ST. PAUL, Minn. -- In some ways, this second-round series between the Chicago Blackhawks and Minnesota Wild is playing out just the way most observers felt it would. The defending Cup champs from Chicago are just a step, maybe a step and a half, quicker than the dogged Wild.
The Blackhawks, after dropping the first two games of the opening round against the St. Louis Blues, have won six straight and on Sunday waxed the Wild 4-1 to take a 2-0 series lead, having outscored Minnesota 9-3 in the two games played in Chicago.
Does this mean you can start saving your shekels to buy Western Conference finals paraphernalia with the Blackhawks logo attached? Well, let's not be so hasty.
Here's a look at five ways the Wild can get back in this series.
Being masters of the obvious, we're going to go out on a limb and suggest A) the Wild need to score more goals, and B) the best way to accomplish that is to have their talented goal scorers actually, you know, put the puck in the net. So far that hasn't happened with nearly enough regularity, especially since the Wild knocked off the Colorado Avalanche in a seventh game in the first round.
Specifically, what is up with Jason Pominville, who had 30 goals during the regular season but just one in the postseason? While Pominville has at least chipped in five assists, perhaps the most disturbing trend has been the near invisibility of Matt Moulson, the trade deadline acquisition from the Buffalo Sabres who has one goal and one assist in nine postseason games. One wonders how much this dry stretch is going to cost Moulson on the free-agent market this summer. One thing is for certain: It's hard to imagine the Wild making any kind of push to keep him unless things pick up in a hurry.
Coach Mike Yeo acknowledged Monday that during the playoffs it's often harder for players to pull themselves out of scoring funks. It's like quicksand, "the more you struggle, the deeper you get," he said. "That's why it's really important to make sure that you're focused on the game, make sure that you're focused on your play. What are the things that you're doing when you're successful? What are the things that you are doing to create scoring chances, to give yourself the best chance to capitalize on an opportunity like that? And I think that's what's critical, not only for individuals as far as wanting to score a goal, but for our team as far as wanting to win a game too. We have to stay focused on the little things. We have to stay focused on our process and trust that result will be there at the end."
Zach Parise was dominant in the first round and leads the team with 11 postseason points, but no other Wild player has more than six. That will have to change in a hurry.
Six times this spring, the Wild have gone 0-for-the power play. That includes the past three games, when they went 0-for-7.
They earned just one power-play opportunity in Sunday's loss, and there's the rub. To get better on the power play, you have to get those chances. And to draw penalties, the Wild have to be generating more speed.