From the people who spend their days watching, analyzing, dissecting and devouring everything Wild before delivering it to you, here are the Hockey Wilderness Staff Predictions for Round 1 against the St. Louis Blues
Chris Boyd - @LoonyTrumpterMN
The Wild will win if they can focus on their offensive play. When the Wild is on, there isn't a team in the league that can stop them, certainly not the Blues, who will be deep in to the patented Yeo 'postseason defensive focus'. Despite the best efforts of Kyle Brodziak and Mr. Yeo, the scoring punch of the Wild is just too much to handle.
The Blues will win if the Wild get sucked into their defensive game. The Blues and Yeo like to play physical, slow, low-event hockey and if the Wild try to beat them at their own game they will fail. The first games in St. Louis will really set the tone here; if the WiIld can keep their identity, things will be fine.
Wild in 6, winning 2 away games, and losing 1 at home. MVP: Nino Niederreiter
Barry Campbell - @bjvcampbell
The Wild win this series if Devan Dubnyk follows his trajectory from the end of the season and continues to find his game. The Blues win this series if Jake Allen can maintain his pace over the second half of the season and the Wild can’t contain Vladimir Tarasenko.
Everything about this matchup comes down to goaltending. The Wild are a much deeper team with scoring threats from top to bottom. The Blues are a top heavy squad that has found a way to win by scoring enough to make their above average goaltending in the second half their team strength. They possess two Wild killers in Tarasenko and Alexander Steen, but the Wild have enough extra offensive power through their depth to overcome the St. Louis forwards, but have their work cut out overcoming the brick wall that Jake Allen has become.
Wild in 6, MVP: Has to be Dubnyk if Wild want to win
Joe Bouley - @JoeBou15
The Wild win this series if they can crack the condensed Box +1 that the Blues employ. Players like Nino Niederreiter must get to the front of the net and create havoc. In fact, they must take up residence in the blue paint and rattle the hell our of Jake Allen. The speed team speed will be a major factor in beating the bulky Blues defensemen and winning battles. Devan Dubnyk gets an attitude like he had in January where he says, “No more!” like known bad ass Wyatt Earp walking into the creek and taking down the Cowboys.
Minnesota loses if they can’t break through the defense and they allow the Blues to clamp down in front of Jake Allen and make it easy to defend. Vladimir Tarasenko owns Dubnyk and the Wild on mistakes, and just sit back and let the wins come to them. They let guys like Ryan Reaves get under their skin and forget that winning is the goal, not grit.
Wild in 6 - Yeo’s style steals wins, but ultimately the depth and attack of the Wild wins out. Nino Niederreiter is the MVP because he’s going to be the only one that consistently goes to the net and wreaks havoc on Jake Allen
Aaron Holm - @The_Noogie
For the Wild to win this series, it’s really very simple. Play to their strengths. Solid defense, dynamic, speedy offense, and great goaltending. It takes all three, and if any of that tri-force is lacking the Wild will find themselves in bit of a pinch. The Wild have the depth to outlast the Blues in a deep series. With home ice advantage and a regular season home record of 27-12-2, games at the X will be just a little more difficult for the opposition. Throw in the 2nd most goals in the NHL (266) and 2nd best goal diff (+58) on the season, the Wild sticking to their game should lead to success. Offense, defense, and goaltending. It’s cliche, but in the playoffs, cliches work.
It's no secret that running into a hot goaltender can lead to disaster in the NHL playoffs, and since Mike Yeo took over the reigns on February 1st, nobody has hotter goaltending than the St. Louis Blues. Since Ken Hitchcock was relieved, Jake Allen has posted a league best (among goalies playing in 10+ games) .938 Sv% and a 1.85 GAA in 25 games. The Blues have ripped off 22 wins in 32 games under the Mike Yeo, and are looking very tough to beat right now. If the Blues can slow down the Wild and crack their defense, it could be curtains for the Wild early in the playoffs.
Wild in 7. Despite a more than rocky March, the Wild look like they have been coming around lately. It's not going to be easy, but with the Wild's speed and their depth down the middle I believe they'll find their way into the 2nd round of the playoffs. MVP: Mikael Granlund #80in17
Tony Abbott - @OhHiTony
Why the Wild will Win: Dubnyk will re-gain his form, and the Wild will be able to play their game with confidence. Minnesota is able to attack St. Louis with speed (with Granlund/Zucker) and strength on the puck (Staal/Nino). Their depth up-front buzzsaws through the Blues’ third and fourth-lines, rattling Jake Allen early and often.
