To me this Central Division matchup between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues will easily be the most fun series in the first round of the playoffs this year. Although this series has been locked in for quite a while with Colorado having locked up first overall in the West quite a bit ago, these two teams played till the very last night of the regular season on Friday for who would get home ice in that series.
The Minnesota Wild have been an electric team this season with a 52-22-7 record. They clinched home ice in this series with a 4-1 win against the Avalanche on Friday to close out the regular season with seven wins in their last eight games. The Wild have been incredible in the closing months of the season, one of the best teams in hockey in that span with an impressive 19-2-3 record in their last 24 games. Lead by Karill “the thrill” Kaprivoz (108 points, 47 goals, 61 assists), the Minnesota offense has been fantastic this season, averaging 3.72 goals per game, fifth most in the NHL. They’ve generated the eleventh most shots in hockey, an average of 32.5 per game with the second highest shooting percentage in the NHL, scoring on 11.4% of those shots. The defense and goaltending for Minnesota has struggled a bit at times this season and they allowed an average of 3.04 goals per game on the year, ranking 16th in the NHL in that category. They’ve been much better though defensively since the trade deadline. They acquired Marc Andre Fleury and the tandem of him and Talbot both feeding off of each other has been a big reason for their success in the latter part of the season as the Wild have allowed an average of only 2.55 goals per game in their last 23 games. Both goalies have played well and it’s likely that they go with playoff experience in Game 1 tonight with Fleury, who’s been incredible in the playoffs in years past with the Golden Knights and the Penguins. The Wild have struggled on the penalty kill this season, eighth worth in the NHL at 76.1% and to make that worse, they’ve taken the third most penalty minutes in the league.
The St. Louis Blues, a few years now removed from their miracle run to win the Stanley Cup in 2019 come into the playoffs with a 49-22-11 record, finishing in third place in the Central Division. St. Louis was also very good in the closing stretch of the regular season, going 14-2-2 in their last 18 games (with the two regulation losses coming in their last two games against Vegas and Colorado on Tuesday and Friday). The Blues offense has been one of the best in the NHL this season, scoring a third most in the NHL average of 3.77 goals per game. They haven’t generated many shots, a 15th fewest in the NHL average of 30.4 per game but they’ve been the best team in the NHL in efficiency of scoring on those shots, with a 12.4% shooting percentage. The Blues have deadly power play, scoring on 27% of their opportunities, second best in the NHL behind the Toronto Maple Leafs. St. Louis has been good defensively as well, allowing an eleventh fewest in the NHL average of 2.92 goals per game. After being a liability anytime he started last season, Ville Husso solidified himself above Jordan Binnington (3.13 GAA, .901 save percentage this season) as a solid starting goalie with a 25-7-7 record, 2.56 GAA and .919 save percentage. For Game 1, as expected, the Blues have Husso confirmed in net for his first playoff start of his career tonight. If he gets shaky at points during this series though, I could see the Blues switch over to Binnington who won them the Cup in 2019. The Blues have the fifth best penalty kill in the NHL, killing off 84.1% of their penalties and they’re one of the least penalized teams in hockey, taking the third fewest penalty minutes in the league.
The Blues were 3-0 this season against the Wild but that doesn’t really tell the full story of their matchups as these teams have played each other very close this year. The first time they met was at the Winter Classic in Minnesota on New Year’s Day, with the Blues winning 6-4 in the coldest outdoor game in NHL history. The other two games they played in St. Louis were both high scoring matchups that went to overtime, with the Blues winning 4-3 on April 8th and then 6-5 on April 16th.
I’d slightly lean that having home ice will give the Wild the edge to win this series, but not enough to bet on it at the -150 price and I’d rather just go game by game. I love this to be a long series though that will likely be a battle that goes six or likely even seven games. I’ll go with two units on the series to go over 5.5 games and a unit on the series to go over 6.5 games. I will also take a few .2 unit shots at the Wild to win the series 4-3, Wild to win the series 4-2 and the Blues to win the series 4-3. Ideally, the series goes to Game 7 and we lock in a free unit on those exact series outcome props.
I think whoever does win this series could potential make a run to win the Stanley Cup, especially with how hot they both were to close out the regular season. I’ll add in a unit future on the Wild to win the Stanley Cup and a half unit future on the Blues to win the Stanley Cup.
I like the Wild to win Game 1 at home tonight and will take them for a unit along with 1.5 units on the over 6 in what I expect to be an electric matchup. Every game these teams have played this season has easily gone over and I pretty much expect that tonight and will likely continue to target the overs in this series if the first few games go the way I think they will.
1u Wild: Stanley Cup Champions (+1600)
.5u Blues: Stanley Cup Champions (+2200)
2u Wild/Blues over 5.5 games (-175)
1u Wild/Blues over 6.5 games (+220)
.2u Wild win series 4-2 (+490)
.2u Wild win series 4-3 (+475)
.2u Blues win series 4-3 (+600)
Game 1 Bets
1u Wild ML (-132)
1.5u Wild/Blues over 6 (-137)