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Your Minnehaha-Colorado Game 7 Primer

It’s a loose connection. Wild-Wildlings. But do I really need much of an excuse to post a picture of Rose Leslie? Didn’t think so.

You’re probably tuning in tonight to see who the Hawks will get in the next round. You also may not have caught all of or any of the Minnesota-Colorado series as you were caught up with what the Hawks were doing and you may not be as depraved as us here in watching every single minute of hockey you can. Well, I’m here to help!

It’s funny in a way, as a lot of people were terrified of ¬†Colorado due to the regular season success the Avs had against the Hawks. Well, the Hawks only gained one more point against the Wild this season and yet no one is worried about them. But none of that really matters now and what does is how these two teams are going.

The big fear with Colorado is of course Semyon Varlamov. The Wild haven’t been too scared recently, piercing him for three goals in the past two games and four in Game 1. His one standout performance was Game 3, but Darcy Kuemper matched him step for step and Mikael Granlund got the winner in a 1-0 win in overtime.

Everyone is all a gaga about Nathan MacKinnon this series, and 10 points in six games certainly makes you take notice. But I think it’s interesting that all of his points have come in home games. When Mike Yeo has had last change and able to deploy Ryan Suter out against him he’s got nothing and is a -2. As the Hawks have two pairs (if they’re on their game) that can take tough assignments instead of the one Minnesota has, you feel a little better. The return of Matt Duchene in Game 6 will play a part in this, however.

Looking deeper, in two of the three games at The X, MacKinnon has gotten housed in possession, not breaking 40% in Corsi-percentage. I’m sure Keith is taking notice, or he should. But of course, the Avs have been getting their skulls waxed clean in possession all series, with a 42% team percentage at evens in Corsi-percentage. This has been their M.O all year. Obviously tonight they’ll be leaning heavily on MacKinnon and getting him away from Suter and Brodin (whose contribution should not be ignored because he’s a fucking hell of a player).

Much like the Hawks-Blues series, this has been a battle of the top sixes. The Avs have one goal each from McGinn, Parenteau (who moonlights on the top six at times), and McLeod. The Wild have two from Brodziak and one from Haula. The rest of the scoring from forwards in this series has been from the teams’ main guns, with some contributions from some d-men like Nick Holden and Marco Scandella.

Don’t sleep on the absence of Tyson Barrie, whether the Avs’ season ends tonight or they’re next in line for the Hawks. He’s their main source of drive from the back, and their best power play quarterback. This wasn’t a terribly good blue line to begin with, and his absence makes it a borderline dune buggy crash.

Zach Parise has freaked the fuck off the past couple games, with a four-point tour-de-force in Game 6 including the game winner. Parise is hard to deal with because all of his best work comes around the net, and even despite his size he’s at times unplayable down there. And with the Avs’ defense in the shape it’s in, if the Wild are going to win tonight you have to believe Captain America will have a lot to do with it.

Parise has gotten a fair amount of help from Charlie Coyle, who at times has been a monster in this series. He’s the exact type of power forward the Hawks undersized blue line can struggle with.

He’ll need some help, and he’ll likely get it from Mikael Granlund. Granlund scorched the Hawks this year, mostly for the same reasons that the Hawks couldn’t deal with the Blues second line; they kept tossing Michal Handzus against him. His line with Moulson and Pominville certainly carries a danger, especially now that Pominville was able to break his duck with an empty-netter in Game 6.

A lot has been made about Patrick Roy pulling his goalie so early (with no mention of why the Avs might need these hail marys so consistently), but I hate to admit it makes total sense to me. With the Avs having two legitimate scoring lines and a ton of speed, and the Wild really only having one shutdown pairing, you can see the logic in extending the amount of time they have to deal with a high-pressure penalty kill basically. At some point over two minutes, Ryan Suter has to leave the ice or at least get tired, while the Avs can take off MacKinnon and roll out Landeskog and O’Reilly. Sure it’s high-risk, but maybe not as much as people like to think.

As for how tonight will go, I just have this feeling the Avs have to run out of pixie dust at some point. They have been the second best team in this series for long stretches, and to me Duchene’s return in canceled out by the absence of Barrie. It sounds strange to say, but Kuemper has been the better goalie this series, and while he’s shorter on experience than Varlamov the last time Russian Drinky McGoo had a Game 7 at home Pittsburgh put four past him in 18 shots.That’s was a long time ago and he’s a different goalie now, but it’s not like he has a mountain of playoff experience to lord over Kuemper.

Yes, the Wild should have already won twice in Denver and ended this already, and maybe those were their best shots. Keeping MacKinnon quiet at home is a challenge, but it’s the Avs with everything to lose here. And I don’t trust a Patrick Roy team to keep its cool under pressure. My gut tells me we welcome The Green for Game 1 this weekend. Feel free to use this to hate me if it goes balls-up, Wild fans.

We’ll have a thread up for all the Game 7’s tonight, so feel free to drop in and discuss the goings-on.

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