Why the Blues will Win: Dubnyk continues to struggle, putting the Wild down early in games. Mike Yeo’s Blues traps and obstructs and slows down the Wild’s attack, clinging to enough leads to pull off the upset.
Prediction: Wild in 5 , MVP: Jason Pominville
Greg - @Greguisition
If the last Wild-Blues game was anything to go by, this series should have the most clogged neutral zone in the playoffs. The Wild tend to score a lot on the rush, so Yeo's system could be especially effective at limiting the Wild's scoring chances. If the Wild want to win, they're either going to have to use their speed to find a way around Yeo's system or find a way to score more on the cycle. The Wild will lose if they allow the Blues to dictate the pace of game and if Dubnyk can't give at least league average performances.
I think the Wild will be able to adapt to the Blues during the series, and I'm predicting the Wild will win in 6 games. Further, I think Granlund will be the series MVP. The Wild will need to get through the neutral zone efficiently and will need plenty of creativity to score on the cycle, and Granlund is arguably the best at both on the Wild.
Jack Van Thomme - @Real_JackVT
After a grueling end of the year in which they had fewer rest days than game days, the final stretch of games gave the Wild a chance to refocus. They're more centered now and have been scoring at a clip that's comparable to October and November. That boost in confidence has them playing stronger defense in front of Dubnyk, who has relied on that defense to force opponents to take the type of shots he loves. Dubnyk's play rebounds and he starts to look like a series MVP, despite much of his improvement coming from the defense's better systematic play. Adding Joel Eriksson has given the Wild some mystery on offense and they use that to great effect, exploiting the Blues' goaltending, which has plagued them all year.
The Big Bad Blues are no longer bruising opponents like they used to, but what's replaced that team is a disciplined, efficient group. While they don't have the offensive depth or top-end goaltending talent like the Wild, they have a bona fide game breaker in Vladimir Tarasenko, and that's enough to frighten just about any team. Without an offsetting threat to counter Yeo's deployment of Tarasenko, the Wild will have a tough time matching his scoring ability. Despite their confidence being lower, the Blues respect the challenge that the Wild pose and actively plan around Scott Stevens' defensive system, allowing them to overpower the Wild night in and night out.
Blues in 6. MVP: Vladimir Tarasenko, but Dubnyk is still most valuable in my heart.
Cat Lenander - @CatLenander
When asked about the Wild’s chances my gut screams, yes, they’ll win the series against the Blues. Even with the recent slump in March, it wasn’t that bad and they seem to be over it now. Yes, St Louis took the regular season series at 3-2, but Minnesota will be the ones moving on in the post season. After all, they did it two years ago in six games and they’re now a much better team. If you want tangible reasons for why this is the case, check with the others—I’ve been pretty focused on women’s hockey all season—but I’ve felt something about the Wild all season that I’ve never felt before: hope.
Wild in 7 because my hope will be brutally murdered before they advance to round 2. I don’t trust them to ever finish in a timely fashion. MVP: Devan Dubnyk, but the gut is also insisting Eric Staal will come up big.
The Blues probably like their 2-1 win over the Wild back in early March as a blueprint for the playoffs. That means Yeo will be trying to find a way to keep games low scoring and clogged up, relying on Jake Allen to play well in net and Vladimir Tarasenko to work some magic on offense. The Wild need to negate Tarasenko (something Erik Haula has done to other offensive wunderkinds in the past), break through the neutral zone, and get traffic in front of Allen. The Wild are incredibly deep compared to the Blues in terms of goal scoring, so pour on the gas and wear out the other team's best defensive forwards and blueliner’s with speed. Allen can stand on his head, so avoiding frustration and maintaining the up tempo but disciplined game is really important too.
The Wild are the better team, even if the Blues have been on a hot streak running up to the playoffs. This series is about not losing more than it is about winning. The Blues best approach to "not losing" is to keep the games low scoring. If the Wild can't win in the neutral zone and settle for one-and-done offensive adventures, the Blues can rely on their stars to win the close games.
The Wild win in 6 with the Blues managing to steal a game at the Xcel Energy Center.
