Zach Parise

Bryzgalov remains ‘the guy’ in net for Wild heading into Game 3

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While Ilya Bryzgalov’s individual stats continue to look paltry on paper, many believe that he wasn’t at fault for many (if any) of the goals he’s allowed through two losses against the Chicago Blackhawks. Minnesota Wild head coach Mike Yeo shares that sentiment … or at least he realizes that he doesn’t have much of a choice but to support Bryzgalov.

Following Sunday’s 4-1 Game 2 loss, Yeo emphatically named Bryzgalov as Minnesota’s Game 3 starter. In fact, he said that discussing it is basically a waste of time in general, as NHL.com reports.

“He’s in the net,” Yeo said. “We got to find a way to get a win and that’s all of us. That’s him, but our team too and I’m not going to sit around and wait for another option, for someone else to come in. This is the guy, so let’s quit even talking about it. We shouldn’t even be talking about who is backing up. [Bryzgalov] is the guy right now and so we have to find a way as a team and as a staff to get a win.”

As this post indicates, one way to get back into the series would be to find away for the big trio of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter to break free.

Whatever the case may be, it’s up to Yeo to find the answers and Bryzgalov & Co. to rise to the occasion to avoid a swift exit against the Blackhawks.

At least Yeo is doing whatever he can to avoid the distraction of a goalie controversy. Then again, the Wild are probably accustomed to unrest considering their luck with netminders this season.

Here’s video of Yeo’s press conference:

Blackhawks continue to foil Parise, Suter and Koivu in the playoffs

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For all the talk about Sidney Crosby and Rick Nash chasing that first playoff goal, the most worrisome slump might revolve around the Minnesota Wild’s big names being unable to solve the Chicago Blackhawks. Simply put, Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter have had an awful time against the ‘Hawks in seven playoff games over two postseason series.

The good news is that they still have some time to figure things out, but so far, they seem downright baffled. Sunday’s 4-1 Game 2 loss may represent a new low for the Minnesota trio, too; they failed to score a point and combined for a -8 rating.

Parise, 29, is the only one of the three to even score a point against Chicago over those seven games. He generated an assist in Game 1 and scored one goal in Minnesota’s 4-1 series loss to Chicago in 2013.

MORE: Wild coach says his team is just a “play or two away.”

In case you’re curious, here’s a breakdown of how all three have fared in the two series against Chicago, with the obvious note being that they have plenty of time to redeem themselves as things shift to Minnesota:

Parise in 2013-14: one assist, -3 rating, nine shots on goal in two games against Chicago; In seven games against Colorado, Parise had a point in every game (three goals, eight assists for 11 points in that series).
Parise in 2012-13: one goal, -7 rating, 17 SOG in five games against Chicago.

Koivu in 2013-14: zero points, -3 rating, five SOG; Koivu had six points (one goal, five assists) against Colorado.
Koivu in 2012-13: zero points, -6 rating, 11 SOG in five GP

Suter in 2013-14: zero points, -5 rating, four SOG … 27:25 TOI in Game 2 and only 25:22 TOI in Game 1; Suter had four points in Minnesota’s series against Colorado and generally logged his usual heavy minutes
Suter in 2012-13: zero points, -5 rating, five SOG in five GP

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It’s really important to note that these lousy-looking numbers came in a very small sample size with five against the Presidents’ Trophy and Stanley Cup-winning team from last season and two against a championship contender this season. If anything, Chicago deserves as much credit as Minnesota’s biggest names inspire concern.

Still, with all of those caveats aside, it’s clear that things aren’t going well for Minnesota’s leaders (especially Koivu and Suter, as Parise’s shot totals at least imply that he could be more productive with better bounces).

The question is: what needs to be done to get them back on track? Will a change of scenery do the trick? Should head coach Mike Yeo consider shifting lines to try to avoid the likes of Duncan Keith, Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa or is it just a matter of the Wild’s big names digging deep?

That’s up to debate, but if Minnesota doesn’t find an answer soon, it could be another short series.

Wild coach: ‘We’re a play or two away’

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If you just look at the scores of Game 1 and 2, it looks like the Chicago Blackhawks have been blowing the Minnesota Wild out. Late goals still count, but it’s worth mentioning that Minnesota was close for chunks of both of those contests.

Wild head coach Mike Yeo certainly seem to back up the notion that the gap between the Blackhawks and Wild hasn’t been as large as the cumulative 9-3 score and 2-0 series lead for Chicago might indicate.

“We weren’t that far off, that game was hanging there for us,” Yeo said. ” … One of these games we need to find a way to grab a lead and play with it.”

Blackhawks head coach Joel Quenneville maintained that there are “no easy series” and pointed out how loud it’s likely to be in Minnesota as the series switches locales in Games 3 and 4.

If the Wild really want a bright side to look on, perhaps they should ponder how much rosier things could be if the likes of Zach Parise, Mikko Koivu and Ryan Suter can start scoring points against the Blackhawks. That’s been easier said than done in 2014 (not to mention in losing in five games in a 2013 playoff series), however:

One way or another, the Wild need to break through. Yeo seems optimistic about the chances of that happening, at least.

