come down to execution of a game plan that has, by and large, been successful through three games.

Minnesota owns huge advantages in several major categories, including shot attempts (228-142), shots on goal (117-79), hits (102-70) and faceoff win percentage (59.9 percent). Despite those sizable gains, Minnesota hasn't been able to finish the deal in the most important statistical category: on the scoreboard.

"We go over, like a fine-toothed comb, over the video why things like that don't happen," Boudreau said. "Obviously, their goalie [Jake Allen] is playing pretty well. Their defense is protecting pretty well. And when we get the opportunities, we're either over-handling it or a little bit nervous, or holding the sticks too tight because things aren't going in."

Boudreau cited an instance in Game 2, when Jason Zucker exited the penalty box and led a 2-on-1 rush with Eric Staal into the offensive zone. Zucker appeared to over-skate the puck, then sent a pass behind Staal, who attempted to return the puck to Zucker.

The puck fluttered into the corner, the golden opportunity had vanished, and the scoreless game continued. 

"I mean, we want to do the right things," Boudreau said. "But things aren't going the right way, so he's probably not playing with as much confidence as you'd like to think they'd be playing with."

If Zucker and Staal had been able to capitalize there, or had the Wild been able to finish the deal in any number of opportunities with games tied over the first three games, it's likely the tone and tenor of the series would be quite different.

Minnesota has yet to play with a lead in any of the three games. Instead, the Blues have scored first and been able to settle into a game of protecting the net and limiting the number of grade-A chances seen by Blues goaltender Jake Allen.

St. Louis has been more than willing to allow the Wild shots from the outside. In the meantime, the Blues' big defensemen have gone to work clearing the area around the crease, allowing Allen open views of nearly every shot.

"I think it would certainly be nicer if we played with a lead," Boudreau said. "I don't know [if it would change how they play], because we haven't had it. But they would probably, depending on the time in the game, they would probably have to open up a little more. I don't think they would change the way they were playing if it was the first period, but if we had a one-goal lead in the third period, it might make a little bit of a difference."

The coach also reiterated his desire for the team to break down the series into smaller bits. While staring a 3-0 deficit in the face seems daunting, approaching Game 4 from a shift-by-shift, period-by-period challenge is the way he wants his team to play.

Put together a winning effort on Wednesday, and try to replicate it in a Game 5 on Saturday in front of a home crowd. 

"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," Boudreau said. "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."

This and that

A couple other tidbits from Boudreau's availability on Monday:

• Expect the Wild to spend plenty of time going over its power play at practice on Tuesday, trying to find a way to overcome the Blues' aggressive penalty kill. Minnesota scored a 5-on-3 goal in Game 2, but has so far gone 0-for-9 in 5-on-4 situations.

"We go over the tape every day to nauseam on that," Boudreau said. "We try different ways to do different things. So far, none of these things have worked, so we go back to the drawing board and practice it again tomorrow."

• Boudreau has been pleased with the play of goaltender Devan Dubnyk, who has surrendered the first goal in each game but has made timely stops in critical situations to keep the Wild afloat in all three games.

Among them, a pad save on Blues sniper Vladimir Tarasenko late in Game 1 that allowed the Wild to tie it a few minutes later, and another stop of Tarasenko on a breakaway late in Game 3, keeping the Wild within a goal.

Dubnyk has a 1.87 goals against average and a .923 save percentage in the series.

"We believe in him. In the end, he hasn't given up more than two goals a game," Boudreau said. "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 things we always do or say is 'two goals or two minors or less and we're gonna win.' So far in the postseason, that same thing hasn't happened."

• Monday is an important "mental health day" for the team before it gets back to work on Tuesday, Boudreau said. A practice at Xcel Energy Center precedes a flight back to St. Louis prior to a late puck drop on Wednesday.

"I think a mental health day, let them get over feeling sorry for themselves for a day and then come back and have a good practice tomorrow and then getting on the road and going in, and like I said, just to win one game," Boudreau said. "Let's start with that here. And then we'll think of something before Friday."

How will Boudreau manage his own mental health?

"I just think about it 24/7," he said. "Believe me: I want to win more than any human on the planet. It's tough, but the one thing I know about this group is we're not going to quit. We're going to go at them and just try to win one game, and then worry about the next game -- if that game comes to fruition."

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