ST. LOUIS – There is a chance that, thanks to the St. Louis Blues, the phrase “boxing out” will be used more in the NHL than NBA playoffs.
The Blues’ large defensemen are “boxing out” the Wild’s not-so-big forwards. The result: St. Louis has given up three goals in more than nine periods of play while taking a 3-0 lead in the first round of the playoffs.
Sunday, the Blues won 3-1, despite allowing 41 shots. The Blues have packed their defenders close to the net and dared the Wild to sharpshoot, and they are winning because the shooting has been less than sharp.
“Well, guys are paying a price; guys are committed,” Blues coach Mike Yeo said. “So it’s not hard for us to look at the tape and understand that every situation, every time you’re out there, it could be a difference-maker.
“We know how they play, they know how we play at this time, those are always key points.”
That’s not to say that Yeo wants to see goalie Jake Allen peppered with shots. The Wild dominated that category in Game 1 and Game 3.
“I view it as a negative,” Yeo said. “I think we have to be better than we were today. Again, it’s tough, it’s tough. You’re prodding the players on the bench.
“We seem to play our best hockey when the score is even. I think overtime in Game 1 was indicative of that. In Game 2, we managed it a little bit better. Today again, we recognized that this was a big game for our team, a big game for them. And for whatever reason it was tough for us to get back on the throttle.
“I think that when we’re at our best, we’re playing smart, but we’re still aggressive, we’re still creating turnovers, we’re forechecking hard, our ‘D’ were pinching early in the game, our gaps were really good. I think it was tough to get through the neutral zone. I think we got a little bit soft in some of those areas, which allowed them to come at us.”
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau said his team took more than 90 shots (not just shots counted as such because they were on net) in Game 1 and more than 70 on Sunday.
“At the end of the day ... that’s a really good hockey team over there and there’s going to be some times where there’s some things that we want to do and they’re still going to have a push,” Yeo said. “And they’re going to have moments and we’re going to have to withstand that.”
Yeo’s defensive plan has him one victory from upsetting the team that fired him 14 months ago.