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Minnesota Wild - St. Louis Blues Game 1 Breakdown

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A deeper, slightly nerdier look into the Wild's victory last night.

The Wild's special teams made the difference last night.
The Wild's special teams made the difference last night.
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Warning: There are some graphs coming up. I know that might not necessarily be your thing, but I promise you, we'll get through this. If you really don't want to look at a graph today, here's our Game Story from last night.

Before this season, the Wild hadn't won a regulation game in St. Louis since the Bush administration. But this isn't your older brother/sister's Wild team. In the last month, the Wild have gone to St. Louis 3 times, taking two victories, including last night's 4-2 victory that secured a 1-0 Game 1 victory.

We had our Game 1 story up last night, but let's nerd out a tiny little bit (I promise, it won't all be numbers!) and see if we can establish any trends from the way the game was played last night.

Shot Attempts

The Wild registered 29 shots on goal last night, to the Blues' 21. That's good, right?

Well, maybe. When you look at overall shot attempts, things swing much more in the favor of St. Louis, who out-attempted the Wild 51-36 last night. Check it out.

WoIMINSTLCorsiG1

"But the Wild were blocking a lot of shots last night," you might say. And that's absolutely true. The Wild are a team that effectively used shot-blocking to limit scoring chances this season, and they attempted to do so last night. This is what the scoring chances looked like from last night.

WoIScChMINSTLG1

This is a little better, especially when you consider that the Blues didn't majorly pull away in either attempts or scoring chances until later in the third period, which happens to pretty much everyone. These totals were more even than being out-attempted 51-36, or even out-chanced 29-22 would indicate.

Micah McCurdy (@ineffectivemath on Twitter) found similar results. Here's a shot-attempts chart that shows how individual players did last night. (towards the bottom-right = good, towards the top-left = bad)

MBMcC Wild-Blues Game 1 Chart

As you can see, a lot of the star players hovered right around that red break-even line. Parise, Oshie, Backes, Tarasenko, and Pominville ended up playing to around a draw last night, and most everyone is clustered in around there. Some eyebrow-raising things to mention, though: Chris Stewart seemed to be pretty ineffective last night, and it looks like he may have ended up dragging the Koivu line down some.

Also, while Alex Pietrangelo and Kevin Shattenkirk were great last night, Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin are up at the top, meaning that they ended up surrendering a lot of attempts last night. It could've had to do with matchups- St. Louis is a tough team, and they can do that to you. But Suter and Brodin were started in the offensive zone throughout last night, while Spurgeon and Scandella, who were both in positive territory last night, were used a bit more defensively. If you've ever wondered why Hockey Wilderness advocates using Suter-Brodin a bit less, and Spurgeon-Scandella more, the reason is because of nights like last night.

Time On Ice

Here, we get to see what kind of match-ups Ken Hitchcock tried to get against the Wild all night.

WoITOIMINSTLGame1

Some interesting things of note:

  • Parise-Granlund-Pominville was the line that Hitch felt needed to be defended against most last night. The Parise line was matched with David Backes all night, usually with Demitri Jaskin and Patrick Berglund.
  • In contrast, a line that was taken a bit less seriously by Hitchcock was the Niederreiter-Coyle-Vanek line. Particularly early in the game, Hitchcock would send his Ott-Goc-Reaves line against them. Goc is a fine fourth liner, but Ott and Reaves are pretty bad. If this continues in Game 2, expect the Wild's third line to make them pay.
  • If you're wondering why the Zucker-Koivu-Stewart line had a less-than-stellar game, their job was mainly to stop the Steen-Lehtera-Tarasenko line from running all over them. Aside from the weird Short-Handed Goal at the end, they were quiet on the score-sheet.
  • The fourth-line of Bergenheim-Brodziak-Fontaine wasn't used a lot late in the game, but when they were on the ice, Hitch loved sending out his Schwartz-Stastny-Oshie line. The result? They played them mostly to a draw.

So, What Does All This Stuff Mean?

I don't know about you, but this all reflects pretty much what I thought about the game. The Blues may have had the better of the chances overall, but it wasn't by much. Goaltending and special teams (The Wild's PP, 6-on-5 play) were easily able to make up for the Blues being slightly better overall.

To me, the keys to winning Game 2 (that the Wild didn't already do in Game 1) are getting a more lock-down game out of Suter and Brodin, and being able to exploit Ott-Goc-Reaves if Hitchcock throws them out against a scoring like Coyle's.