Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues First Round Series Preview

Minnesota Wild vs St. Louis Blues
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Here we are. The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs are finally upon us and they produced some amazing matchups. The best matchup on paper includes the Minnesota Wild vs St. Louis Blues series. This has been a highly anticipated series, even with the Blues winning the season series 3-0 (Wild went 0-1-2). Both of these teams are very equal up and down the checklist and that is why the battle for home-ice advantage was so important.

Minnesota Wild vs St. Louis Blues Series Preview

The Wild ended up locking into the second-place spot in the Central Division on the last night of the regular season in a 4-1 victory over the Colorado Avalanche, a win or loss in that game wouldn’t have mattered though as St. Louis lost to the Vegas Golden Knights 7-4. The Minnesota Wild ended the season with a 53-22-7 record, 113 points, and a .689 winning percentage. All of which were franchise records. The St. Louis Blues ended their season with a 49-22-11 record, 109 points, and a .665 winning percentage. This series has the potential to be the best of the first round.

Blues Forward Depth

The St. Louis Blues come into the Stanley Cup Playoffs with one of the best forward groups. They ended the season with nine 20+ goal scorers, and five forwards at 60+ points. Talk about depth. Center Robert Thomas has been on a tear recently and is fresh off of a 16-game point streak. This team also managed to score four or more goals in 12 straight games towards the end of the season. If anything should scare the Wild it’s the Blues’ ability to score multiple goals after a momentum shift, and really stack the score. With that being said, the downside to this core is they mostly feed on momentum, and if the Wild can keep the crowd quiet or lay some heavy wood, Vladimir Tarasenko and company will have to create their own energy against a really good defensive team in the Wild.

Minnesota’s Defensive Core and Superstar Talent

The Wild have one of the best defensive cores in the NHL, and they always have. They’re now fully healthy heading into the playoffs, and fully healthy against the Blues for the first time this season. Led by team captain Jared Spurgeon and newly acquired Jacob Middleton, the blue line in Minny is way tougher than the Blues core. Going down the list there’s also Jonas Brodin, who some would make the argument is the best ¨lockdown¨ defenseman in the NHL. Matt Dumba, Jon Merrill, and Dmitry Kulikov complete the top 6.

The Wild also have a luxury that not many teams have. A complete, shutdown, scoring line. The ¨GREEF¨ line, which consists of Jordan Greenway (27 points), Joel Eriksson Ek (49 points), and Marcus Foligno (42 points) is considered the best shutdown line in the NHL, outscoring opposing lines 25-4 all season. This is really Minnesota’s identity line, they need to depend on this line to shut down the Pavel Buchnevich – Robert Thomas – Vladimir Tarasenko combo. And if they can, this could be a tilted series.

The Wild are lucky to have Kirill Kaprizov as well, a young man who single-handedly re-wrote the franchise’s record books, scoring 47 goals, 61 assists, and 108 points. This is a special player who can’t be compared to anyone on the Blues, and he could be a huge X-factor in the series.

Goaltending

This series also features two teams who don’t know who to start in the net. For the Wild, it’s a good problem, as they are picking between future Hall of Famer, Marc-Andre Fleury, or Cam Talbot, who has been the team’s number one goaltender all season long. Talbot posted a 2.76 GAA and a .911 SV% with 32 wins while Fleury posted a 2.90 GAA, a .908 SV%, and had 28 wins (9-2-0 with the Wild). 

The St. Louis Blues on the other hand have not so elite goaltending. They don’t know who to pick between Ville Husso, their number one all season who has zero playoff experience, or Jordan Binnington, 2019 Stanley Cup Champion. Husso had a stellar 2.56 GAA and a .919 SV% while Binnington struggled this season with a 3.13 GAA and a .901 SV%. 

The Wild definitely have the upper hand in goaltending, which is what this whole series might come down to.

Prediction

This series is going to be so fun to watch. It’s almost impossible to pick a winner without seeing Game 1 play out. However, with everything taken into consideration and the Blues’ confusion in the crease, it’s hard to bet against Kaprizov and the Wild.

Minnesota Wild win the series 4-2.

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