Minnesota Wild (46-27-8) at St. Louis Blues (50-24-7)
|Date & Time||Saturday April 11, 2015, 3:00 PM (EDT)|
The Line: St. Louis Blues / Minnesota Wild --- Over/Under:
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With a playoff spot finally clinched the Minnesota Wild were able to give Devan Dubnyk a well-deserved rest.
Dubnyk has been the single biggest reason for the turnaround the Wild have had because his play in goal has allowed this team to reach their potential. Darcy Kuemper got the start in goal and the Wild didn’t miss a beat on the road in Nashville against the Predators on Thursday night.
Things got off to a slow start for Kuemper and Wild, allowing two goals on just eight shots in the opening period to fall behind 2-0 after 20 minutes of play. It took Minnesota a while to get back into things in the second period, but they managed to do it late.
Jason Zucker got to the 20 goal mark as the Wild cashed in on their only power play opportunity of the night. That goal came with under three minutes remaining in the period, and it was followed up 31 seconds later by Marco Scandella as the Wild managed to even the score at 2-2 heading into the third.
Over the final 20 minutes the Wild had to rely on their backup goaltender, as Kuemper stopped all 17 shots he faced in the frame to help his club find a victory. Jason Pominville broke the tie with his 18th goal of the season coming with just over two minutes remaining in regulation, and Zucker finished things off with his second goal of the night into the empty net. Minnesota was out shot 17-6 over the final period but Kuemper’s play was the difference.
It will be interesting to see if Dubnyk gets back between the pipes on Saturday as the Wild take on a St. Louis Blues club that they very well might face in the opening round of the playoffs. If Minnesota wants to avoid St. Louis and instead would rather face the Anaheim Ducks, then it would behoove them to play hard in this contest and try and secure a win.
St. Louis has used a recent hot streak to get themselves back into contention for the Western Conference crown. The Blues have won four of their last five contests and find themselves tied with the Ducks at 107 points.
Thursday night the Blues claimed the Central Division crown with another low scoring defensive battle against the Chicago Blackhawks. Dmitrij Jaskin’s 12th goal of the season put the Blues on the board late in the second period, and Paul Stasny scored the eventual game winner with less than six minutes remaining in the third.
Jake Allen was nearly flawless, allowing just one goal on the night that came with under three minutes left to break up the shutout. Allen is staking his claim to be the St. Louis netminder in the playoffs over veteran Brian Elliot who has struggled immensely down the stretch.
Goaltending will be a huge question mark for the Blues as they head into the post season, but if Allen can give them consistency like this they are going to be one of the favorites to come out of the Western Conference.
It will be interesting to see how Minnesota plays this game on Saturday because they have the ability to ultimately decide their playoff opponent. Head coach Mike Yeo isn’t going to tip his hand either way, but St. Louis isn’t going to be a good match up for anyone with the way they’re playing right now.