2017 Stanley Cup Playoff Preview: Wild vs. Blues

Plenty of back story in this matchup as the St. Louis Blues have been one of the best NHL teams since making a coaching change that saw former Minnesota Wild coach Mike Yeo take the reigns.

A trade deadline buyer against a trade deadline seller. The Minnesota Wild, reaching their fifth consecutive Stanley Cup Playoffs, were one of the most surprising NHL teams this season and were seeking to take advantage of their standing at the deadline by adding Martin Hanzal and Ryan White for depth on the forward unit. On the other side, the St. Louis Blues decided to trade pending UFA Kevin Shattenkirk to the Capitals, despite the fact they were still in the playoff hunt.

The result? The Wild simmered down the stretch, finishing 8-11-2 after the March 1 deadline, while the Blues got some much-improved goaltending from Jake Allen and went 15-3-2 to end the season.

Both teams also have new coaches this season — the Wild bringing in Bruce Boudreau in the off-season and the Blues promoting Mike Yeo from assistant to head coach after letting Ken Hitchcock go on Feb. 1. Boudreau certainly has something to prove as his coaching career has been full of regular season success followed by playoff disappointment, especially in Game 7’s. And Yeo does as well, since he’ll be coaching against his former team whom he led for parts of five seasons, but could never get past Round 2.

Here’s a closer look at the Wild and Blues.

BROADCAST SCHEDULE
G1 Wed., April 12 St. Louis @ Minnesota, 9:30 p.m. ET SN360
G2 Fri., April 14 St. Louis @ Minnesota, 8 p.m. ET SN360
G3 Sun., April 16 Minnesota @ St. Louis, 3 p.m. ET SN
G4 Wed., April 19 Minnesota @ St. Louis, 9:30 p.m. ET SN360
G5* Sat., April 22 St. Louis @ Minnesota, TBD
G6* Mon., April 24 Minnesota @ St. Louis, TBD
G7* Wed., April 26 St. Louis @ Minnesota, TBD

ADVANCED STATS:
Minnesota: 49.35 5on5 CF% (20th), .926 5on5 Sv% (11th), 9.20 5on5 Sh% (2nd), 101.76 PDO (2nd)

St. Louis: 50.29 5on5 CF% (15th), .923 5on5 Sv% (18th), 8.32 5on5 Sh% (8th), 100.64 PDO (10th)

TEAM STATS:
Minnesota: 21.0 PP% (9th), 82.9 PK% (8th), 263 GF (2nd), 206 GA (9th)

St. Louis: 21.3 PP% (8th), 84.7 PK% (4th), 230 GF (14th), 216 GA (13th)

HEAD-TO-HEAD RECORD
Minnesota: 2-2-1
St. Louis: 3-2-0

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Minnesota Wild Outlook: Pop quiz: Which team led the Western Conference in goals scored and goal differential? That would be Bruce Boudreau’s Wild. The veteran head coach wasn’t able to guide some very talented Capitals and Ducks teams to a Stanley Cup victory, and will be hoping to change his luck in his first season with the Wild. He’ll be challenged right off the bat, as the Wild endured a horrendous March, in which they won just four games. They managed to right the ship in the season’s final week, but two of their four wins came against the dreadful Colorado Avalanche. Boudreau has been hard on his club, telling reporters after a recent loss, “We’ve got to come to play every game. We can’t be satisfied with a 5-1 victory once a week.”

St. Louis Blues Outlook: As the saying goes, always a bridesmaid, never a bride. The Blues have been a perennial playoff contender, registering post-season appearances in each of the past five seasons, but could never seem to do much. After a pair of first-round exits, they made it as far as the Conference Final last season, but ultimately lost to the San Jose Sharks in six games. The hope is that Yeo will be able to muster something new from this bunch.

Wild X-Factor: Eric Staal enjoyed a spectacular bounce back season after several years in which he looked almost finished. Now that he’s summoned the elite form that made him a big name, the spotlight will shine brightly on him. The 32-year-old won a Stanley Cup in 2005-06 with the Carolina Hurricanes, but has had limited playoff experience since. In five games with the Rangers last season, he was was a minus-seven and held scoreless. That can’t happen again if the Wild are to be successful.

Blues X-Factor: Goaltender Jake Allen has had a roller-coaster season. Luckily for him and the Blues, the downward slope happened in the early part of the year. Once Yeo took over, Allen emerged as one of the better goalies in the league in February and March. Unlike previous post-season runs in St. Louis, Brian Elliott is no longer an option in the crease. It solely belongs to Allen now, as backup Carter Hutton doesn’t inspire much confidence.

TEAM LEADERS (G-A-PTS)
Minnesota: Mikael Granlund (26-43-69), Eric Staal (28-37-65), Mikko Koivu (18-40-58)

St. Louis: Vladimir Tarasenko (39-36-75), Jaden Schwartz (19-36-55), Alexander Steen (16-35-51)

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