St. Louis Blues vs. Minnesota Wild: 2022 Round One, Game 6 Preview

The St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild will hit the ice at the Enterprise Center tonight in St. Louis as the Wild face elimination. After securing two straight victories and a 2-1 lead in the series, Minnesota has since fallen into a 3-2 deficit. The Blues will look to put this series away tonight on home ice and make it three wins in a row and punch their ticket to the second round of the playoffs.

Blues and Wild Round One Series Statistics

2 Storylines: Blues

Tarasenko Hat Trick Helps Reclaim Series Lead

Blues forward Vladimir Tarasenko scored a natural hat trick during the third period of a 5-2 victory over the Wild to take a 3-2 lead in the best-of-seven series. When asked about the game and the hat trick, Tarasenko said, “Happy to win. Obviously, happy to score. I’m not going to lie, but more happy to win.”

YouTube player

Tarasenko scored his first goal just 1:03 seconds into the third period off a backhand pass from his fellow Russian teammate, Pavel Buchnevich, from behind the Minnesota net. While the 27-year-old Buchnevich has yet to score a goal in this series, his four assists are tied for the most on the team this series. After the game, Tarasenko was asked about the pass and stated: “[Buchnevich] did this many times before. We talk a lot about staying connected in the O-zone. He’s a great skill player and very unselfish all the time. Not surprised he made this play, and that was a great play and big goal for us.”

He scored his second goal of the game 1:23 later, and his third on an empty-net goal to secure the hat trick at the 18:27 minute mark of the period. The forward has had trouble finding offensive success in this series, scoring only four goals in five games. He will be relied on in Game 6 in hopes he has found his offensive spark to help push the Blues to the second round.

Blues Finding Defensive Balance

With injuries to defensemen Torey Krug and Marco Scandella, the Blues have leaned heavily on their veterans Colton Parayko and Justin Faulk in this series. Averaging 26:20 and 27:17, respectively, the two are ranked in the top 10 in ice time in the playoffs. Their load was relieved with the return of veteran defensemen Nick Leddy and Robert Bortuzzo. Leddy, who missed three games due to an upper-body injury, only saw 18:01 minutes on ice during Game 5, and no special teams assignments were tasked with shutting down Wild forward Kirill Kaprizov.

Related: 3 Takeaways From Blues’ 5-2 Win over Wild in Game 5

After the game, Blues coach Craig Berube said of Leddy, “He does a great job of being tight on (Kaprizov) and not giving too much room. He has the feet to stay with him, and that’s important. Because (Kaprizov’s) fast and he can spin off you easily” (from ‘Blues notebook: Leddy, Bortuzzo make presence felt,’ St. Louis Post-Dispatch, May 11, 2022).

Also rejoining the lineup was the 33-year-old Bortuzzo. Like Leddy, he saw reduced ice time in Game 5 and only played 10:50. The hard-hitting defenseman has averaged 13:44 this season and eased back into play after taking a puck to the face after blocking a shot during Game 2.

Sporting a black eye throughout the game, Bortuzzo managed to record two hits and one blocked shot. Of his performance, Berube said in admiration: “He gives you everything he’s got with his body and his stick, and lays it on the line for you, blocking shots and all those types of things for us.”

These two players provided the team with a veteran presence on the blue line that paired well with the return of rookie defenseman Scott Perunovich. A player who is known for his offensive abilities, the 23-year-old Minnesota native has recorded two goals in his two games this series after returning from wrist surgery that kept him sidelined since March 9

2 Storylines: Wild

Kaprizov Rolling

Kaprizov continued his scoring ways during Game 5 with two power-play goals. Unfortunately, his two goals would be the only offense that his team could produce in the game. The 25-year-old Russian’s seven goals are tied for the league lead in the playoffs. With his team’s back against the wall, the elite sniper is not ready to give up just yet.

Kirill Kaprizov Minnesota Wild
Kirill Kaprizov of the Minnesota Wild after scoring the first playoff hat trick in franchise history (Photo by Bailey Hillesheim/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

“The goal isn’t for a player to play well,” Kaprizov said. “The goal is for the team to play well, and we didn’t win. Ultimately, that’s what we play for. We have a chance to make some changes to get the series back home for Game 7, and that’s what we have to do.”

The forward scored 47 goals and 108 points in 81 games during the regular season. His offensive surge throughout the postseason has been the lone shining light among the Wild’s forward group and one that may be wasted as they face elimination on Thursday.

THW Betting Guide Banner

Evason Plans Changes

The Wild are headed to St. Louis for a do-or-die Game 6. After one of their best seasons in franchise history, the team that finished second in the Central Division with 113 points needs a win to send the series back to Xcel Center in Minnesota for Game 7.

Ahead of Game 6, captain Jared Spurgeon said, “We have all the confidence in ourselves. We have to focus on one game here, and going into St. Louis, we can go in and rally as a team. It’s something we’ve done all year, and we’re looking to continue that tomorrow,” (from “Dean Evason: Wild ‘will make some changes’ for Game 6 at St. Louis,” Fox 9 KMSP, May 11, 2022).

The Wild have yet to make changes to their lineup this postseason, but they might be forced to if they want stay alive in the series. While the head coach did not allude to which changes he would make, a goaltending switch in Game 6 would not be surprising. In his last 16 games of the regular season, Cam Talbot went 13-0-3 and is worth considering in a must-win game.

“We trust both our goaltenders. We’ve seen enough of Marc-Andre Fleury to know that he’s a guy that responds correctly. We also know that Cam Talbot is the ultimate professional. He works his butt off if he’s playing or not playing, would be ready to go tomorrow night as well,” Evason said.

Players to Watch

St. Louis: Ryan O’Reilly

Minnesota: Joel Eriksson Ek

Projected Line Combinations

St. Louis Blues

Left WingCenterRight Wing
Brayden SchennRyan O’ReillyDavid Perron
Pavel BuchnevichRobert ThomasVladimir Tarasenko
Brandon SaadIvan BarbashevJordan Kyrou
Alexi ToropchenkoTyler BozakScott Perunovich
Left DefenseRight Defense
Nick LeddyColton Parayko
Calle RosenJustin Faulk
Niko MikkolaRobert Bortuzzo
Starting Goalie
Jordan Binnington

Minnesota Wild

Left WingCenterRight Wing
Kirill KaprizovRyan HartmanMats Zuccarello
Matthew BoldyFrederick GaudreauKevin Fiala
Jordan GreenwayJoel Eriksson EkMarcus Foligno
Nicolas DeslauriersTyson JostBrandon Duhaime
Left DefenseRight Defense
Jonas BrodinMathew Dumba
Jacob MiddletonJared Spurgeon
Jon MerrillAlex Goligoski
Starting Goalie
Cam Talbot

Blues’ Next Game: TBD

Explore everything hockey with THW’s Hockeypedia pages.

The Hockey Writers HockeyPedia 800x120