Series MVP: Mikael Granlund. It's a close call between Granlund and Dubnyk, and both will need to play well for the Wild to advance. What tips the scales is that Granlund is the Wild's leading scorer, has proven to be a clutch playoff performer in the past, and is the Wild's best bet for blowing games wide open for scoring. The Blues will want to keep the games low scoring, but Granlund can make sure the Wild light the lamp early and often.
Kine - @keisarikine
I'd definitely say that this is a series to lose. The Blues are coming in on a much better run and have a hot hand in net with Jake Allen. If Devan Dubnyk could be what he was early in the season, he could win the series for the Wild but he just has not been that player recently.
I think the Wild win if Devan Dubnyk gets going again, I don't see any other way. Alex Stalock could go on an absolutely fantastic run to bring home the Conn Smythe, but I'd put the probability of that being much lower to happen, so don't count on that. I don't really see any skater on the Wild who would be able to turn this series in their favor. Mikael Granlund would be the closest to one, and I definitely see him being a big part of the Wild going however far they make it on this run. I think that the Wild lose if Dubnyk can't get going, there's no-one to bail them out of that. If Tarasenko goes beast mode and scores a goal per game, that wins the Blues this series single handedly.
My prediction is Blues in 6. I could see the Wild coming back toward the end but just not doing enough. Yeo's defensive system with Tarasenko to provide some offensive punch and Jake Allen providing good goaltending to go with it can shut the Wild out to start the series. Even if Boudreau and the Wild can adapt and get through to the Blues, I don't think it'll be enough for them to win the series.
Jim Dowd’s Pants - @JimDowdsPants
The Wild is a good team defensively, and I genuinely believe that the team, with the heightened intensity of the playoffs, will absolutely play good defense. For this reason, I don’t know that this aspect of the game can really be considered a factor in this series for Minnesota. To me, the x-factors for the Wild are finding a balanced attack and getting solid (not necessarily spectacular… just solid goaltending). The Wild was the best offensive team in the West this year, but it didn’t get there on the backs of a couple individuals. It got there by having contributions from every player in the lineup, as we saw during the mid-season winning streak. It got back to this in the past couple weeks as well, racking up big goal totals consistently and seeing different players scoring every night. This is the key to success for Minnesota, because if it ends up relying on a couple of guys to put pucks in the net, the output will be very limited. At the other end of the ice, we saw Devan Dubnyk be the best goaltender in the league for a significant portion of the season, but then falter late in the year when he tuckered out and was relied on far too frequently to make a gigantic save. When he was at his best, he was making every save you expected him to make, and a few more per game, but the team playing in front of him didn’t require him to make too many gamebreakers on a given night. As I said above, the Wild will play good defense in front of him, so the key for Dubnyk will be making the saves he is supposed to make and splash in a couple of big ones per game
The Blues are really stinking good, so they will be a tough challenge for the Wild. Pound for pound, I actually believe that Minnesota is truly a better team, despite some true star power on the St. Louis roster. When Minnesota beat St. Louis two seasons ago, the Blues had some serious goaltending woes with Jake Allen fumbling throughout much of the series. This year, though, Allen has been on fire down the stretch, and since St. Louis hired our old pal Mr. Yeo, he’s finally looked like the goaltender that Blues fans have always hoped he could be. If he carries on with this red hot play, steals a couple games early and frustrates Wild shooters, it could be a short playoff run for the State of Hockey. Let’s hope Allen cools off a bit.
Wild in 6, MVP: Nino.
Guest Prediction: Panda Pete of @TwinsAndLosses - @PandaPete21
The Wild will win the series behind Devan Dubnyk and Alex Stalock’s (because let’s be real, Darcy Kuemper isn’t going to save the Wild’s bacon) superior goaltending. Goaltending wins champions, and at one point this season Dubnyk was considered to be the front runner for the Vezina. A shaky March most likely killed that hope, but Dubnyk looks like he’s getting his feet underneath him again. While the defense will also need to step it up, the goal scoring has come back to pre-March standards.
The Blues will win because Mike Yeo’s stifling defensive game will bore the Wild and it’s fans to actual death. I really just want the Wild to beat the damn Hawks in round 2 so I don’t have to listen to my Hawks bandwagon loving program director for another year…
Wild in 5, Series MVP: Not Matt Dumba, because LOLOL. Seriously though, Dubnyk and/or Kuemper/Stalock have to play out of their minds if the Wild want to exorcise some demons this postseason.