The St. Louis Blues are headed to the Second Round after eliminating the Minnesota Wild in Game Five. This First Round matchup was a low-scoring affair, and the play of Jake Allen and Devan Dubnyk was a sight all hockey fans should feel privileged to have witnessed. These two teams were very evenly-matched and know each other well, having met in the First Round for the second time in three seasons.
Here are some key talking points from the series.
St. Louis Blues vs Minnesota Wild First Round Series Recap
Jake Allen Has Arrived
The 1977 hit by the Commodores, ‘Brick House’ more than accurately describes how Allan played. The Wild did not score more than one goal until Game Four. He had to face an average of 36.4 shots per game, but maintained a 1.47 goals-against average and .956 save percentage. With career playoff numbers of 1.97 GAA and .928 SV%, it should come as no surprise that he was able to stone out the Wild in the series. He stood on his head, and made some spectacular saves. In the Stanley Cup Playoffs, a team could only goes as far as their goalie takes them, and Allen could take them very far this year.
Blues Forwards Need to Step Up
Allen played at an elite level, but he can’t keep that up for another round. Vladimir Tarasenko managed to net only a single goal in the whole series, and it didn’t come until the first period of Game Five. After a 39-goal regular season, tied for third best in the league, he got cold at the wrong time. With the exception of Jaden Schwartz and Alex Steen the forward core of St. Louis rarely found the back of the net. The forward group managed eight goals over the five-game series, with half of those coming from the aforementioned duo. After Dubnyk the Blues now have to deal with Pekka Rinne, another big challenge, but one they will need to rise to in order to reach the Conference Final.
They also need to find a way to stay out of the penalty box. They had 44 penalty minutes this past round, a number that needs to be halved to ensure a better chance at success. Although they did have a 83.3% penalty kill rate, it is less than desirable to be playing on the penalty kill for half a period each night.
Devan Dubnyk Not to Blame
He is still one of the league’s elite goaltenders and his play in this series further solidified it. A 1.86 goals-against average and .925 save percentage would normally be enough to see a team advance to the Second Round, but only if there’s some goal support to back it up. With the exception of Zach Parise and Charlie Coyle the entire team fell flat. Mikael Granlund, Nino Niederreiter, and Eric Staal all failed to put the puck in the net which ultimately lead to the Wild’s demise.