Marcus Foligno said it perfectly: “It’s the playoffs.”
Going through the slog of 82 games, the highs and lows of this overall successful regular season for the Minnesota Wild, and on their way, breaking several franchise records; is now hanging in the balance dependent on the next seven (or fewer) games against the St. Louis Blues.
There is nothing yet to go off on other than their last three games this season. And, as Blues GM Doug Armstrong himself said, the Wild have technically lost all three, but one of them was the Winter Classic, and the other two were in 3-on-3 overtime, something that doesn’t exist at this time of year. The slate should be considered almost completely clean.
We have extensively covered almost every aspect of this series and what it can entail. Whether it is the group of both top-end and depth forwards; the certain advantage the Wild might have on the blue line; how big of a role special teams can play in this series; how the two coaches will try to maneuver around each other; and how goaltending will play its own important role — we have you covered in so many ways.
For now, all we have left to focus on is the minutiae of Game 1 and how the lineups compare.
Projected Wild Lineup:
Kirill Kaprizov—Ryan Hartman—Mats Zuccarello
Kevin Fiala—Frederick Gaudreau—Matt Boldy
Jordan Greenway—Joel Eriksson Ek—Marcus Foligno
Brandon Duhaime—Tyson Jost—Nicolas Deslauriers
Jake Middleton—Jared Spurgeon
Jonas Brodin—Matt Dumba
Jon Merrill—Dmitry Kulikov
Dean Evason was still being coy and not letting anyone know which starter will take the net for Game 1, but if we had to bet any money on it — responsibly — our money would be on Marc-Andre Fleury taking the crease. And as we were typing this single sentence, Fleury made his way to the starter’s crease during morning skate. So, there you go.
Connor Dewar, Nick Bjugstad, and Alex Goligoski are your notable healthy scratches, but that shouldn’t really surprise anyone. Have we been on the record saying that Dewar should be in the lineup? Yes. But that fourth line looks good enough to me.
Projected Blues Lineup:
Brandon Saad—Ryan O’Reilly—David Perron
Pavel Buchnevich—Robert Thomas—Vlad Tarasenko
Ivan Barbashev—Brayden Schenn—Jordan Kyrou
Alexei Toropchenko—Tyler Bozak—Nathan Walker
Marco Scandella—Colton Parayko
Nick Leddy—Justin Faulk
Torey Krug—Robert Bortuzzo
Ville Husso is most certainly going to be the Blues’ starter tonight.
There are weapons everywhere up front for St. Louis, but looking at that blue line and you cannot imagine them shutting any of the four Wild lines down. Parayko is certainly a presence, but considering that their deadline addition of elderly Nick Leddy is playing important minutes, then, man, that’s rough.
Minnesota might need to play less on the cycle and get their scoring chances off of the rush, since no defenseman can really keep up with their forwards. That’s going to be something to look out for, since the Blues probably have better defensive help from their forwards than their blueliners.
It’s going to be a good one, there’s no doubt about that.
Puck drop is at 8:30 p.m. Yikes.
Will the Top Guys score?
It is no secret that the two best offensive players in this series are Kirill Kaprizov and Kevin Fiala. They can pummel just about any defense into submission just by rushing into the offensive zone by themselves, so tonight, facing a big-but-slow blue line and a goaltender on top of his game, could we see them notch some points?
We all know that for the Wild to win, they might need to lean on those guys a little bit more than usual, and that could start tonight.
Will Nic Deslauriers kill someone?
The last time these two teams faced each other, Deslauriers just happened to be mic’d up for the Wild’s YouTube show and they caught him telling a Blues player that he will have “four games to fucking kill” them.
Nic Deslauriers Forever— Hockey Wilderness (@hockeywildernes) April 30, 2022
(Minnesota Wild/YouTube) pic.twitter.com/1TVmS9hUBW
So, will Deslauriers kill someone? Who will be so unlucky to be on the opposing end of one of his punches?
This might end up being the most physical series this post-season, and Deslauriers will contribute greatly to that — not by seeking out hits or separating players from the puck, but being the pest that he is and causing St. Louis skaters to get all riled up. He will at least make the game more entertaining.
It’s the freakin ‘yoffs.