Beyond the fact that they scored only three goals in losing the first three games of their series against the St. Louis Blues, the Minnesota Wild should be concerned about another statistic as they prepare for Game 4 on Wednesday night.
The Blues built that 3-0 lead in the first-round Western Conference playoff series without getting any goals from their leading scorer, right winger Vladimir Tarasenko.
Tarasenko had 39 goals in the regular season, and only five times did he play more than three consecutive games without scoring a goal.
There has been something more important to Tarasenko in this series than his lack of goals, however.
“Vladi has played unbelievably,” St. Louis coach Mike Yeo said. “For me, what I love, what I respect, is he’s wanted to take a step as a leader. You look at, obviously, the play that he made on the OT winner in Game 1, but go back and watch his first shift in Game 2 and the backcheck that he has. He’s doing all the little things, he’s still getting involved.
“He’s a competitor, and we need him to score at some point. So we believe that if we continue to do the right things, and he continues to do the right things, that he’ll break out at some point here.”
The Blues have only four goals from their forwards in the series, including one into an empty net, and three by their defensemen. Tarasenko has played a role by contributing two assists.
As long as the Blues win, whether he scored a goal doesn’t matter to Tarasenko at this time of the year.
“I say this many times, if you score like five goals a game and then you lose, it still feels like … you know what you feel like,” Tarasenko said. “It’s really, really great feelings right now in the locker room … and I enjoy my time right now.”
Scoring goals has been the biggest problem for the Wild, who will need to find a way to get the puck past Blues goalie Jake Allen to avoid being swept.
Allen has stopped 114 of 117 shots in the three games. One of Minnesota’s three goals came with an extra attacker after the Wild pulled goalie Devan Dubnyk in the closing seconds of Game 1, and another was on a five-on-three power play in Game 2. Their only even-strength goal came from Charlie Coyle in Game 3.
The Wild finished second in the NHL in the regular season with 266 goals.
“We’ve been saying it the last three games. It’s kind of getting old, obviously,” Coyle said. “We’ve got to find a way to get pucks through. We need more traffic, get inside their D men. We’ve got to find ways to score, whatever it is. It’s now or never. Pretty tired of talking about it; we’ve just got to go out and prove it.”
One thing the Wild apparently will try in an attempt to generate more offense in Game 4 is changing their forward lines. In practice Tuesday in Minnesota, coach Bruce Boudreau split up Mikael Granlund and Mikko Koivu for the first time this season. Granlund moved to Eric Staal’s line with Coyle, while Koivu was working with Zach Parise and Nino Niederreiter.
“You don’t have to look any further than the amount of goals that we’ve scored,” Parise told NHL.com. “We’ve got to try something different.”