The Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues will meet in an intriguing Western Conference first-round series. The Blues are the favorite on the NHL betting lines but the Wild have been an unstoppable force down the stretch of the season. Who’ll take this matchup?
The Minnesota Wild Can Win This Series Because…
They’ve been one of the best teams down the stretch of the season. Leaving April aside, where the Wild dropped four of six, the Wild were incredible since acquiring goaltender Devan Dubnyk. With him in net, they were a completely different team. Dubnyk went 27-9-2 in his time with Minnesota while posting a 1.78 goals-against average and a .936 save percentage. That’s better than Carey Price’s 1.96 GAA and the .933 save percentage that led the league.
The Wild were two completely different teams before and after as they were 18-19-5 before his arrival but were nearly untouchable after. Before the All-Star break, they scored just 2.74 goals per game (14th) and allowed 2.93 (22nd). After the break, their offense improved, averaging 2.81 goals per game (eighth) and their goals per game was the best in the business at 1.75.
The St. Louis Blues Can Win This Series Because…
They head into the playoffs with more momentum. Sure, the Wild were a stellar team for a few months but they also faded in April. They lost four of their final six games this season while the Blues turned it up a notch in the same time. The Blues enter the playoffs having won five of their last six games with wins over Minnesota, Calgary and Chicago (twice). Those are all playoff teams. And while Dubnyk was awesome most of his time with the Wild, he tapered off in April. He allowed 2.2 goals per game and posted a save percentage of .915, which is so-so.
The Blues were the better team throughout the whole season as they were more consistent. They have stellar blue line and a team that’s been in this position before. Their whole goal this season was to improve their offense as that was their undoing in the playoffs last year. Well, as the playoffs approach, the Blues are fifth in the NHL with 2.91 goals per game. And their goaltending has been solid too as their fifth in goals allowed per game.
Add it all up and the Blues are the more balanced team and they have home-ice advantage. That tips the scales in their favor, which is probably why they're the favorites on the NHL odds for this matchup.
It’s interesting that these teams finished the regular season facing off against each other with the Blues winning 4-2.
A case can be made for both sides here but I like the Blues in this spot. Although many might feel the April performances to end the year won’t mean much, I think it does. I like the Blues with home-ice advantage and with momentum going into this series. Take them with your NHL picks.
NHL Pick: Blues -145 at 5Dimes