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Blues vs. Wild Round One Playoff Preview

The two Central Division rivals met just three times this season.

Minnesota Wild v St Louis Blues Photo by Scott Rovak/NHLI via Getty Images

Overall:

Minnesota Wild: 52-22-7, 111 points, 2nd in Central Division

St. Louis Blues: 49-21-11, 109 points, 3rd in Central Division

Head to Head:

Blues Record: 3-0-0; 16 GF, 12 GA; 5.33 GF/G, 4.00 GA/G

Wild Record: 0-1-2; 12 GF, 16 GA; 4.00 GF/G, 5.33 GA/G

Odds:

Blues +130, Wild -150, from DraftKingsNation.com

Injuries as of May 1st:

Blues Injuries: Mackenzie MacEachern, Brayden Schenn

Wild Injuries: Marcus Foligno, Mats Zuccarello

Player Leaders:

Blues Leaders:

  • Goals: Vladimir Tarasenko, 34
  • Assists: Robert Thomas, 57
  • Points: Vladimir Tarasenko, 82
  • GAA: Ville Husso, 2.56
  • SV%: Ville Husso, .919

Wild Leaders:

  • Goals: Kirill Kaprizov, 47
  • Assists: Kirill Kaprizov, 61
  • Points: Kirill Kaprizov, 108
  • GAA: Marc-Andre Fleury, 2.74
  • SV% : Cam Talbot, .911

This series is engineered for seven games. The small sample size this season of just three games makes it so exceedingly difficult to call a winner between the two clubs. One victory, a Blues 6-4 win, was on January 1st during the Winter Classic. The other two wins were both Blues home games, so it makes it very difficult to gauge how the Wild will play the Blues in front of their home fans at the XCel Energy Center. The Wild had a stellar 31-8-2 record on home ice this season, so home ice advantage may play well for them.

On the other hand, the Blues have a solid road record of 23-12-6, so the (possible) four games on Wild ice may boil down to skill more than anything else.

When it comes to skill, the Wild have it in spades with Kirill Kaprizov. He may be the most pure offensive talent in Minnesota Wild history, and far from being a playoff x-factor, he should be the playoff factor for the Wild this round. Past Kaprizov, the Wild have two 30+ goal scorers in Kevin Fiala and Ryan Hartman, and a near 30 goal scorer in Joel Eriksson Ek (26 G). Potentially being short Mats Zuccarello and Marcus Foligno for the first round dampens the Wild’s offense a bit, but they’re still a lot to handle, as the Blues can attest.

Of course, the Blues are no offensive slouches. They have nine 20+ goal scorers, the most in the NHL this season, and Vladimir Tarasenko’s resurgence is very clear. Tarasenko’s 34 goals is his most since 2016-2017, and his 82 points this year marks a new career high. He’s not the only member of the Blues to offensively threaten this season though. Linemate Pavel Buchnevich finished with 30 goals and 76 points, both career highs. The increased goal totals for both Tarasenko and Buchnevich are thanks to their center, Robert Thomas. Thomas’ 20 goals and 57 assists goes far beyond what can even be judged as a breakout season for the young player. He’s been a talented center and one of the Blues’ future lynchpins for quite a while, and the reward for showing patience for his injury-marred year last season has paid dividends.

Defensively, the Blues could be better. They’re 11th in the league in GA with 239, and averaged 2.91 GA/G. The Wild, in contrast, aren’t much better, allowing a surprising 3.04 GA/G and 249 overall, good for 13th in the NHL. If you were expecting a Blues/Wild first round of years past, well, those days are done.

Where the true competition, and question marks, lie is in net. Marc-Andre Fleury was brought aboard at the trade deadline specifically for the postseason. He’s been a lynchpin in three Penguins championships, and helped guide the Golden Knights to the Stanley Cup Final in their first season (and then promptly got dumped and dealt to the Chicago Blackhawks). He has more hardware and accolades than you can shake a stick at, and yet there’s still a debate among Wild pundits and fans whether or not it should be him or Cam Talbot in net.

For the Blues, there is no debate. Ville Husso is the playoff starter. Despite improved play down the stretch, Jordan Binnington’s rough season and playoff problems since winning the Stanley Cup make it difficult for the Blues to go with him as the starter for the first round.

Biggest Factor:

The Wild’s regular season penalty kill among playoff teams is the worst, clocking in at just 76.1%, good for 25th best in the NHL. In contrast, the Blues’ power play was the second best in the league during the regular season at 27%. If the Blues get the Wild to take penalties, this series could be over a bit more quickly than anyone expected.

Prediction: Blues in 7