The Minnesota Wild got a legitimate wake up call in Game 1. Quite frankly they deserved to be destroyed in Game 1. The inconsistencies were becoming a distasteful habit and what was Bill Guerin's message? "It's about effin winning." Lesson learned. We outscored the Blues 11-3 in only 2 games. With MAF getting started this is where we take the series by the throat and continuing to run the course. However, here are ways for the Wild to gain the upper hand on the Blues and the rest of the opponents that await the Wild and their fight to the Stanley Cup.
Veteran wealth in between the pipes
I don't see another goaltending duo better than the Marc-Andre Fleury and Cam Talbot duo. The combination of veteran experience and Cup winning experience. Fleury is the most decorated goaltender in the NHL and Talbot was holding his own at the right times for the Wild to have a chance at making the playoffs. Keeping Talbot fresh is the best thing for the team. The net belongs to MAF right now. He does have a higher pedigree and winning experience over Talbot. Talbot got us to the playoffs, but now the playoffs is MAF's territory. If he struggles we have a fresh Talbot ready to go.
What if MAF can help us get pass not only the Blues, but the Colorado Avalanche? Talbot gets to take on the likes of either the Edmonton Oilers, Dallas Stars, Los Angeles Kings, and Calgary Flames. What if we go back to MAF in the Cup finals? This is Guerin's plan all along. Not trying to think ahead and stay in the present. If we keep playing the right way it looks like we're going to see more hockey into the summer. Let's continue to protect our goaltenders.
Beaking out Tyson Jost and the 2nd line
The 2nd line has yet to register much offensively, but they've been playing good in their end where I'm not really concerned about their production. However, you are going to face better opponents. You need your scoring depth to step up. Jost is starting to look better each game. He wants to show people why he's a former 1st round pick. I want another Ryan Hartman experiment!!!
I don't care about Jost not being an elite skilled player. He's talented enough offensively to make an impact in the top-6. He's more of a skilled player than a checking line player. You are curious how Jost would look between two highly skilled, dynamic wingers in Fiala and Boldy. Jost may not be the most skilled out of the 3, but I can garuntee he can be a better contributor offensively than Freddy Gaudreau who will bring out Fiala and Boldy making us harder to beat.
We can take the NHL by storm with the emergence of Jost that will wake up Fiala and Boldy. Make them explode. Our blueline will need to stay healthy first and foremost. Our scoring depth will be better than ever. We will have a legitimate scoring line that can give teams headaches on top of what Kaprizov's line brings. Moving Gaudreau to the 4th line won't shelter him. If anything he's better suited for a checking role than Jost. Gaudreau isn't known for his skillset. More of being in a smaller mold of Joel Eriksson Ek where he brings discipline, stability, and stellar two-way play that is supported by skill. Which brings me to my next topic.
Creating another GREEF line
Here's where the Wild can maximize their depth once and for all. The tougher our opponents get the more teams want to try to take out the GREEF line. I knew that Kurtis MacDermid was on garbage trying to take out the GREEF line to make matchups easier and in the Avs favor in case of a future matchup. This team needs to emulate another line similarly built to the GREEF line for further success. This is where Gaudreau can still be used heavily.
Just imagine the Gaudreau line taking over a hockey game because of their defensive ability to shutdown opposing teams' star players while being a heavy presence on the forecheck and keeping the puck in the opponents' end. Outworking the opponent. What if we have Brandon Duhaime take time to recover? Have a fresh and heavy body in Nick Bjugstad to slot in place of Duhaime? That way Gaudreau has two big wingers in Bjugstad and Deslauriers to win puck battles and support him defensively. Be suffocating on the forecheck. Deslauriers helping Bjugstad unlock his inner beast. He needs to get out the mindset of thinking he's still the college star. Once he does that he will be great playing alongside Gaudreau and Deslauriers. It will help us keep fresh bodies.
The GREEF line has been our best line so far in the playoffs. So many times I would talk to my TV and beg Evason to bring them back on the ice to neutralize the momentum and simplify the game. If we go on to win it all they should split the Conn Smythe trophy. They all have been our MVP's so far. We need to make another line who can do what they do. A line of Gaudreau, Bjugstad, and Deslauriers can emulate them. Making us legit. Just a thought.
Staying out of the box is the best thing for this team. Our penalty kill isn't the best. So we need to continue to stay out of the box as much as possible. We will be beating ourselves if we continue to get into penalty trouble. Continue playing safe hockey when it looks like the opponent is pressuring and trying to stir things up. It's all mind games. We stay 5v5 we can truly roll all 4 lines.
Kirill Kaprizov's starpower
Kaprizov's a hall of fame talent. He calculated that goal where he embarrassed Ville Husso. It was a textbook play that not many players can do at a fast pace. Shows how special of a talent we got. We need to continue to protect him. He's taking the NHL by storm. He's going to continue to run into opponents who will give him a hard time, but eventually he's going to find a way to contribute. He's instrumental to the Wild's success as much as our goaltending, defense, and GREEF.