"Grit First" Is Put To The Test
Now that the dust has settled from the back to back Wild losses in games four and five, it is time to assess where the team is.
The reality is that they have gone from up in the series to the brink of elimination in short order.
What we have seen, is a Wild team that continues to play well 5-on-5 and allow the special teams to determine the outcome. This is a formula for disaster for the Wild obviously.
Kirill Kaprizov has been held scoreless in four straight games, the longest such streak of his career to this point. That begs the question is #97 hurt? At this point of the season everyone is banged up, but Kaprizov is a winner, and his compete level is as high as there is in the league. He will fight through whatever comes his way as he only cares about one thing, winning!
Matt Boldy has been non-existent since playing so strongly in the game three Wild victory. He is not shooting the puck and that confidence that we all witnessed in Kaprizov's absence seems to be light years in the past right now.
Nothing more can be said about the penalty kill and the simply dreadful peformance the Wild have shown. We know going into the playoffs areas of concern will always be special teams and face-offs.
There is going to be a lot of finger pointing if the Wild cannot come back in this series, and rightfully so. These details are the complete undoing of the Wild, period end of story. DAllas has scored four powerplay goals in 17 seconds or under in this series. Face-offs enough said.
Dallas has scored nine powerplay goals in 22 opportunities overall and those markers have led to the series tilted in the Stars favor.
Dean Evason has not made the adjustments he needs to, and equally important is the fact that the assistants who's jobs are to handle the special teams and finer details within the game plan.
Winning face-offs is an art for sure, but it is a learned art and skill, while also being a team thing as well. It is not just the center or the player taking the draws that ultimately determine the win. It is the other four players who need to either pick up the man or get on the loose pucks, and step in to win the puck battles.
This area is and has been neglected for a very long time with the Wild and to this point has contributed heavily to the predicament the Wild find themselves in.
The series is by no means over, however the Wild will need to find a way to be better in each of these areas in order to find success. They have established that they are every bit as good as the Stars, so now with their backs to the wall the time has come to step it up.
Dean Evason is said to be tinkering with the lines but at this point it will be a wait and see for how the blender shakes out. Ryan Hartman and Mats Zuccarello were not skating today so no cards being tipped just yet as to what we may see when the Wild hit the XCEL Energy Center Ice tomorrow night.
This is what the playoffs are, push, get pushed, punch, get punched, deal with adversity, and overcome. If the Wild are ready to take the next step, it will take every player and coach to be on top of his game moving forward.
There is going to be penalties and bad calls. They occur with regualrity in these playoffs. They also happen to every team. The difference in this series is Dallas has capitalized while the Wild have complained. That needs to stop and the "grit first" mentality needs to show up throughout the Wild's game.