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First Goal Makes All The Difference

Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Hockey is a sport of momentum. You know this, we know this, everyone knows this. No more where is this apparent in the two wins for the Wild in the Western Conference Quarterfinal series against the St. Louis Blues. Each game has been riveting and the crowds in each building have been superb. The goals in the series has been fairly even as well, as the Wild have out-scored the Blues by a 8-6 margin. Minnesota also has the lead in shots per game, edging the Blues 26-21 shots. The fact that this series led by Minnesota 2-1 isn't surprising.

What is surprising is that we have had the winner decided by the team who scores first. The Wild jumped out to an early lead less than three minutes into Game 1 on a goal by Jason Zucker, and Scottrade Center went silent, essentially taking the wind out of the Blues' sails. Now, the Blues did score to make it interesting in the third period of that game, but with the Wild playing from a point of strength, and with the open net at the other end, the Blues could not come all the way back.

Likewise in Game 2. The Blues got the first goal of the game by Vladimir Tarasenko. They were able to hold off the Wild in the third period with a Patrik Berglund goal off a line rush to extend the lead and finally and empty netter to seal the win. Then we all know what happened in Game 3 as the Wild dominated puck possession metrics for all of the game, but after a scoreless first period, people were getting worried that the Blues were going to stay in the game long enough to maybe steal it. That mindset changed, of course after Pominville's slam dunk put the Wild ahead for good.

In all three games the team that has scored the first goal of the game has won. In fact, the first goal has meant everything for these two teams all season long. The Blues and Wild rank 4th and 5th respectively in the league for win percentage when scoring first.

Team Win Loss OT Win%
Blues 36 6 4 .783
Wild 35 6 4 .778

These two teams are so solid defensively when playing with the lead, that it is tough for teams to comeback and win against them. This series has been no different.

However, things change when you look at winning percentage after giving up the first goal.

Team Win Loss OT Win%
Blues 15 18 3 .417
Wild 11 22 4 .297

That winning percentage seems putrid for the Wild, but it is only a difference of four games. Either way you look at it though, the two teams don't win very often when they trail first. And, as we've seen through the first three games of this series, the Blues tend to lose their composure when they play from behind as they attempt to goad other teams into taking stupid penalties.

The Wild need to come out and play the same exact game as they did Monday night. That's obviously easier said than done, but you can see that if they can score early, chances are the Wild will take a 3-1 lead in the series.