Former North Stars General Manager Lou Nanne says that while there have only been four occasions in Stanley Cup playoff history when a team has come back to win a series after being down 3-0 — as the Wild was against St. Louis, before Wednesday night’s 2-0 victory in Game 4 — he believes the team has a real shot to win the series.
“Sure [the Wild] can do this; if St. Louis won three, they can win four,” Nanne said. “What was it? They won 12 in a row during the season. Why can’t they win four in a row?
“But you have to take it one shift at a time, one period at a time, one game at a time, and not look ahead. They have to play the same way and score goals like they did [Wednesday] night, and it really helps when they get the lead. But they certainly have played well enough to have won all four games, too.”
It’s amazing to think the Wild is third out of 16 postseason teams in averaging 36.3 shots per game going into Thursday’s action, while the Blues are 14th at 26.8 shots per game. The big issue has been that the Wild simply hasn’t scored. The series has been this close: The Blues are 13th out of 16 teams with 1.75 goals per game, while the Wild is 14th at 1.25 goals per game.
When asked what changed in the Wild’s victory over the Blues in Game 4, Nanne pointed to exactly that.
“They just scored goals,” he said. “They outplayed St. Louis in the other three games the same way. In fact, in some of the games, they outplayed them more than they did [Wednesday] night. But they finally scored some goals and they didn’t give up any goals, especially any soft goals. That was really important.
“In the playoff series, the Wild have probably been as dominant as any team in the playoffs over their opponent. Unfortunately for them, they just haven’t scored goals. That’s why they’re down [3-1].”
Nanne said it appeared Wild coach Bruce Boudreau made only minor changes for Game 4.
“Maybe changing the lines up a bit had something to do with it, maybe freed up some guys and they didn’t press as hard,” he said. “They had to make some lineup changes because [left winger Erik] Haula was hurt. [Defenseman Nate] Prosser came in for the second game again and played very well. The Wild played physical, they played smart, they really played a textbook game, especially when they got ahead. They didn’t give up much. They really worked well together and had an outstanding night.”
Goalies remain key
The pivotal player in the series thus far has been Blues goaltender Jake Allen, who has a 1.17 goals-against average in four games and has made a playoff-high 140 saves in the postseason.
Nanne said Allen basically made only one mistake in the Blues loss, and the Wild is going to have to continue scoring goals and have its own goaltender, Devan Dubnyk, play as well as he did Wednesday.
“[Allen] let a shot in from [Martin] Hanzal that he normally stops,” Nanne said. “Other than that, he made a mistake on the [Charlie] Coyle goal, but it wasn’t because he didn’t stop the puck. He passed the puck without looking to the wrong spot. But he stopped a breakaway by Coyle, a breakaway by [Eric] Staal, a breakaway by [Jason] Zucker; he had to make some great saves to keep it 2-0.
“Dubnyk had his best game because when he was challenged — and [the Blues] didn’t have a lot of great scoring chances, but they had more in the other three games — he was able to make the saves.”
Nanne said the play of Dubnyk and Allen will continue to be the most important factor in who wins the series.
“The Wild goalie is always the key, and for St. Louis, their goalie is the key,” he said. “It is no different in the playoffs; you have to have good goaltending to win. If Dubnyk plays the next three games like he played [Wednesday] night, the Wild should be fine.”
In NHL playoff history, there have been only four teams that have come back to win a series after trailing 3-0. The Toronto Maple Leafs defeated the Detroit Red Wings in the Stanley Cup Final in 1942, the New York Islanders defeated the Pittsburgh Penguins in the 1975 quarterfinals, the Philadelphia Flyers beat the Boston Bruins in the 2010 Eastern Conference finals, and the Los Angeles Kings defeated San Jose in the 2014 Western Conference quarterfinals.
Nanne said it’s not impossible to come back from that kind of deficit, but it clearly isn’t easy.
“I recall it being done and it can be done, but it’s not done that often because these games are tough to win,” he said. “You have to be on top of your game to do it. It happens. You can’t worry about how or why other people did it, you have to worry about how you’re going to do it and if you can do it. You can do it by playing the way you’ve been playing, getting the goaltending you got [Wednesday] night, and scoring when you get the opportunity.”
Can the Wild stage that sort of comeback? Nanne drew out the possibilities.
“They definitely should be the favorite [at home Saturday] night,” he said. “Then they have to go back to St. Louis, and you know if they go back to St. Louis for Game 6, you know it’s going to be a desperate game for St. Louis, so you have to be at your best.
“If they win that, then in Game 7 anything can happen and the Wild should have an edge. But first of all you have to win … Game 5. They have to come back and play as well in Game 5 as they did [in Game 4].”
Nanne also talked about how postseason gate receipts work. The profits will be slim if the Wild can’t get past the first round.
“The first four games, the majority goes to the league for the players [postseason contract bonus pool],” he said. “After that, the teams make a lot more money.”
• Twins officials are hopeful pitcher Glen Perkins will continue to make progress in his rehabilitation from last June’s shoulder surgery. It’s possible he could be available to pitch in June.
• While the Twins have had a hard time against the Indians, Joe Mauer continues to have success against them. In the Twins’ 6-2 loss at Target Field on Thursday, Mauer went 1-for-4 with a double — his first extra-base hit of the season — and is now hitting .330 against the Indians in his career (209-for-634).
• The Twins (7-8) have by far the best run differential in the AL Central, scoring 10 more runs than they’ve allowed, which is also the third-best mark in the American League. But it simply hasn’t added up to victories, as they fell below .500 for the first time this season and are in last place in the Central.
Sid Hartman can be heard Mondays and Fridays on 830-AM at 8:40 a.m. and on Sundays at 9:30 a.m. firstname.lastname@example.org