However, a seven-game Stanley Cup Playoffs series between teams can be as strategic as a match between Bobby Fischer and Boris Spassky.
“We’re trying to do the same exact thing to them that they’re trying to do to us,” Minnesota Wild defenseman Jordan Leopold said. “It’s just a matter of the chess match and playing percentage hockey and playing the odds. ”
Yesterday, the Wild captured the first piece in its opening-round series against the St. Louis Blues, 4-2, at Scottrade Center. The club executed its game plan and bottled up the Blues, allowing only 21 shots on goaltender Devan Dubnyk.
It’s only been four days since the Minnesota Wild closed out the 2014-15 National Hockey League regular season, but that’s an eternity in hockey years — especially for a team primed for the opportunity to chase Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The Wild begins the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs tonight, but will wait just a little longer with an 8:30 p.m. against Central Division champ, St. Louis Blues.
“Finally, it’s been a long week,” Wild Head Coach Mike Yeo said to start off his media availability after the team’s morning skate at Scottrade Center.
If the National Hockey League regular season is a crock-pot, having time to simmer over seven months, then a Stanley Cup Playoffs series is a flash fryer with teams trying to scald their opponents in four wins.
The Minnesota Wild expects the series with the St. Louis Blues to be tougher than a cheap steak. St. Louis plays a bruising style, but physical hockey is pretty typical come April. For the Wild, it will be important to stick with its own recipe for success.
If goals were a stock, their value would skyrocket every April during the Stanley Cup Playoffs. With 16 teams trying to recess the market in scoring opportunities, the club that can blue-chip-in its chances will see the greatest dividends in the postseason.
In the last three years, the National Hockey League has averaged 5.33 goals per game during the regular season. During that span, the goals per game average has dipped to 5.16 in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. While those numbers might look insignificant, every marker matters when the payoff is a Lord Stanley’s silver chalice just as every penny matters on Wall Street.
For six and a half months, the Minnesota Wild battled for a chance to get to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the third straight season. After the regular season ended in St. Louis on Saturday, the Wild will have three days long days before starting its Round 1 series against those same Blues on Thursday.
Minnesota used today as a long preparation practice, even needing a much-mocked dry scrape before proceeding to power play work. The Wild has a familiar foe in the Blues and even with the layoff, there’s not too much to be gleamed before the series commences.
“It’s not like we’re going to unearth any great secrets here. There are maybe a couple of adjustments they make,” Yeo said. “The core of their game will be the same, we have a good feeling of an understanding of the players they have. We definitely have a high respect level for that team, but it comes a point as this week goes on, we have to turn our attention much more towards ourselves.”
With only one game remaining in the regular season, the Minnesota Wild’s Round 1 Stanley Cup Playoff opponent is still up in the air. Though, the Wild isn’t concerning itself with juggling the Western Conference scenarios. The team’s focus is not on the multiple balls in play in the West, but on its final foe, the St. Louis Blues.
Regardless, Minnesota’s game in St. Louis at 2 p.m. tomorrow at Scottrade Center will have playoff implications and the Gateway City is a possible destination for the opening round. Minnesota can still climb into the third spot in the Central Division with a win against the Blues and a Chicago Blackhawks loss to the Colorado Avalanche. If that’s the case, Minnesota will travel to Nashville for Game 1, where if just topped the Predators on Thursday, 4-2.
You never know who you’ll see in the Music City.
On the way to Bridgestone Arena for the Minnesota Wild’s morning skate, the Lighthouse rode in an elevator car with the one and only, Little Richard. To put it into context, for a giant music lover, it’s like a Wild fanatic meeting Devan Dubnyk.
The Minnesota Wild’s final road trip of the season is filled with more villainy than a James Bond film. The club will face three of its Central Division rivals, starting tonight against the Chicago Blackhawks, following it up against the Nashville Predators on Thursday, before closing against the St. Louis Blues on Saturday.
Though the road to the Stanley Cup Playoffs is difficult, the Wild is ready for the task, especially after sustaining a 2-0 loss at Xcel Energy Center against the Winnipeg Jets last night. The club had a chance to clinch a berth in the postseason yesterday, but will continue to push forward with only a trio of games left on the docket.
With end of the regular season looming like a final exam, the games have gotten harder, while the math to determine Stanley Cup Playoff combatants has gotten easier. Tonight, the equation is simple for the Minnesota Wild: win and you’re in.
The Wild skates in its final home game of the season hosting Central Division rival, the Winnipeg Jets. With a regulation or overtime win, Minnesota clinches a berth in the postseason, while knocking Winnipeg down a peg in the Western Conference standings ladder.
At this point of the season, four days between games seems like an extended vacation. Tonight, the Minnesota Wild returns from its spring break to host the team atop the Eastern Conference standings, the New York Rangers.
Minnesota wants to jump right back into the swing of things against the potent Rangers. They’ll have rested legs coming out of the gate.