The Blues play the first of a back-to-back series tonight, and our boys need to find their game for both of them. Tonight, the Blues play a red-hot Minnesota Wild squad. As the postseason draws closer, these games will all have implications beyond simple win/loss. The Wild(s) have already clinched a playoff spot as the first wildcard position, and that might work in our favor.
First off, the Wild are on a tremendous tear right now. When we last faced the Wild, they were mired in a bad stretch of games and there were whispers about whether coach Mike Yeo would keep his job. In particular, he was criticized for continually playing under-performing Dany Heatley. Well, after that last game against the Blues, Heatley was scratched and the Wild started winning. And winning.
The Wild are 6-3-1 in their last ten games, but since their loss to the Blues on 03/27 they have gone 5-0-1. Not only that, but that stretch includes wins over Boston, Pittsburgh, and Los Angeles, and the OTL was against Chicago. That's a damn good record against the last 5 years' worth of Stanley Cup champions. They are already in playoff mode, and have been playing that higher-level of hockey for awhile now. In contrast, the Blues have been in the downward spiral of 3 consecutive losses and a 5-5-0 record in the last ten games. This does not bode well for the Blues.
The Wild's win over Boston clinched a playoff spot, and now it's just a matter of who they play. If the playoffs started today, their opponent would be the Blues. The Wild haven't beaten the Blues since November 2011. Depending on how the Vancouver/Colorado game ends tonight, the Wild could actually benefit from losing to the Blues tonight. If St Louis clinches the Central, the Wild could give the Blues the slip and instead play Anaheim in the postseason. So, as much as you always play to win, there's a little bit of gray there now. With the playoffs clinched, this presents an opportunity for the Wild to rest some players. From today's twitter:
Fletcher- "I let Mike(Yeo) make all the lineup decisions. But we agreed to let Bryzgalov rest. J. Curry earned his right to get in the game"
Fletcher- "I let Mike(Yeo) make all the lineup decisions. But we agreed to let Bryzgalov rest. J. Curry earned his right to get in the game"— KFAN1003 (@KFAN1003) April 10, 2014
What those tweets mean:
Ilya Bryzgalov (.923 Sv% / 1.78 GAA / 3 shutouts, in 11 games) is out, and starting in goal is John Curry. Curry has 4 games of NHL experience, and his last game was a start for the Penguins in the 2009-2010 season. That start lasted 24 minutes and included 5 goals allowed on 14 shots. And now he gets the start tonight. IF the Blues offensive bite can actually come with teeth tonight, he should be beatable.
Dany Heatley is in. He's been scratched for all but 1 of the games since the last time the Wild played St Louis. All of those scratches resulted in wins for Minnesota. Whether Heatley finds his game again or resumes being an anchor on the team remains to be seen. He was once a fucking All Star ... now he's a fucking albatross.
Christian Folin is in. This will be his NHL debut, as he was just signed to an Entry Level Contract on 04/01. There's a really good story about him HERE. Finally making The Show can be a confidence boost, but that can also be the fragile thing that breaks first, too.
Mike Rupp is in. He's only played a total of 12 games this year, and has been a scratch most of the time. His last game was 02/01, so it has been awhile for Rupper. If he wants to make an impact tonight, it'll probably be with a fight. Whether that is a positive or negative impact depends on who he takes with him to the sin bin.
Russo's Rants (Star Tribune beat blog)
Final Verse: It's another Midwest start, so the opening faceoff will be at the usual 7:00 PM St Louis time. The downside, though, is that it's another national broadcast. The TV broadcast will be on NBCSN , but the radio call will be on the reliable KMOX 1120AM. The GDT should drop shortly before the puck does. Until then, this is your pregame warmup. Gather here, read up on the Wild fill-ins, "fix" the Blues yet again in the comments, pick sides in the Minnesota/North Dakota Frozen Four match tonight, and get ready for what will be, hopefully, a bounce-back game for the Blues tonight. Speaking of bouncing...