St. Louis Blues vs. Minnesota Wild: Game 1 Preview

The St. Louis Blues and Minnesota Wild will play Game 1 tonight in a best-of-seven series that many feel has the potential to go the distance. During the regular season, the Blues (49-22-11) had the Wild’s (53-22-7) number in all three of their games against one another. Averaging 5.33 goals scored per game against Minnesota this season, the Blues are ready to flex their offensive abilities once more to tame the Wild and contend for their second Stanley Cup. 

2 Storylines: Blues

Blues Owned Regular Season

While the regular season holds little weight when it comes to the playoffs, the Blues will be looking back on their 3-0 record against the Wild this season. While they outscored the Wild by a combined total of 16-12 during the regular season, the Blues know they cannot underestimate their opponent. “They’ve kind of got a good dynamic from all angles — scorers, big guys that can score as well, good defensemen that are active,” Blues defenseman Colton Parayko said. “They’ve got a lot of good pieces, so they’re going to be a challenge.” (from ‘Blues-Wild take rivalry to stacked-as-ever 1st-round series,’ AP News, 5/1/2022). 

Related: Blues Weekly: Point Streak, O’Reilly, Stanley Cup Playoffs & More

In two of their matchups this season, the Blues were forced into overtime to secure the win. On April 16, their final meeting of the regular season, they held a 4-1 lead as they headed into the final 20 minutes of play. The Wild scored two goals in less than four minutes to start the period, knocking their lead to one. An even-strength goal by Pavel Buchnevich gave the Blues some breathing room once more taking a 5-3 lead. However, the lead quickly evaporated at the 14-minute mark of the period as Marcus Foligno scored on the power play, and Russian sniper Kirill Kaprizov scored 58 seconds later to tie the game. St. Louis ultimately weathered the storm and took the victory 56 seconds into overtime after a Brayden Schenn goal.

Schenn and Scandella Return to Lineup

Missing the last four games of the season due to an upper-body injury, the Blues will see forward Brayden Schenn return to the lineup tonight as they start their playoff series. A key component to the team’s forward core, Schenn, 30, appeared in 62 games this season scoring 24 goals and 58 points. He has played in two of the three matchups against the Wild this season, scoring two goals and recording four points.

Brayden Schenn St. Louis Blues
Brayden Schenn, St. Louis Blues (Jess Starr/The Hockey Writers)

In addition to Schenn, the team will also re-insert defenseman Marco Scandella into the lineup after missing the final game of the season due to a lower-body injury. Averaging just over 18 minutes per game this season, he has recorded three goals and 14 points. He has appeared in all three games against the team that drafted him 55th overall in 2008, recording two assists.

2 Storylines: Wild

Wild Excelling At Home

The Wild will be looking to take advantage of their home-ice advantage after recording a 31-8-2 record at Xcel Energy Center this season. Speaking about their record at home, Minnesota goalie Cam Talbot stated:

“I mean, our record speaks [for] itself here. We’re a different team when we are in front of our fans and get our matchups and we’ve got a couple of good lines that can shut teams down and we’ve got two extremely good lines that can score goals. So when we get our matchups and stuff like that, we’re a little bit more dangerous and playing in front of our fans and the momentum shifts and stuff like that, we can feed off of that in a series like that. That means a lot for our group.”

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The Blues have yet to play a game at the Xcel Energy Center this season after playing their first game at Target Field in record-breaking cold weather, and their other two games in St. Louis. The two will test the home-ice advantage as the Blues look to steal momentum early in the series.

Kirill Kaprizov

The 2020-21 Calder Trophy winner has been a nightmare for the opposition since his NHL debut. Scoring a team record 108 points this season with 47 goals and 61 assists, the Russian is a threat every time he is on the ice. When asked about the upcoming series, the forward stated: “I know in the playoffs, every game, every shift is kind of all out, so I think we’re going to be ready,”

Kaprizov has played in each of the three games against the Blues this season. His three goals and six points are the third most against any team behind a combined 18 points scored against the Dallas Stars and Winnipeg Jets.

Players to Watch

St. Louis: Ryan O’Reilly – Four goals and seven points in his last five games

Minnesota: Joel Eriksson Ek – Five goals and eight points in his last five games

Projected Line Combinations

St. Louis Blues

Left WingCenterRight Wing
Pavel BuchnevichRobert ThomasVladimir Tarasenko
Brandon SaadRyan O’ReillyDavid Perron
Ivan BarbashevBrayden SchennJordan Kyrou
Alexi ToropchenkoLogan BrownNathan Walker
Left DefenseRight Defense
Marco Scandella Colton Parayko
Nick LeddyJustin Faulk
Torey KrugRobert Bortuzzo
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
Jacob MiddletonJared Spurgeon
Jonas BrodinMathew Dumba
Jon MerrillDmitry Kulikov
Starting Goalie
Marc-Andre Fleury

Blues’ Next Game: Wednesday, May 4 at Minnesota Wild (8:30 PM CST)

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