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American Beauty: Blues at Minnesota Wild Preview

The Blues get another crack at the Wild(s) this afternoon.

Big Hockey day for Clan Backes
Big Hockey day for Clan Backes
Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

This season, and especially the 2015 half of it, has seen some incredible goaltending stories. Of course, the current flavor is the Hamburglar over in Ottawa. The Western Conference has a similar story in Minnesota's Devan Dubnyk. Picked up in a trade with Arizona for a third-round pick, the man they call "Dubie" (like Doobie) has carried the team into the thick of the playoff chase. The eyes of the world have been impressed with his run in the Minnesota net.

When that trade happened, the Wild were about a .500 team with a record of 18-19-6. Nothing to write home about. The team had some front-end talent, a pretty green defensive corps, and nothing but question marks in net. Niklas Backstrom made 14 starts and compiled a record of 5-7-3 with a 3.05 GAA and .887 Save Percentage. His partner Darcy Kuemper made 27 starts, and fared a little better; 2.62 GAA and .904 Sv% leading to a record 13-12-2. Neither one was really getting the job done, though.

And then, along came Devan Dubnyk. Since getting the new toy, Wild head coach Mike Yeo hasn't stopped playing with it. Dubnyk has made 29 straight starts, and has kept truckin' with the team on his back. Since the trade, Dubie and the Wild have gone 21-6-1, and his numbers are 1.72 GAA / .937 Sv%. Obviously, that run cannot last forever, but the Wild and their fans are willing to ride this streak as far as it can take them. Once in the bottom half of the division, the Wild are now in the playoff hunt. In fact, something that you might not have heard a 1000 times yet today, the Blues would be facing the Wild if the playoffs were to start today. The Wild play the Blues today and one more Saturday night game in April. Those points are valuable for both teams, so expect some "playoff-like atmosphere" games in both of them. Witness the last Blues home game, before the current road trip. Dubnyk stopped 41 of 42 shots, and the Wild scored 2 third-period goals in 17 seconds to win a game that the Blues largely dominated. Stealin' games like that is what will earn Dubie a nice UFA contract for next season.

Mike Yeo has been on the hot seat for most of the past few years. Many Wild fans want him out of there. Whenever things look like they've come to a head, something happens to save his job. Last year, they squeaked into the playoffs, and this year we have the Dubnyk trade. Even in the midst of this success, people are questioning the wisdom of riding the same goalie 29 straight games. Dubnyk has never made played more than 47 games in any prior season, and that was spread out over the entire 82 games of the 2011-12 season. Some Wild fans question whether Dubnyk will have anything left once the playoffs begin and he is in uncharted territory. As bright as the outlook seems, there's always a touch of grey.

The Wild are getting a player back from injury, Marco Scandella . That'll help the blueline depth at a critical time for the team. It looks like we'll see Jordan Leopold and Chris Stewart tonight, as well. I wonder if Hitch will start Reaves on the opening line with Backes and Oshie again? Speaking of which, this is the last regular season game in Minnesota for favorite sons David Backes and T.J. Oshie. The reason that we're playing in the afternoon today, is that this evening the arena hosts the WCHA Final, pitting Backes' alma mater Minnesota State Mavericks against Michigan Tech Huskies. Go Mavericks!

Elliott in goal for the Blues, and Dubnyk for the Wild.

Further Reading:

Hockey Wilderness

Blues vs Wild coverage

GameDay Twitter Feed

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Final Verse: An afternoon game today, with the puck dropping at 1:00 PM St Louis time. The GDT should drop shortly before that. The TV broadcast is on Fox Sports MW, and the radio call is on KMOX 1120. Come join us for the GDT, and enjoy some day drinking and puppy gifs. Until then:

LGB!!!