Both the Blues and the Wild have had serious hot streaks worth admiring in the regular season, but as we all know, the playoffs (no matter what sport) always come out as a different monster. The Blues made their way to the top of the Central Division after the Nashville Predators help the lead for the majority of the season.
And now with home ice on their side, the Blues are going to be hard to stop.
The bad news for the Blues is that the Minnesota Wild are the one team that could take St. Louis in the first round and keep them home. In the season series between these teams, neither club has pulled away just yet, as they split the four games played thus far.
Two contests were high-scoring affairs and a third game required a shootout to determine the result.
Not too shabby, if you ask me.
The Wild caught fire and started playing similar hockey to their Eastern Conference sister team the Ottawa Senators. Catching on quickly at the right time, the chemistry in Minnesota really took the NHL by storm as they refused to go down in any game — especially road games.
This should be the biggest concern for St. Louis — and for good reason.
St. Louis struggled at home against the Chicago Blackhawks in last year’s playoffs and it cost them a chance at advancing in a physical serious that met all expectations.
What’s even more exciting is we could see that kind of a rematch in the second round, per a St. Louis and Chicago series victory respectively.
But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, Minnesota will be ready to go and has had success against the cream of the crop in professional hockey. While it’s a great idea to have St. Louis move on past the rough-and-rowdy Wild, it’s nothing more than wishful thinking.
Players to Watch:
Vladimir Tarasenko (STL) : Tarasenko leads St. Louis in goals (37) and scoring often and early are the two biggest keys to getting a shot at beating Minnesota. Otherwise, the Blues won’t stand a chance.
Brian Elliott (STL) : The Blues’ goal-tender is going to get a chance to redeem himself after previous playoff woes. If the Blues find a way to get past the Wild, they would most likely be able to knock off a team like Chicago or Nashville in the second round. And then from there, a Conference Finals berth and who knows from there.
But they can’t go anywhere without a decent (at the very least) goalie in net each night.
Devan Dubnyk (MIN) : The Minnesota Wild have the sixth-best defense in the NHL, statistically, and their goalie is a big reason why. Dubnyk has individually shown himself to be more reliable than Elliott of St. Louis. If Minnesota wants to continue its hot streak against the best of the best, they must continue to show confidence in their goalie.
Zach Parise (MIN) : Parise was a huge part of Minnesota success in last season’s playoffs and a major part of a Wild scare of the Blackhawks (nearly turned into an upset). Now with more playoff experience under his belt, Parise is more than ready to lead his Wild to the promised land.
Prediction: There’s no escaping that home-ice will be big for St. Louis, but with the way that Minnesota has performed on the road as of late, I see them taking every game played in St. Louis.
Wild 4 , Blues 2