The St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild are tied 1-1 after the first two games at the Xcel Energy Center in St. Paul, Minnesota. This series has been a fight, which was expected, but both games were surprising in how they unfolded.
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Overall, there are many takeaways from the first two games, but it’s important not to jump to conclusions or overreact to the first two games of a series. Both games have been far closer than the score would indicate, and that shows how close these two teams truly are.
Blues’ Offense Has Been Good Enough
This isn’t just about scoring goals, but the Blues have executed well offensively and are generating a lot of chances. This was prevalent in Game 2 and at least three of their four lines were solid. The Ryan O’Reilly line with David Perron and Brandon Saad was especially good in Game 1, while the Robert Thomas line with Pavel Buchnevich and Vladimir Tarasenko was far more aggressive in Game 2.
Even though the Blues have just three of their six goals at even-strength through two games, they’ve generated plenty of offense whether they are at even strength or on the power play. One player that stood out in Game 2 was Jordan Kyrou, who scored a power-play goal and nearly nabbed another late in the third period. Kyrou has played well with Brayden Schenn and Ivan Barbashev, but head coach Craig Berube hasn’t been afraid to switch somebody off this line as he did with Barbashev in Game 2 for Alexei Toropchenko.
It’s no surprise that a veteran line of O’Reilly, Saad, and Perron have shown up in this series. Perron has been brilliant with a hat trick in Game 1 and followed it up with a solid performance in Game 2. I have even more confidence heading into Game 3 with the top three lines as the Thomas line found its game and Kyrou looks more and more like himself.
Blues Missed Leddy in Game 2
It was quite clear from the start that Calle Rosen was overwhelmed in Game 2, as Nick Leddy missed the game due to an upper-body injury. They certainly missed Leddy, who has fit in quite well since the trade from the Detroit Red Wings. It’s not Rosen’s fault, as he was solid in the regular season, but he was unsurprisingly overwhelmed. It was also a tough game for Justin Faulk, who took two penalties in the first period that both led to goals for the Wild.
Based on the season that he had, I expect Faulk to be much more like himself as the series moves forward, and his pairing with Torey Krug shouldn’t be messed with by Berube. As for Colton Parayko and Niko Mikkola, it’s hard to assess them, as there were some good and bad moments. I believe that if Marco Scandella and Leddy return in Game 3, one of them plays with Parayko, and Mikkola would be paired with the other.
The defensive issues have loomed large for the Blues all season, but they have been better as of late. Despite allowing five goals in Game 2, I still believe in Ville Husso and what he has done nearly all season for the Blues. They caught a lot of early bad breaks and it affected him, but either way, he should start in Game 3.
Special Teams Could Be Biggest Factor in Series
This was where the Blues had the biggest advantage coming into the series, as they ranked second on the power play and fifth on the penalty kill in the NHL. The Wild weren’t as close with their 18th-ranked power play and 25th ranked penalty kill.
This proved to be the case in Game 1, as both teams had six power plays and the Blues scored on two of them. The Wild had zero power-play goals in Game 1 but showed up with two of them in Game 2. The Blues are 3-for-11 on the power play in two games, while the Wild are 2-for-9. This shows that special teams will be a major part of the series as the refs will likely continue to make a lot of calls.
This series has already lived up to its advanced billing, with two evenly matched teams playing each other for the third time in the playoffs since 2015. This should continue to be a heavyweight fight and Game 3 will be a huge test for both sides to gain an advantage in the series.
Ethan Carter has been writing at The Hockey Writers for over three years now. He also co-hosts The Blue Note Podcast for the Bleav Network, which covers the Blues and the NHL multiple times per week.