When you look at the numbers for our big acquisition at the trade deadline this series- 0 goals and 0 assists through four games- you may look in stunned disbelief and say, "This is what we gave Torrey Mitchell and two second-round picks away for?"
Yep. We did. Thanks, Cody McCormick.
But it wasn't just the blockbuster trade for McCormick that's drawing ire for lack of production. A small throw-in by the name of Matt Moulson was also brought to Minnesota in that trade. Moulson did well in the final 20 games of the playoffs, scoring 6 goals and notching 7 assists for the Wild down the stretch.
However, among Wild forwards that have played all four games in this series, Moulson and McCormick are the only ones to go pointless thus far in this series. The 2014 Draft isn't supposed to be very good at all, and Wild GM Chuck Fletcher refrained from giving up a pick in the already-heralded-as-deep 2015 draft, but you don't want to see assets leave the building without getting something from them.
Fortunately, Matt Moulson has impacted the Wild in ways that aren't in the score-sheet. It's a combination of looking at a mix of Fancy Stats, some not-so-Fancy Stats, and of course, our own eyes.
Remember the first 65 minutes of Game 3? The one where the Wild threw 45 shots on net, and just couldn't get a puck past Varlamov to save their lives? That's a great parallel to what Moulson's been doing this series. What made the Wild dominant wasn't just the gaudy shot totals- though it was quite a bit of that- but also the more important fact of this: The Avalanche weren't shooting, either. Not only did Minnesota out-shoot the Avalanche in that game 46-22, but they also out-attempted them 75-37. Two shot attempts for every Avs attempt. Not only did the Wild get pucks to the net, the stopped Colorado from even having a chance to.
Yet, despite this, a super-human effort was needed by Mikael Granlund to make it so the Wild could barely squeak by Semyon Varlamov and the Avalanche 1-0. Huh?
It's how hockey goes sometimes. Few people like to hear "luck" when describing their teams fortunes or failures, because we can see why it happens. In Game 3, we could see that a lot of shots were hitting Varlamov, not the open spaces in the net. We could see Granlund pass up a scoring opportunity to make a pass. We could see Varlamov stand on his head- surely that effort couldn't have been luck? But sometimes, despite having a good process, you just can't buy good results. It's why we watch the games, if the team with the better process always achieved the better results, what drama would there be?
Well, as for Matt Moulson? It's just how hockey goes sometimes. Maybe he does need an elite talent like John Tavares to truly thrive on the scoresheet. Maybe he is holding the stick too tight. Maybe his 3 points in 10 games do indicate that, for whatever reason, his style doesn't work in the playoffs.
Unfortunately, that all is in the realm of opinion- there's no way we can really prove any of these things- how can you record how tightly one holds his stick? Let's look at something we can measure with Tavares.
In this case, we're going to look at shot attempts. At even strength, when Matt Moulson has been on the ice, the Wild have been dominant in terms of possessing the puck. In this situation, the Wild has out-shot the Avalanche 33-13 (of players that played all four games, only Erik Haula has done better at ES), and out attempted the Avs 59-30. With Matt Moulson on the ice, the Wild have been as dominant as they were in Game 3 of this series.
Moulson also did well in drawing penalties in Game 1 (a.k.a. The Game They Should Have Won), drawing both of the Wild's power plays that game, including the one that they scored on to pull ahead 2-1 early in the second. His two drawn penalties are more than everyone but Granlund and Zach Parise (who have 4 drawn penalties, each).
Well, the drawn penalty that led to that goal was nice, but why is this important, if Moulson can't make use of these opportunities? Because this covers up the Wild's weaknesses- uncertain goaltending (Though we love you, Darcy Kuemper. Keep it up!), a shaky penalty kill, and uninspiring defensive depth past the Top-4. Keeping the puck in the offensive zone, away from the Avalanche's forwards, and not committing penalties while doing so removes the Wild's weaknesses from the equation almost entirely.
A good in-game example of Moulson's skills benefitting the Wild directly came with 2:45 left in the third period. Remember in Game 1 when Roy pulled his goaltender with three minutes left to play, and they scored a goal. Of course you do! Roy was trying to pull the same stunt last night at the Xcel Energy Center, but Matt Moulson got a hold of the puck and fired it into the Avalanche's zone. It took a valuable 12 seconds before Colorado could manage to gain possession in the Wild's zone again. This didn't (and shouldn't have) garner the attention that Mikael Granlund's crucial three blocked shots did, nor the attention an empty-net goal to seal the game would have. But despite being off the score-sheet, it happened. It counted. And it helped the Wild win.
I, like so many other Wild fans, would love to see Moulson score some goals and help the Wild put away Colorado on the scoresheet. But there are other areas you can point to that show that despite his lack of points, he's producing and getting value for this Wild team.