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Zulgad’s Roundup: Wild’s power play hasn’t provided any playoff payoff against Blues

Nhl: Stanley Cup Playoffs Minnesota Wild At St. Louis Blues
May 6, 2022; St. Louis, Missouri, USA; Minnesota Wild left wing Kirill Kaprizov (97) controls the puck from St. Louis Blues left wing Pavel Buchnevich (89) during the second period in game three of the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Enterprise Center. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Le-USA TODAY Sports

The Wild and St. Louis Blues’ first-round playoff series is tied at two games apiece, but if Minnesota wants to win the best-of-seven series and make any type of playoff run, its power play is going to have to start producing.

Despite having skilled players such as Kirill Kaprizov, Kevin Fiala and Mats Zuccarello on the first unit, the Wild have only scored twice in 17 power-play opportunities in the first four games. Both of those goals came as the Wild went 2-for-3 with the man advantage in Game 2. Otherwise, the Wild are 0-for-14.

This isn’t a new problem for the Wild, but it is now a huge issue for a team that general manager Bill Guerin positioned to win multiple series’ by making key deals at the NHL trade deadline in late March. The Wild finished 18th in the regular-season with a 20.5 percentage on the power play. But its failure against a Blues penalty kill that ranked fifth in the NHL during the regular season (84.1 percent) means the Wild is currently at 11.8 percent.

How bad is that? The Philadelphia Flyers had the worst power play in the league during the regular season and they scored at a 12.6 percent clip.

It only makes matters worse that the Blues are 5-for-18 on the power play, putting them at 27.8 percent, or above their regular-season success of 27 percent. That was second in the NHL to Toronto’s 27.3 percent. St. Louis has converted on at least one power play in each of the first four games and had two goals with the man advantage in Game 1. Another goal in St. Louis’ 4-0 victory came just after a Wild player left the penalty box.

Wild coach Dean Evason likes consistency but you have to wonder if he will make any changes to the power-play unit in Game 5. Kaprizov, who has one of his five goals on the power play in this series, led Minnesota with 14 power-play goals in the regular season. Joel Eriksson Ek, who centers the top unit, was second with 12.

The top power play also features Zuccarello, Fiala and defenseman Jared Spurgeon. Considering Fiala’s struggles against the Blues (one assist in four games), he could be a candidate to be moved to the second power play and replaced by a guy like big winger Marcus Foligno. Foligno is no stranger to doing the dirty work and his presence in front of the net could cause problems for Blues goalie Jordan Binnington. Foligno scored five of his 23 goals this season on the power play.

One of the Wild’s biggest problems is that their skill players tend to try to make the perfect play and overpass the puck instead of getting it on goal and looking for rebounds. Foligno brings a lot of things to the Wild but trying to make fancy plays isn’t one of them.

  • The Giants made a surprising decision Monday by releasing No. 1 cornerback James Bradberry in a salary-cap related move. Bradberry’s release will save the Giants about $10.1 million against the  cap and means the 28-year-old is free to look elsewhere for a job. The Vikings were looking to add help at the corner spot this offseason and likely checked on Bradberry’s availability when the Giants were shopping him. But after selecting Clemson cornerback Andrew Booth in the second round and Missouri’s Akayleb Evans in the fourth round of last month’s draft, the Vikings might consider themselves set at corner. Especially with veteran Patrick Peterson returning and nickel corner Chandon Sullivan signed as a free agent. Bradberry’s price tag also might be an issue. The Vikings, according to the Over The Cap website, have $12.2 million in cap space.
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  • Fiala had a fantastic finish to the regular season — 10 goals and 24 points in the final 13 games — leading many (including me) to say that general manager Bill Guerin should do whatever is necessary to keep the soon-to-be restricted free agent. But a second consecutive rocky first round has to have Guerin wondering if Fiala would be worth the price he will be looking for on a long-term contract. Especially, when you consider the Wild’s salary-cap issues for the next few seasons thanks to the buyouts of Zach Parise and Ryan Suter’s contracts. Last season, Fiala had a goal and an assists and was a minus-6 in the Wild’s loss to Vegas in seven games. His lone point in this series came on an assist in Sunday’s loss and he’s a minus-2. Fiala finished the regular season with a career-high 33 goals and 85 points.
  • Jeff Marek of Sportsnet reported that New Jersey Devils general manager Tom Fitzgerald has been open about potentially trading the team’s 2022 first-round pick, which will be no lower than seventh overall (pending Tuesday’s draft lottery), for an “impact player.” Reportedly, that player might be Fiala. A high first-round pick might be too much for Guerin to turn down, especially since that player would be under team control on a reasonable contract while the Wild are feeling the pain of the penalties for the two buyouts.
  • Chris Paddack’s departure from Sunday’s game against Oakland because of inflammation in his right elbow raises questions about the Twins’ decision to send closer Taylor Rogers to the Padres for a starter who was shut down at the end of last season because of a slight ulnar collateral ligament sprain in his elbow. The 26-year-old Paddack, who underwent Tommy John surgery in 2016, had a platelet-rich plasma injection in the elbow area last summer. The Twins, who also acquired reliever Emilio Pagan and dealt outfielder Brent Rooker to San Diego in the deal, sent $6.6 million in cash to the Padres in the trade.