The St. Louis Blues will meet the Minnesota Wild in the First Round again in the Stanley Cup Playoffs. These Central Division foes are certainly familiar with each other and they look to be one of the most evenly-matched opponents in the First Round.
St. Louis Blues vs Minnesota Wild First Round Series Preview
Minnesota Wild’s Forward Depth
Eric Staal had a stellar first season with the Wild, and one of the best bounce back seasons of 2016-17. His 28 goals lead the team, but he is only one part of a deep scoring threat in the forward core. Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederrieter, and Jason Zucker all had 20-goal seasons themselves. Trade deadline addition Martin Hanzal also netted 20, but only four of those came as a member of the Wild. Veterans Mikko Koivu and Zach Parise will also provide a scoring threat, while former 2010 first round pick Charlie Coyle had a breakout 56-point campaign, a 14-point improvement from last season.
St. Louis Blues Big Star
Rocket Richard Trophy Race
It’s none other than the 10th-highest point-producer this season, Vladimir Tarasenko. It’s easily forgotten that he has only played 341 games, yet he has his third 70-point-plus season in a row. Drafted 16th overall by St. Louis, he is the cornerstone to the forward core. The scoring threat on this team drops drastically after him. Patrik Berglund can put the puck in the net too, with a 23-goal campaign, but he was the only other 20-goal-plus player on the roster this season. David Perron, Jaden Schwartz, Paul Stastny, and Alexander Steen will all provide a scoring pop on the second and third lines. Bottom line is that Tarasenko can’t do it alone, but his supporting cast can certainly step up.
Tarasenko is an elite talent that few franchises possess. He is the Blues version of Sidney Crosby, and the key component to the offense. He finished a mere five goals shy of Crosby and tied for fourth in goals this season with 39. He is one of only three players to have three consecutive 30+ goal seasons, and in 33 career playoff games has notched 19 goals for a total 26 points.
Battle of the Blue Lines
These two teams match up very well defensively. Both possess a point producer and up-and-coming talent. Minnesota’s Ryan Suter and St. Louis’ Alex Pietrangelo had 40- and 48-point campaigns respectively. They are both top-pairing defensemen that all the other franchises would cherish having.
Matt Dumba and Jonas Brodin are two of the top young defensemen in the league, and provide the Wild with a great duo. With the expansion draft coming up, the Wild will have to choose which three defensemen they will protect, so his playoff run could have a lasting impression for both of them.
In just his second full season in the league, the 22-year-old Dumba tallied 34 points in 76 games. Suter and Jared Spurgeon are the clear one-two punch on the blue line in Minnesota. However, Dumba is emerging as a great option for the third spot, and with Suter now in his thirties the Wild are going to start looking to Dumba more going ahead.
The Blues have one of their own top young defensemen in Colton Parayko. The former third round pick is showing to be a steal following up his 33-point rookie season with 35 points this season. His emergence allowed the Blues to deal Kevin Shattenkirk at the deadline, and will go forward with the duo of Pietrangelo and Parayko to build their defensive unit. These players will be ones to watch this round, and going forward.
Between the Pipes
This is another area in which these two franchises match up nicely. Devan Dubnyk and Jake Allen have both had stellar seasons for their respective club. Both possess save percentages above .915, and their goals against averages are both under 2.50 as well. These two will keep this a low-scoring series, and both teams will need to capitalize on the few scoring opportunities they will have.
When it comes to special teams there is no advantage found for either team. They both play at a 22% level on the power play. The Blues 84.8% penalty kill is a mere 1.8% higher than that of Minnesota.
The Blues won three out of four regular season meetings, one in overtime, and all by a single goal. The lone game the Wild grabbed a win came in the manner of a 5-1 thrashing. In their four meetings these clubs combined for 21 goals, which would indicate further that a low scoring playoff series is on the horizon.
This First Round matchup is shaping up to be a six- or seven-game thriller with forward depth on Minnesota looking to figure out Allen, and a battle between Tarasenko and Dubnyk that will bring highlight-reel moments.
Graham Anderson – Wild in 6
Sean Merz – Blues in 6
Ben Kerr – Wild in 6
Markus Meyer – Wild in 6
Patrick Alan Dejbjerg – Blues in 6
David Elisio – Wild in 6
Kyle Cushman – Blues in 6
Griffin Schroeder – Wild in 7
Charlie O’Connor – Blues in 6
Hunter Hodies – Wild in 7
Brandon Piller – Wild in 6
Nicholas Di Giovanni – Blues in 7
Kenneth Srapon – Wild in 6
Rachel Halliwell – Wild in 7
Nic Hendrickson – Wild in 6
Spencer Lussier – Wild in 5
Jake Howorth – Blues in 7