ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — The Minnesota Wild and the St. Louis Blues have been two of one of the best groups within the NHL down the stretch of the common season, with these long-running rivals locked in a relentless heavyweight battle for second place within the Central Division.
After nudging forward of the Blues by profitable their final two video games, the Wild earned the additional dwelling sport within the first spherical.
However going through the Blues instantly? Nicely, that’s hardly a reward.
“We’re going to play a very good hockey team — experienced, skilled — and they’re playing one, too,” Wild common supervisor Invoice Guerin stated. “It’s got the makings of a great series.”
The Wild established a slew of franchise data, together with factors (113), wins (53) and objectives (305), and completed behind solely Colorado within the Western Convention.
“They’ve kind of got a good dynamic from all angles — scorers, big guys that can score as well, good defensemen that are active,” Blues defenseman Colton Parayko stated. “They’ve got a lot of good pieces, so they’re going to be a challenge.”
The Blues had 109 factors, 10 higher than their 2018-19 crew that went on to win the Stanley Cup. They received all three matchups with the Wild: within the Winter Basic at Goal Area (6-4) and a pair of extra time choices in St. Louis final month (4-3 and 6-5).
“In the past, the Blues were kind of known as a heavy, physical team, and now they have a ton of skill too,” Wild heart Tyson Jost stated. “You saw how we played them down the stretch here, and it’s been some great games back and forth. It’s going to be a great series.”
The Wild will host Recreation 1 on Monday and Recreation 2 on Wednesday. If the sequence goes the gap, they’ll have Recreation 7 on Might 14 at Xcel Power Middle, the place they went 31-8-2 this season.
The final time the Wild had home-ice benefit in a playoff sequence was, fittingly, in opposition to the Blues within the first spherical in 2017 after they misplaced in six video games.
For the reason that NHL in 2014 enacted the present postseason format with divisional brackets as an alternative of seeding by convention end, few first-round matchups have been as stacked as this one.
Solely two different opening sequence pitting the second and third place groups from the identical division in that span featured a stronger mixed report. The common factors proportion between the Blues and Wild was .677, behind the Tampa Bay-Toronto matchup (.686) this yr within the Atlantic Division. The best was final season, with Minnesota-Vegas at a whopping .701. Factors percentages have been naturally increased final yr with the truncated 56-game schedule.
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Over the ultimate six weeks of the common season, the Wild led the league with a plus-30 aim differential, in accordance with Sportradar knowledge. The Blues have been tied with Calgary and Edmonton for second finest in that span at plus-24.
Wild left wing Marcus Foligno — one of many crew’s alternate captains who has fashioned an imposing and productive second line with Joel Eriksson Ek and Jordan Greenway — took a knee-on-knee hit within the closing common season sport in opposition to Colorado.
Foligno was again at follow on Sunday, although, so the Wild appeared to keep away from a scare. Proper wing Mats Zuccarello was there, too, after being sidelined pver the final week by a minor harm.
For the Blues, heart Brayden Schenn and defenseman Marco Scandella have been on the ice with the crew on Sunday and on observe for Recreation 1 after current harm absences.
WHO’S IN NET?
Guerin traded for Jost, left wing Nicolas Deslauriers and defenseman Jacob Middleton proper earlier than the deadline so as to add some brawn to the lineup, however there was no extra significant acquisition than goalie Marc-Andre Fleury. The reigning Vezina Trophy winner and three-time Stanley Cup champion has fashioned a formidable tandem with All-Star Cam Talbot, elevating the good-problem-to-have query about who will get essentially the most time within the sequence.
“You can’t make a bad decision,” Guerin stated. “We have two guys that we have all the faith in the world in.”
The Blues have been third within the NHL with 309 objectives, that includes 9 gamers who hit the 20-goal mark: Vladimir Tarasenko, Pavel Buchnevich, David Perron, Jordan Kyrou, Ivan Barbashev, Schenn, Brandon Saad, Ryan O’Reilly and Robert Thomas.
The Wild have been fifth within the league, after Kirill Kaprizov set the franchise report with 47 objectives and Ryan Hartman (34), Kevin Fiala (33), Eriksson Ek (26) and Foligno (23) additionally established profession highs. Zuccarello had 24 objectives — and 55 assists.
“Both teams can score their way out of problems,” Blues common supervisor Doug Armstrong stated.
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