Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues NHL Preview and Free Pick
Game 1 of an opening round best-of-seven matchup in the Central Division between the Minnesota Wild and the St. Louis Blues is set for this Thursday night at the Scottrade Center. The puck drops at 9:30 p.m. (ET) and the game will be broadcast nationally on NBC Sports Network.
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The Minnesota Wild return to the postseason for the third-straight season with aspirations of going all the way to the Stanley Cup Finals as +550 fourth-favorites on BetOnline's NHL futures to win the Western Conference. They finished the regular season on a down note with just two victories in their last six games including a 4-2 loss to St. Louis in their season finale this past Saturday as +144 road underdogs.
If Minnesota is going to get the early lead in this series, it is going to need a strong effort from a defense that has allowed an average of 2.4 goals a game this season, which was ranked sixth in the NHL. Goalie Devan Dubnyk is going to have to tighten things up after getting pegged for three goals on just 14 shots in last Saturday's loss. On the year, he played in 58 games and posted a goals-against average of 2.07 and a .929 save percentage. Both of these numbers were ranked second in the league.
St. Louis comes into this season's playoffs as the No. 2 seed in the West after tying Anaheim for the most points (109). The Blues are listed as +375 favorites to win the conference this time around after unexpected back-to-back exits in the conference quarterfinals the past two years. The Blues finished the regular season on a strong note with a 6-3-1 record in their last 10 games and at home this year they went 27-12-2.
The talent on this team is certainly there with an offense that is averaging 2.9 goals a game complementing a defense that is ranked fourth in goals allowed (2.4), but St. Louis will quickly have to find a way to carry this level of success on both ends of the ice into the postseason, which has not been the case the past two years. The Blues cannot afford a slow start, so the spotlight will be squarely on both right winger Vladimir Tarasenko and goalie Brian Elliott to come up big on Thursday night.
The Wild are 16-5 in their last 21 road games and they are 8-3 in their last 11 division games. The total has stayed UNDER in seven of their last 10 games on the road.
The Blues are 4-1 in their last five games against a team with a winning record and they are 4-1 in their last five games against a division opponent. The total has stayed UNDER in three of their last five home games.
These two split the four-game regular season series with each team winning once at home and once on the road. The total went OVER in the last two meetings.
Minnesota Wild vs. St. Louis Blues Pick
This was not the kind of test that St. Louis was looking for to try and get over its past disappointments in the postseason. I see this game as a great opportunity to take advantage of a favorable moneyline on a road team with a play on the Wild. Last Saturday's loss could actually work in their favor with Dubnyk coming up huge in goal this time around.