It's really no surprise that these teams are on a collision course. Good stories have a way of making themselves happen, and the Wild-Blues tilt in the first round of the playoffs that looks more certain each day is a perfect example.
The unfortunate part for Wild fans is that the Blues have gone 20-8-2 under Yeo since the firing of Ken Hitchcock. The Wild, meanwhile, have gone 14-14-3. Wild fans were getting their chuckles in early and often upon hearing the news of Yeo's promotion, but the month of March has painted a much different picture.
Addressing the month of March, it seems like the Wild have worked their way out of the March badness that caused so many headaches and arguments with points in six of their last seven games. However, beating up on the creampuffs of the NHL in recent games and losing a big potential playoff preview to the Predators is far from earning a resounding vote of confidence.
Furthering the concern for Wild fans should be the play of Blues goaltender Jake Allen. After a rocky start to the season (to put it kindly) Allen has posted a .935 save percentage in the last month. By comparison, the struggling Devan Dubnyk has played at an .882 clip, even coming off of a few solid games. Now, this means next to nothing when it comes to the upcoming playoff series, as the NHL playoffs are nothing like the regular season, but it's not a great sign, even if the first go-around of Dubnyk vs Allen in the playoffs favored the Wild.
With all of the factual reasons to worry about the Wild facing the Blues in the playoffs, I'm actually less worried about recent play, trends, etc. and more worried about the Yeo storyline.
I'm not going to sit here and say the Yeo is a bad coach, but it's entirely possible that he is and is riding the wave of hot goaltending recently, as his team's puck luck/PDO has corrected from an abysmal start. It'd be easy to say that Yeo couldn't possibly pose a threat to the Wild in the playoffs, as he's proven to be an inferior coach by the job Bruce Boudreau has done this year. While March has slightly dispelled that, it still remains more true than not, as this Wild team is poised to to have broken several team records by the conclusion of their season Saturday.
My biggest concern about the Yeo factor is the credit that he'll be given if/when the Blues best the Wild in the playoffs and the insufferable coverage that it will receive throughout the series. Giles and I talked about this recently on the Hashtag Hockey Podcast, about how the constant parading of Yeo's time in Minnesota and subsequent dismissal during a playoff series -- heaven forbid a long one -- could prove to be very tiring. The idea of the already irritating Pierre McGuire regurgitating the name 'Hill Murray' on a nightly basis is a bit much for this North St. Paul boy to handle.
The spin will be interesting as well, given the propensity of news outlets to dig for underdog stories. While technically true, it's also misleading to say that Mike Yeo is undefeated in Games 7s, while Boudreau has obviously had his struggles. While citing the records since Yeo's promotion in St. Louis is compelling, the sample size should be cause for concern, and two months during the regular season hardly tell the story of a whole year, let alone predict anything in the playoffs.
Either way, I actually look forward to a good series from a hockey standpoint. It should prove to be an interesting matchup, and even though the roll of the playoff-goaltending dice usually decides things, the stylistic clash of Boudreau versus Yeo is a very intriguing matchup if you set aside all of the reality television-like drama surrounding the firing and hiring of the two in Minnesota.
Think you could write a story like this? Hockey Wilderness wants you to develop your voice, find an audience, and we'll pay you to do it. Just fill out this form.