The Blues start a very tough road trip (6 games in 10 days) by heading to Minnesota, hoping to begin avenging last seasons playoff loss and to begin asserting their dominance in the Central division. While the Blues and Wild split the regular season last year, the Blues fell to the Wild in 6 games in the first round of the playoffs.
In past regular seasons, the Blues have done an excellent job of stifling the Wild's best forwards. Zach Parise, Thomas Vanek, Jason Pomminville, and Mikko Koivu only have 25 goals in 76 regular season games and have never scored a game winning goal against the Blues. Goalie Devan Dubnyk's numbers in the regular season against the Blues are terrible with a 4.10 GAA and a 86.6% save percentage. The Blues hope these trends continue today.
For the Blues, Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko have enjoyed success against the Wild early in their careers with them combining for 8 goals and 11 assists in 22 games. David Backes has 10 goals and 10 assists in 33 games and 2 game winning goals.
As I predicted, it looks like Robert Bortuzzo will replace Joel Emdundson in the lineup. Hitchcock is sticking to his word as Jake Allen gets the start in net. Actually, the goalie's statistics made Hitchcock's choice easy. Allen has been historically bad against the Oilers and substantially better against the Wild as his 92% save percentage shows, besting Elliott's 89.5% save percentage. On the injury front, Troy Brouwer is expected to play but is nicked up due to the great blocked shot on Griffin Reinhart in the latter quarter of the third period Thursday night. It appears the Scotts will be on the outside looking in again (Gomez and Upshall).
In a quick recap of Thursday night:
- Elliott played strong though there were not that many quality chances against
- Parayko looked like he belonged and could easily be here for a while with that big booming shot.
- Tarasenko continues to be one of the best players in the league and it appears he and Stastny may be generating some real chemisty.
- Fabbri seems to have grown smarter, using his quickness to get into space and create chances and paying more attention to the little things like back checking.
- Brouwer was a real warrior and could easily become a quick fan favorite
- Schwartz is such a smart player. His offensive game was off but he does so many of the little things well including a beautiful assist on the ENG.
- Brodziak tried to break the post with a shot.
- The Blues D was more engaged and aggressive in the offensive zone and I am a fan.
It's a great day for hockey.