The Minnesota Wild will face ex-head coach Mike Yeo and the St. Louis Blues in the first round of the NHL playoffs.
Game one of the series for the Wild will be on home ice at the Xcel Energy Center on Wednesday, April 12. The number two and three seeds in the central division are going head-to-head. The Blues won the regular season series against the Wild 3-2, but the Wild finished as the higher seed in the central division at the end of the season.
Last season after a January slump and potentially missing the playoffs, Minnesota’s General Manager Chuck Fletcher pulled the trigger and fired Yeo from his head coaching job with the Wild. The Blues did the same thing just this year, firing their head coach at the time, Mike Hitchcock, and promoted none other than their assistant coach in Yeo. Revenge has to be on the mind of former head coach Mike Yeo, who has a chance to kick his former team out of the playoffs in the first round.
The question will be what Minnesota Wild team will show up come game one of the first round. Will it be the team that was widely considered to be the best team in the Western Conference, or will it be the team that only posted a 4-10-2 record in the month of March? Minnesota has been playing better hockey as of late, going 5-1 in their last six games and finishing their regular season on a four-game winning streak. The Wild have bounced back from their March struggles, but it’s still going to take the top team in the West to beat the Blues, not the other version of the Wild that was seen for an entire month.
Minnesota has most of the numbers and the statistics on their side. The Wild have a 3.21 goals per game average, while St. Louis posts a 2.83 goals per game average. Minnesota also posts a lower goal per game against average (GAA) than the Blues at 2.53, compared to St. Louis’ 2.63 GAA. The Wild are going to need their All-Star goaltender Devan Dubnyk to be on his game if they want to get past the first round of the playoffs. Dubnyk has won his last three games in-a-row and is back to his 2.25 GAA form.
There isn’t much to worry about with the top three lines of the Wild. Offense should come without much issue, but the challenge for Minnesota will be on the defensive side and limit St. Louis’ scoring opportunities. They’ll have to work on keeping players like Vladimir Tarasenko out of the slot and away from shot-taking.
In five games against the Wild this season, Tarasenko has scored three goals and has 75 points in 82 games played this season. 39 of Tarasenko’s 75 points have been goals this season so chances are he will have a few points by the time the series is over. If the Wild can limit his production, their chances of winning and moving on to the second round will skyrocket.