The Minnesota Wild returns home this evening to face a potential end to its season against the Colorado Avalanche. In what has been one of the more entertaining series in the opening round of NHL Playoffs, the teams are coming off a controversial game 5 in which Minnesota seemed to get jobbed several times by the officials. Despite the poor officiating, the Wild cannot sulk and think about what might have been in this win or go home situation.
One of tonight’s top storylines is the potential return of Colorado superstar Matt Duchene. Originally ruled out for the entirety of the series, Patrick Roy has deemed him to be a game-time decision. Ideally, the Avalanche would like to avoid using Duchene until the next round, but if Minnesota is able to push it to game 7, chances are that he will play with all the chips on the table.
The formula for tonight is simple. The Minnesota Wild must play exactly the way it played in games 3 and 4. Despite winning both games by just one goal, the team provided dominating performances and held the puck in the offensive zone almost exclusively.
The difference in the series so far has without a doubt been Semyon Varlamov. Without his play, this series would be over and we would be talking about the Wild’s next playoff opponent. Varlamov has given the Avalanche a chance in every game and Minnesota has not been able to solve the goalie in this series.
Minnesota’s tweaking of offensive lines proved to a great mid-series move by Minnesota coach Mike Yeo as the Wild have firmly controlled puck possession since the alteration. Even without puck control, Colorado has been able to use its speed and be quick strike artists all series. By jumping on turnovers by Wild players, the Avalanche has been able to negate the offensive control by Minnesota.
With everything on the line, expect Minnesota to play desperate hockey this evening. With their backs against the wall, there will be increased urgency as the Wild look to send the series back to Colorado for a game 7. The most pressing question is whether the team can find a way to get pucks past Varlamov. Despite dominating play at home, Varlamov has stifled the Wild and will look to continue his hot play tonight.
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