PHT Morning Skate: Rangers-Pens, ‘Hawks-Wild start it up

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There’s no rest for the weary in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

Two of the four teams playing tonight got their pass to the second round on Wednesday night after Game 7 wins. The New York Rangers slipped past the Philadelphia Flyers and are rewarded with a trip to the other side of Pennsylvania to face the Pittsburgh Penguins.

Out West, the Minnesota Wild needed overtime to dispose of the Colorado Avalanche in Game 7 and now they head east for a date with the Chicago Blackhawks for the second consecutive season. This time around it’s in a later round of the playoffs and, oh yeah, they may not have their top goalie of the postseason. No one said the playoffs were easy.

Game 1: Pittsburgh Penguins vs. New York Rangers (7:00 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

The Penguins getting by the Columbus Blue Jackets in six games ended up working out just fine for the team to get a little bit of rest heading into the second round. With the added time off, it gives Marc-Andre Fleury an opportunity to reset himself after a series that was a bit more exciting than he’d like.

While the schedule for this series is a bit unkind, the Penguins have to be wary of the team that’s still rolling in game mode. It might seem like the Rangers are coming in tired, but the way this schedule works out it’s no different than how tight the regular season schedule was.

Each team is 2-1-1 against the other this season and there’s pressure on guys on both sides.

For the Rangers it’s on Rick Nash to pick things up. Nash had no goals and four assists against the Flyers and getting him to pot a goal in this series would get a big monkey off his back. In 23 career playoff games he has just two goals.

You could say there’s pressure on Sidney Crosby to score, but with how he’s played in the postseason it’s just a matter of time. The focus, instead, is on Fleury. There’s always pressure on goalies in the postseason, but with him it’s at a higher level. That may not be fair, but it’s just how it is.

Game 1: Chicago Blackhawks vs. Minnesota Wild (9:30 p.m. ET — NBCSN)

Perhaps the most curious stat between these two teams this season is the head-to-head record. Minnesota went 3-1-1 against Chicago this season and despite the difference in record, the final three games they played were one-goal games.

Of course in the playoffs you can throw out what happened in the regular season as situations have changed. The Wild may be down three goalies as this round starts as Darcy Kuemper left Game 7 against Colorado with an injury. They’re already without Niklas Backstrom and Josh Harding and that puts Ilya Bryzgalov firmly in the spotlight if Kuemper can’t go.

Facing a Blackhawks team that found their mojo beating the St. Louis Blues in six games with your No. 4 goalie doesn’t sound like a plan for success. Chicago got great performances from all their top players. Jonathan Toews, Patrick Kane, Duncan Keith, and Marian Hossa were all at their best against the Blues and if that continues into this round, Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin will have their hands full.

The pressure of containing all those guys shifts to the forwards as well meaning Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise’s ability to defend will be tested. The Wild will need to see more out of Jason Pominville and hope rookies Mikael Granlund and Charlie Coyle continue to do what they showed against the Avalanche.

Online bookmaker: Rask the heavy favorite to win Conn Smythe Trophy

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Here’s the full list, courtesy Bovada:

Tuukka Rask (BOS) 4/1
Jonathan Toews (CHI) 12/1
Patrick Kane (CHI) 12/1
Sidney Crosby (PIT) 12/1
Ryan Getzlaf (ANA) 12/1
Patrice Bergeron (BOS) 15/1
Duncan Keith (CHI) 15/1
Corey Crawford (CHI) 15/1
Evgeni Malkin (PIT) 15/1
Corey Perry (ANA) 15/1
Jonathan Quick (LA) 15/1
Carey Price (MON) 15/1
Henrik Lundqvist (NYR) 15/1
Anze Kopitar (LA) 20/1
Zach Parise (MIN) 20/1
Torey Krug (BOS) 25/1
Jarome Iginla (BOS) 30/1
Marc-Andre Fleury (PIT) 30/1
Drew Doughty (LA) 30/1
Marian Gaborik (LA) 35/1
Martin St. Louis (NYR) 35/1
Brad Richards (NYR) 35/1
Rick Nash (NYR) 35/1
Darcy Kuemper (MIN) 45/1
Matt Niskanen (PIT) 50/1
Francois Beauchemin (ANA) 50/1
P.K. Subban (MON) 50/1
Brendan Gallagher (MON) 50/1
Thomas Vanek (MON) 50/1
Max Pacioretty (MON) 50/1
Dany Heatley (MIN) 50/1

Think even Heatley’s surprised he made the list?

As for Rask, no real surprise he’s at the top. The Bruins’ netminder went 4-1 with a .961 save percentage in the first round versus the Red Wings, and he plays for a Boston side that Bovada has as its 5/2 favorite to win the Stanley Cup.

Jonathan Quick was the last goalie to win the Conn Smythe, in 2012. Tim Thomas did it for the B’s in 2011.

Patrick Kane was the 2013 winner.

PS — Anze Kopitar at 20/1? You could do worse than that.