Wild Present Tough Challenges For Bruins At Both Ends Of The Ice

RyanSuterBOSTON — The Bruins know they’ll have their hands full Tuesday night at TD Garden.

The Minnesota Wild, one of the most talented teams in the NHL, reached the second round of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs, where they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in six games. They then signed noted Bruins killer Thomas Vanek to a three-year contract during the offseason, bolstering an already potent offense, and now rank fourth in the league in goals scored and second in goals against per game.

“We know they’re a good hockey team,” Bruins forward Chris Kelly said after Tuesday’s morning skate. “… They defend well, they skate well, they push the pace, they’re a solid team. A lot of times, maybe they get overshadowed by the California teams or Chicago, but they’re right there as one of the best teams in the West. This will be a good challenge for us.”

The Wild are coming off a crushing Monday night loss, in which they surrendered five third-period goals in a 5-4 loss to the New York Rangers. Minnesota entered that game with a 4-1 record this season when leading after two periods.

Despite that loss, the Wild’s fast and skilled lineup will give the Bruins major problems if they make too many mental errors in their own zone.

“They played a hard game last night,” Bruins head coach Claude Julien said. “You can either look at the first two periods and then see a team that only gave up eight shots and who’s very dominant, and I know they had some power plays but very dominant and very hard to play against, and for whatever reason just kind of seemed to lose that pace of their game in the third.

“It cost (them) the game. We know just from watching them and even playing against them last year how tough of a team they are to play against.”

The Wild are 4-3 to start the season, but two of those losses were 2-1 decisions against the Los Angeles Kings and Anaheim Ducks, both Stanley Cup contenders. Minnesota has allowed just 11 goals in its first seven games and leads the league in goal differential at plus-12.

Head coach Mike Yeo has done a great job with the team’s penalty kill, which ranks second in the NHL with a 95 percent success rate and is led by top-tier defensemen Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin. Suter and Brodin also play an important role in a Wild offense that ranks fourth in even-strength goals (20) and has three forward lines capable of scoring against quality defense pairs.

The Wild also are a quality puck-possession team and rank fourth in the league with a 55.13 Corsi-for percentage. This team consistently out-shoots its opponents and spends a lot of time in the attacking zone.

Minnesota’s only weakness is its power play, which hasn’t scored a goal in 24 tries this season. Boston ranks 16th with an 80.6 percent success rate short-handed, but the Bruins have killed 13 of their last 14 penalties.

Photo via Brace Hemmelgarn/USA TODAY Sports Images

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