The Minnesota Wild split their two games at home and are starting to feel themselves out a little bit against the St. Louis Blues. In Game 1, it wasn’t a real Wild game. There were penalties galore, which led to almost half of the game being played by special teams, and the 5-on-5 dominance of Minnesota wasn’t able to shine through.
On Wednesday, it was a different story. And even if the special teams still played a significant role, it was the Wild that got to roll over the Blues and punish the weirdo-goalieness of Ville Husso.
In this mixed-bag of a series, it is hard not to stay confident with the Game 2 performance the Wild put in. All lines were firing off, there were no major defensive blunders, and Marc-Andre Fleury stood on his head in the key moments. It was an overall team win and one that was polar opposite to the stop-and-start showing on Monday. We will gladly act like Game 2 was the true predictor of this series and that we will just simply skip through St. Louis like it is nothing.
The reality is that the Blues just simply relied too much on goaltending to kill the Wild off in the first game and that was their downfall in the second. Monday was an anomaly with the amount of posts the Wild’s offense hit and the way the Blues penalty kill just had their way with the dismal powerplay chances. These two teams are fairly even given everything and the series has shown that so far.
We are expecting it to be a long one, and this is just the new start of a five-gamer, with it all tied up.
Projected Wild Lineup:
Kirill Kaprizov—Ryan Hartman—Mats Zuccarello
Kevin Fiala—Frederick Gaudreau—Matt Boldy
Jordan Greenway—Joel Eriksson Ek—Marcus Foligno
Brandon Duhaime—Tyson Jost—Nicolas Deslauriers
Jake Middleton—Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin—Matt Dumba
Jon Merrill—Alex Goligoski
If it ain’t broke, I can’t imagine the Wild will try to fix it — Marc-Andre Fleury is probably starting in net.
Projected Blues Lineup:
Brandon Saad—Ryan O’Reilly—David Perron
Pavel Buchnevich—Robert Thomas—Vlad Tarasenko
Ivan Barbashev—Brayden Schenn—Jordan Kyrou
Alexei Toropchenko—Tyler Bozak—Nathan Walker
Nico Mikkola—Colton Parayko
Torey Krug—Justin Faulk
Calle Rosen—Robert Bortuzzo
Ville Husso, obviously, is in net, despite putting in a poor performance on Wednesday.
For the Blues, they won’t really let anyone know (as of the time of writing) what their blue line is going to look like. They were without Nick Leddy for Game 2, Marco Scandella was already missing, and then Robert Bortuzzo went down with an injury on Wednesday. They called-up Steven Santini on emergency, but head coach Craig Berube isn’t letting anyone know what their progress will be. It will be just a mix of meh defensemen anyway.
Puck drop is at 8:30 p.m. (ugh).
Can the Wild just go one game without special teams drama and stay out of the box?
For Game 1, it was an abysmal display of penalty killing and two Blues goals on the man advantage. In Game 2, it was all about just quantity and not quality; as the Blues had five powerplay opportunities and still scored on one of them. It is obviously more ideal for any team to stay out of the box, but when it is still a troubling sign despite killing of a handful of chances Wednesday, it is just best to lay low and stay on the ice.
Will Fiala get on the board?
One key name that has been missing from the box score is Kevin Fiala. While it has been only two games and one of those was a shutout, it is noticeable when everyone else is getting their contributions out of the way, and Fiala is still left with zero points in the series. He has had his chances and they have looked mighty fine, but it would be nice to get the two-game monkey off his back and score a goal or a helper.
We’re not blaming the dude, it has been a wild two games.
Inspired by Ryan Hartman’s generosity, feel free to donate to Children’s Minnesota as they continue their effort and support, especially during this time as they continue their effort to support trans kids through their Gender Health Program. Feel free to donate here.