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Game 4 Preview: Wild defend lead in St. Louis

Wild will aim to take advantage of Blues depleted blueline for a third consecutive win.

Minnesota Wild v St Louis Blues - Game Three Photo by Joe Puetz/Getty Images

Gosh, absolutely feel free to boo and hiss at me for my everlasting pessimism but I have a hard time imagining this afternoon’s Game 4 will be as a sound of win between the two teams as the previous two games. I have a hard time imagining the Blues will go down easy tonight as they try desperately to even up the series on home ice. If the Minnesota Wild wins this evening, they have a chance to win it in St. Paul on Tuesday, I can’t imagine St. Louis wants to see that happen. However, if they lose the remaining games become a fresh best-of-three,

That being said, Minnesota will want to see that happen and they have a depleted and injured Blues blueline blocking their way. Although Nick Leddy and Robert Bortuzzo did practice on Saturday so they could return for tonight’s game. Torey Krug took a run at Matt Boldy in Game 3 and will be out forGgame 4. Even with Leddy and Bortuzzo’s potential return Krug is a big loss. He was second among Blues defensemen in points during the regular season and quarterbacks their power play. Seeing as all of their goals in the last two games have been on the PP, I imagine the team is not thrilled to be missing Krug.

I’m hoping to see continued 5-on-5 dominance from Minnesota. The Blues top line who combined for a total of 84 goals and 235 points during the season have been all but absent in the series so far (one goal from Vladamir Tarasenko and five total points from the line). Keeping them from finding their game will be a big part of the win tonight if the Wild manages it. They kept them largely from the scoring sheet in St. Paul by keeping them shadowed by the GREEF line but in Friday’s game Minnesota didn’t have the matchup advantage. It didn’t worry ole’ Dean Evason though, “we don’t worry about matchups because we want everyone to play against anybody.”

Whereas Minnesota’s seen scoring from folks across their lineup, several from Kirill Kaprizov and Joel Eriksson Ek, as well as the fastest goal scored in Wild postseason history at 39 seconds from Jordan Greenway. I’d love to see some points from the BFF line (Matt Boldy, Freddy Gaudreau, and Kevin Fiala) who only has one goal from Gaudreau between them.

There’s a bit of a question mark around who we’ll see in net tonight as well. Not for the Wild, who will absolutely keep riding Marc Andre Fleury. He has a 2.34 goals-against average and a .926 save percentage in the series so far. He needs 11 more minutes of playing time to reach a total of 10,000 career postseason minutes. I’m not as sure who we’ll see from the Blues tonight. Ville Husso had an incredible Game 1 posting a shutout in St. Paul, but has given up nine goals in the games following, including some odd man rushes he probably should have blocked. The Blues might want a refresh. Jordan Binnington has former Stanley Cup Hero pedigree, but he hasn’t played since April 26 and since winning in 2019 his postseason stats are, uhhh, not great. He’s 0-9 with a .875 SV% and a 4.19 goals-against average. I don’t envy Craig Berube and co’s decision there.

Minnesota has remained largely uninjured (so to speak, there are definitely some banged up guys who have likely been playing on injuries for awhile), so there won’t be any lineup changes. Blues will have to do some blueline shuffling depending on if they’re without Krug, Bortuzzo, and Leddy or if a few of those guys are back.

Burning Questions

Do we see more of MY president, Joel Eriksson Ek’s utter playoff domination?

JEEk has showed quite the playoff hockey acumen over the last few games. He has 3 goals and 2 assists over the last two games, and has continued to be the stuff that keeps opposing goaltenders and hopeful goalscorers up at night. Guys can’t score while he’s on the ice (and he’s on the ice for nearly 18 minutes every night) and Husso can’t keep his pucks out of his net (he has scored 3 goals on 12 shots). He’s so good, y’all!!! I love seeing Joel Eriksson Ek succeed!

Will the Blues try to hit their way to a win tonight?

The Blues played with an axe to grind Friday night, they outhit the Wild 33-17 (17-4 in the first period alone.) It wasn’t necessarily a winning strategy for them, as they lost a player (Krug’s hit on Boldy) and didn’t create a lot of offense, nor did it stop the Wild from scoring. Maybe they can figure out their scoring while keeping it physical. Hopefully we don’t see many more players (from either team) get too hurt.