St. Louis – The Wild could get swept Wednesday night. You know how this team got into this predicament, and how unlikely a series victory is at this point.
But we watch sports to be surprised. Here are 10 ways the Wild belatedly can make this a competitive series and stop whining about “puck luck’’:
1. Follow Parise
He hasn’t proved to be an ideal franchise leader and his game might be in decline, but he has been the only Wild forward who has been both gritty and productive in this series.
The Wild has scored three goals. Parise has two goals and an assist. His 6-on-5 and 5-on-3 goals didn’t exactly create a template for future scoring. His assist did.
In Game 3, Parise took a breakout pass and placed a hard shot on net. Charlie Coyle flicked in the rebound and the Wild, for just a moment, looked like the team that scored so prolifically this season. The Wild needs much more of that.
2. Move forward, forwards
There have been long stretches of this series during which Jason Pominville has been invisible. Mikko Koivu hasn’t scored since March 7 and has two goals since Feb. 4.
Mikael Granlund and Eric Staal have failed to replicate their regular-season performances. Ryan White was a hairy mess in Game 3. Martin Hanzal was acquired to play physically against Jonathan Toews in the second round but has damaged the Wild’s chances of surviving the first round.
The Wild has had plenty of chances in this series, but too often the puck has wound up on the stick of someone who can’t remember how to score. That could change. That must change.
3. Give Schroeder a try
This is the kind of recommendation that probably will drive people inside the organization crazy. The Wild never has highly valued Jordan Schroeder, but his speed could give the team a boost. He should play instead of White.
4. Give Bruce warm milk
Coach Bruce Boudreau has been agitated ever since the team slumped in March. He cut off the postgame news conference on Sunday. He should be the calmest person in the locker room right now, not the most red-faced.
Whatever the Wild’s faults, there is no lack of effort in this series. This team needs strategic adjustments, not emotion.
5. One more save
Devan Dubnyk is not the Wild’s primary problem. He has allowed fewer than two goals per 60 minutes.
But you don’t get trophies for avoiding blame. He could have stopped a couple of the six goals he has allowed, and one more big save might have altered the entire series.
Even if the first goal he allowed on Sunday was deflected by Ryan Suter’s stick, it was moving slowly from far away. Blues goalie Jake Allen has made similar saves.
It’s not right to blame Dubnyk. It is fair to expect more of the player considered the superior goalie entering the playoffs.
6. Don’t make the trade
Go back in that sports-trade time machine we all want to invent and don’t trade for White and Hanzal. They have just made the Wild slower.
7. Get a ‘D’ goal
The Wild defense has been solid, even keeping Vladimir Tarasenko from scoring. But while the Blues’ blue line has produced goals, the Wild’s hasn’t. The Wild needs a goal from Marco Scandella or Jared Spurgeon. Or anyone.
8. Bother Allen
The Wild is not an instigating team. I find that aesthetically pleasing, but it may be time to do something wrong, like start jostling Allen. He is far more comfortable than the Wild should be comfortable with.
9. Score first
Often this is cited as sports wisdom and isn’t. In this case, the Blues have been scoring first, then playing prevent defense. An early Wild goal could change the way St. Louis plays.
The Wild should be watching video of the way it played this winter, when the puck moved like a laser in a funhouse. That team was too good to get swept. This team should be, too.
Jim Souhan’s podcast can be heard at MalePatternPodcasts.com. On Twitter: @SouhanStrib. email@example.com