NHL teams are either being eliminated from playoff contention or clenching spots left and right, and then there are the Blues. They’ve been rolling with a seven game win streak, they’re 9-0-1 in their last ten, they have 98 points... and there they are, still tied with tonight’s opponent for second in the Central Division.
The Minnesota Wild have honestly been the division’s most pleasant surprise this season, fighting with the Blues for prime playoff positioning for most of it. Once everyone acknowledged that there was no catching the Colorado Avalanche, the push for home ice became about two teams and two teams only.
Tonight, the Blues can at least punch their ticket to the postseason, and let the positioning fall where it will. If they beat the Wild outright, if the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Los Angeles Kings in regulation, or if the Blues get a point and the Jackets beat the Kings in any method, or if the Oilers beat the Golden Knights in any fashion. The odds for a ticket punch are good.
If the Wild had to choose one team to face right now, it probably wouldn’t be the Blues. Fresh off of their Thursday night dismantling of the Buffalo Sabres by a score of 6-2, the Blues want another performance like they saw on April 8th against the Wild. The tenacity that the team showed in coming back from a 3-1 deficit easily could be pointed to as a catalyst for something bigger. With the return of Torey Krug shortly afterward, the Blues aren’t dealing with any gaping holes in their lineup. With the second line of Vladimir Tarasenko, Robert Thomas (who is on an 11 game point streak and who had *five assists* against the Sabres this week) and Pavel Buchnevich, the Blues may well have the most potent offense in the game.
The Wild, for their part, have also been playing solid hockey. Marc-Andre Fleury was excellent in the Wild’s 3-2 overtime win over the Dallas Stars earlier this week, and Kevin Fiala has seven points over his last four games. Of course, the Blues are going to have to keep their eyes on Kirill Kaprizov. He’s leading the Wild with 42 goals and 49 assists, well on his way to becoming one of the most explosive forwards in their franchise’s history. He was held off of the scoresheet in the Wild’s win on Thursday, but netted a goal against the Blues back on April 8th.