Game 1 is in the books. We've all had a chance to sleep on it now, and while a 4-0 score looks pretty embarrassing for a playoff team, not all is lost. There were some positives to take out of a game that saw the Wild out-shot 14-2 in the first period and for good portions of the game were dominated in all three zones.
I know what you're thinking. 'This guy must be on the Wild payroll to think anything positive about a 4-0 drubbing. I wish, folks- I could use the extra money! While I'm not going to go full Wes Walz on the bit, whose verbal diarrhea of sunshine and rainbows in the post game last night even made me uneasy, but lets look at this from the perspective of the Dallas Stars for a minute.
They are far-and-away the favorites to take this series by the junk and run with it. They peppered Devan Dubnyk in the first period last night, but aside from a moment of chaos in front of the crease, the Wild's defense held up pretty damn good. They killed all 3 power plays for the Stars in the first period and they played a nice tight neutral zone game that had to be a bit frustrating for the Stars. I suspect the period would have ended with a different feel had the Wild been able to stay out of the box.
I mentioned as much in my personal prediction for the series. The Wild need to play near perfect hockey, and cut down on mistakes because the Stars are a team that thrives on opposition mistakes. Careless penalties like the delay of game call against Jarret Stoll have to be eliminated. That is no secret, and the team knew this going in.
Yet the Stars, with all that offensive firepower they possess were only able to go 1 for 6 with the man advantage for the game. That's an 83% mark on the penalty kill against an elite offense who has been hitting on the PP at 25% in April.
Nino Niederreiter played just 11:26 in the game, yet he led the team in shots on goal last night with 4. Give that guy more minutes! He was clearly a target for the Stars throughout game one, as was exampled when he took an elbow to the sniffer in the 2nd period. When your team is struggling to put pucks on net, you need your shooters to be out there as much as possible. Jason Pominville notched 3 shots on goal in just 12:21 and Mikael Granlund had just 2 and was second among Wild forwards in ice time with 18:13.
Truth be told, the Wild with their current lineup is going to find it very difficult to measure up to the Dallas Stars. There's no secret in that statement. The biggest thing I noticed last night though was the difference in how the Wild approached the Stars advancing through the neutral zone in the first period and the rest of the game. The Wild made it tough for the Stars to get any kind of clean zone entries and were pretty quick to retrieve any dump ins and start advancing the puck back out of their defensive zone.
The Wild need to also spend a lot of time analyzing that third period, especially in reference to how the Stars were clogging up their blue line. Where some might have noticed the nice passing and shots the Stars were getting off throughout the game, I was seeing a solid wall across their blue line. Their sticks seemed to catch every puck that tried to cross into their defensive zone. The Wild, if they want any success in this series are going to need to find a way to break through that wall more effectively.
It certainly wasn't all that awesome, there are no moral victories to be celebrated today. If you're looking for something to get optimistic about surround the Minnesota Wild though, there's definitely a few things you can hang your hat on. Just look at the lineups side-by-side. While a 4-0 outcome might not be surprising there, you could definitely picture it being far worse.