Mandatory Credit: Marilyn Indahl-USA TODAY Sports
The Wild are sporting some hideous statistics. A quick explanation for the uninitiated: Corsi is used to determine the offensive events a player was on the ice for during a game. A player’s Corsi for percentage (CF%) is determined by adding the shots on goal, missed shots and blocked shots that occur while that player is on the ice for a game. You would like your players to be above 50.0 in Corsi for a game and series, as that means more offense is being generated while they are on the ice. If they are below 50.0, they’re facing more shots and aren’t possessing the puck as frequently.
That said…Minnesota is carrying a very, very bad CF% as a team after six games against the Blues. The number is 41.5 percent on the road, better only than that of a Winnipeg team that didn’t win a postseason game. At home, where the Wild would have been able to dictate matchups and conceivably improve their CF%, they managed to bump it up 44.2 percent, worst among all 16 playoff squads. From these numbers alone, we can either assume A) The Wild are an okay possession team but just weren’t able to hang on to the puck much against St. Louis or B) The Wild just aren’t a good possession team.
We should be more inclined to choose answer A based on a larger sample size. The Wild’s regular-season CF% numbers were 48.4 percent on the road (fourth-worst among playoff teams) but 53.9 percent at home (fifth-best among playoff teams). One thing we can attribute the Wild’s awful postseason percentages to is the Blues being a very physical team that will try to separate opponents from the puck with every opportunity. So those numbers are bound to go up a little against the ’Hawks — although there is a way to keep that rise minimal or nonexistent, which will be discussed later in this article. Despite the bad CF% numbers, the Wild were pretty successful at shot suppression against the Blues, holding them under 30 shots on goal four times and under 20 once.
In case you were curious about the ’Hawks’ CF% playoff numbers, they’re 55.4 percent at home (fourth-best) and 51.1 percent on the road (tied for third-best). Strong puck possession is the ’Hawks’ best friend, and they’d be wise to focus on it (and Minnesota’s recent lack of it) in this series.
Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports
Dubnyk is the only thing stopping an onslaught. Okay, maybe not the only thing. The Wild’s defensive corps is, on the whole, mobile and intelligent, if also somewhat undersized (paging Jared Spurgeon). But the goaltender Dubnyk, acquired from Phoenix in late January, has been a revelation for the Wild since arriving in Minnesota. He’s played 39 games with the Wild, including six playoff starts, and has a .936 save percentage, a 27-9-2 record, five shutouts and a 1.78 goals-against average. Those numbers over essentially half a season were enough to earn him a Vezina Trophy finalist bid. So, yeah, the guy has been good.
But what if he has an off night and can’t stand on his head? The Wild are far less likely to win, in simple terms. Dubnyk has been great in Minnesota, but we’re still talking about a guy who had no postseason experience coming into these playoffs and whose current team won the shots on goal battle in two of six games in the first round. The ’Hawks will see several of their shots blocked each game, as they did against Nashville. But if they play patient, strong puck-possession hockey and go bombs away on Dubnyk, they’re going to get pucks past him. Dubnyk is, like fellow Vezina finalist Pekka Rinne, 6-foot-6. He takes up a lot of net, but doesn’t have the incredibly quick glove hand to go with it. Dubnyk isn’t unbeatable. The ’Hawks have a better chance of exposing him than the Wild do of exposing Corey Crawford.