St. Louis Blues vs. Minnesota Wild: 2022 Round One, Game 3 Preview

The St. Louis Blues and the Minnesota Wild have each claimed a victory through the first two games of their best-of-seven series. The two teams are headed to St. Louis to play Games 3 and 4 before returning to Minnesota for Game 5. The series has become a test of depth for the Blues, with half of their regular defensemen questionable for Game 3.

Blues and Wild Round One Series Statistics

2 Storylines: Blues

Defensive Depth Being Tested

After taking a puck to the side of his face, Blues defenseman Robert Bortuzzo is questionable for Game 3. If none of his ailing defensemen show signs of progress, head coach Craig Berube will have only half of his regular defensemen available for tonight’s game. In addition to Bortuzzo, the Blues are also without Marco Scandella (lower-body injury), and Nick Leddy (upper-body injury). As a result of Bortuzzo’s injury, the Blues recalled defenseman Steven Santini from their American Hockey Affiliate (AHL) under emergency conditions.

When asked (Thursday) about Santini’s availability for tonight’s game, Berube said: “There’s a chance. We’ve got to see how guys are. Day to day to rest and see how they feel tomorrow. Then we’ll go from there, but we need to make sure. We’ve got to get a guy in just to be ready.”

Santini’s style seems to fit Berube’s system, and he can fit in well in a limited role. In his comments on the defenseman, Berube continued to say: “He’s not going to wow you with the puck play or anything like that, but he’s going to make simple plays, and he’s going to play hard, and he’s going to battle at the net and do things like that. He’s going to try and make it difficult for the other team.”

Related: Blues’ Acquisition of Leddy is Band-Aid on Defensive Depth

The 27-year-old right-shot defenseman has played 66 games for the Springfield Thunderbirds this season, scoring two goals and 18 points.

Blues Confident Despite Loss

After shutting out the Wild 4-0 in Game 1, Minnesota capitalized early and never looked back in their 6-2 victory. Despite the lopsided score, the team is confident and pleased with the game they played. Game 2 started with an unlucky break as Bortuzzo’s stick broke as he was trying to clear the puck from the defensive zone. As the team’s forwards were in transition in the neutral zone, the Wild quickly recovered and fired a shot on goaltender Ville Husso to give them a 1-0 lead.

After the game, Berube said: Yeah, a couple bad breaks. That’s the way it goes. Our guys competed all 60 minutes, played hard. You’ve got to try and find a way to get some second and third opportunities around the paint a little bit more, and Fleury made some big saves.”

The Wild managed a 4-0 lead before the Blues got on the board with a goal from Jordan Kyrou. Back-to-back goals from the Blues, including a goal by Vladimir Tarasenko 4:14 into the third period, were the team’s only tallies on 34 shots.

In Game 3, St. Louis will need all hands on deck to battle a dangerous Minnesota offense that averaged the fifth-highest goals per game average at 3.72. After Game 2, forward Robert Thomas said: “I liked our push even throughout the whole game. I thought 5-on-5, we played pretty well. I think we’re pretty happy with (that). I mean, it felt like we were coming on, coming on, and a couple posts, a couple crossbars, and [Fleury] made some big saves over there, so you have to give him some credit.”

2 Storylines: Wild

Kaprizov Hat Trick

The Minnesota Wild’s 25-year-old phenom again made his way into the record books when he scored the franchise’s first hat trick in playoff history in Game 2. The Russian forward scored 47 goals and 108 points this season and became the team’s leading points producer in a single season. 

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After a 4-0 loss on home ice during Game 1, Kaprizov was ready to go and happy with his team’s play. It showed as the Wild continued to surge throughout Game 2. When asked about the series so far, Kaprizov said: “To be honest, I didn’t want to change anything from Game 1 (a 4-0 loss). I even think in Game 1 there were some chances that didn’t go in for us. So, in Game 2, just try to stick to the same recipe, do the same thing, and obviously, things worked out. So, really just trying not to focus on it too much. Just play the game.”

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Eriksson-Ek Has Become a Coveted Asset for Minnesota

After scoring two goals and adding an assist in Game 2, Eriksson-Ek is becoming a familiar and unpopular name among Blues fans. Selected 20th overall in the 2015 NHL Entry Draft, he has become an elite defensive forward who can play in all situations. This season, the 25-year-old scored 26 goals and 49 points in 77 games.

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“He’d sure (tick) me off, that’s for sure,” Evason said. “I think you can ask the rest of his teammates if they have fun doing d-zone coverage drills with him. I guarantee you they don’t. Because it doesn’t matter to him, it doesn’t matter if he’s playing Game 2 in the Stanley Cup or if he’s probably playing shinny back home in Sweden, he’s going to do the exact same thing. His game doesn’t change” (from ‘There’s nothing Wild about Minnesota’s Game 3 objectives,’ St. Louis Post-Dispatch, 5/6/22).

Players to Watch

St. Louis: Buchnevich-Thomas-Tarasenko line: The trio became one of the hottest lines in hockey near the end of the season. Back on home ice and looking to take a 2-1 lead in the series, this line deserves attention.

Minnesota: Two assists in Game 2 and three shots on goal throughout the playoffs, the 34-year-old veteran is a threat to watch tonight after scoring 24 goals and 79 points in 70 games this season.

Projected Line Combinations

St. Louis Blues

Left WingCenterRight Wing
Brandon SaadRyan O’ReillyDavid Perron
Pavel BuchnevichRobert ThomasVladimir Tarasenko
Ivan BarbashevBrayden SchennJordan Kyrou
Dakota JoshuaTyler BozakAlexi Toropchenko
Left DefenseRight Defense
Niko MikkolaColton Parayko
Torey KrugJustin Faulk
Cale RosenSteven Santini
Starting Goalie
Ville Husso

Minnesota Wild

Left WingCenterRight Wing
Kirill KaprizovRyan HartmanMats Zuccarello
Kevin FialaFrederick GaudreauMatthew Boldy
Jordan GreenwayJoel Eriksson EkMarcus Foligno
Nicolas DeslauriersTyson JostBrandon Duhaime
Left DefenseRight Defense
Jonas BrodinMathew Dumba
Jacob MiddletonJared Spurgeon
Jon MerrillAlex Goligoski
Starting Goalie
Marc-Andre Fleury

Blues’ Next Game: Game 4, Sunday, May 8 vs Minnesota Wild (3:30 PM CST)

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