At the beginning of March, it wasn’t sure who would end up facing the Minnesota Wild in game one. The Chicago Blackhawks were the clear first place winners, but the battle for third was between the Nashville Predators and St. Louis Blues. At that time, the Predators seemed like the clear cut winners. That was until the Blues went on a tear, going 15-3-2 since the beginning of March. These numbers become even more impressive since looking at the beginning of February. They went 7-5-0 that month, giving them a total of 22-8-2 since they had Mike Yeo replace Ken Hitchcock.
The Minnesota Wild had an interesting month of March as well, but in a different way. They went 4-10-2, which was completely unexpected when looking at the rest of their season. They were able to regain their footing before the end of the season, winning all of their last four games.
The Wild and Blues first met in the playoffs in 2015. It was an exciting year for both teams. The St. Louis Blues won the Central Division and narrowly lost out on the Western Conference title. The Minnesota Wild were placed into the first wild card spot, despite getting 100 points on the year. They were only a win off of the Chicago Blackhawks, who finished in third that year. Despite the Blues topping the Central Division, the series was a lot closer than expected. In fact, the Wild ended up coming out on top after six games.
Here’s a recap of that series.
History of a Series – St. Louis Blues vs Minnesota Wild 2015 Playoffs
Game 1 – April 16, 2015: “Early Start” Minnesota Wins 4-2
The Wild jumped to an early start in this game, and in the series. After a giveaway by Jaden Schwartz, the Wild scored just two minutes in. The Wild kept the Blues in check for the rest of the game after the early goal. They drew four penalties and scored on half of them.
Although the Blues seemed to have everything going for them; leading in faceoff wins, shots, and overall offensive ability, they couldn’t get anything mounted. Even when they did score, the Wild came back with a goal of their own almost right away.
The loss was a big smack in the face to the Blues. The team and their fans both thought that the series was going to be a lot easier than the first game proved. The loss rallied the Blues though, evident in the second game.
Game 2 – April 18, 2015: “The Tarasenkshow” St. Louis wins 4-1
The entire team looked better this game. Jake Allen was strong in net, and the team was a lot more physical. They totalled 36 hits, over ten more than the first game. But nobody looked better than Vladimir Tarasenko. The winger scored twice in the first period, to the joy of the hometown crowd. Tarasenko went on to finish the hat trick in the third period.
The Blues were clearly fired up after losing the first game just two days prior. They easily beat the Wild. They were more dangerous in the attacking zone, they didn’t get as many penalties, and their play in their own zone was stronger.
Game 3 – April 20, 2015: “Shooting Barrage” Minnesota Wins 3-0
Allen was attacked with 24 shots this game, and couldn’t handle it. He let in three goals that game, although the loss wasn’t entirely his fault. The Blues weren’t nearly as dangerous, and Devan Dubnyk shut them out as a result. Dubnyk had looked good all series, and this win finally reflected that.
The Wild’s first line was unstoppable this game. Jason Pominville, Zach Parise and Mikael Granlund all registered two points in the game. The Wild’s defense also blocked 18 shots, and held the Blues to only 17 shots.
Game 4 – April 22, 2015: “Minnesota’s singing the Blues” St. Louis wins 6-1
To game three’s yin was game four’s yang. On the road, the Blues dominated the Wild. They had 26 shots, and chased Dubnyk from the net in the second period. This was after Patrik Berglund netted the team’s sixth goal. The Wild’s backup, Darcy Kuemper, came in and faced only ten shots throughout the rest of the second period and third period. He didn’t let in any goals, but the damage was done. The Wild couldn’t put anything past Allen, who had another good game.
Game 5 – April 24, 2015: “Dubnyk Comes Back” Minnesota wins 4-1
Dubnyk was back in net for Minnesota when they returned to Scottrade Center. He must’ve been relatively upset about being hooked last game. Tarasenko opened the scoring on the powerplay, but that was all that got by Dubnyk. The Blues peppered him with 36 shots; Dubnyk stopped all of them.
For all the work Dubnyk was doing in the defensive zone their offense was just as productive. Nino Niederreiter scored yet again in the series. Mikko Koivu and Charlie Coyle scored their first goals of the postseason. Needless to say, the entire Wild showed up, and they overpowered the Blues in St. Louis.
Game 6 – April 26, 2015: “The Finisher” Minnesota wins 4-1
Allen was hooked halfway through the second period, after letting in two goals. Brian Elliott came in to play the second half of the game, but didn’t do an better. He also let in two goals, but faced 13 shots compared to Allen who only faced 7.
Dubnyk had another spectacular game to finish off the series, saving all but one of the Blues 31 shots. Since being pulled early in game four, Dubnyk played amazing. Between game five and six, Dubnyk saved 66 out of 68 shots.
The loss eliminate the Blues from the playoffs yet again, adding to their list of unsuccessful playoff runs. The Wild went on to be swept by the Blackhawks.
St. Louis is obviously hoping that history doesn’t repeat itself. They’re recent play has been strong, but Minnesota has shown the same ability. The Series starts Wednesday night, and will prove to be one of the closest of the playoffs. Both teams have strong offense, strong goalies, and weak points in their defense. For the Wild to win, they’ll have to shut down the Blues very strong and deep offense. They’ll find ways to exploit the Blues defense, and that will be the key to getting to the second round.
The Blues will want to get onto the powerplay as much as possible, as they have one of the best power play percentages in the league. They’ll also have no worries when it comes to the penalty kill, as again they are one of the best in the league at defending with a man gone. Their key to success will be using all four lines, and letting their offensive depth lead them to the victory.