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St. Louis Blues vs Minnesota Wild: Potential First-Round Preview

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“Nobody succeeds beyond his or her wildest expectations unless he or she begins with some wild expectations”

In July 2012, the sleepy, quaint NHL club in Minnesota made a permanent shift in the direction of the franchise when they opened their fat wallet and orchestrated the two biggest free agent signings in the teams teenage history; also two of the largest financial deals in the history of the league.

American heroes’ Zach Parise and Ryan Suter corroborated over their free agent off-season that year and decided to take their talents to South Bea- I mean, USA Hockey’s South Beach- and signed identical 13-year, $98 million contracts to join talents and forces in the northern hockey hotbed of the Twin Cities.

The quote above is from kooky business author Ralph Charell, infamous writer of the New York Thymes best seller’s A Great New Way Make Money, How to Make Things Go Your Way, Satisfaction Guaranteed, and my personal favorite, How I Turned Ordinary Complaints Into Thousands of Dollars. Charell was a man who knew a good deal when he saw it, a self-proclaimed cheap skate and former holder of the Guinness Book of World Record’s most successful complainer, and if he wasn’t in the process of currently suing his  ex-girlfriend, whom he met online and is 73-years-old, for kicking him out of her Upper West Side apartment, I would love to get his professional opinion of the Wild’s dual deal.

Expectation is something that Charell and the owners of the Minnesota Wild  know all too well. Parise, Suter & Co. had perhaps the highest expectations of any NHL teams heading into the 2013-2014 season. With a massive payroll (the dynamic duo will cash in over $24 million in salary and bonus money this year alone) and enhanced roster depth, the Wild were favorites to finish atop the Western Conference.

But the expectations may have been too wild. The team has been streaky and hasn’t figured out their identity, nor developed an offensive rhythm. The Wild are 39-26-11, with 89 points they are the 7th seed in the Western conference, clinging on to one of the two precious wild card playoff spots.

And to the credit of the two American gangsters, Parise up front and Suter on the blue line, they have lived up to nearly every expectation set forth before them, individually and statistically. Parise has scored 28 goals and 51 points in 61 games played, while Suter has 7 goals and 34 assists, and is averaging 29+ minutes on ice per game while playing in all 76 of Minnesota’s contests. But besides these two standouts, and with the help of inconsistent goaltending, the Wild have not been able to put it all together.

And the St. Louis Blues have experienced the Minnesota misfortune first hand this year, winning all four games in the regular season series by a combined score of 13-4. And good news for Blues faithful, if the Wild keep up their woeful ways, St Louis and Minnesota have a good shot of facing each other when the playoffs start in less than two weeks.

Let us break down this potential matchup in all three phases of the game.

OFFENSE

Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

The offensive analysis between St. Louis and Minnesota is a tale of two cities heading in separate directions. The Blues have the fourth highest goals per game average, at 3.1, while their Central division rivals in Minnesota have the fourth lowest goals per game average, at 2.4. The Blues have five players with 20+ goals, Minnesota has just two. The Blues have 53 power play goals, Minnesota has only 43. With the miserable play of Dany Heatley, and the inconsistency of Mikko Koivu and newcomer, Matt Moulson, the Wild will be outmatched by the Blues physicality and scoring depth. This is a no brainer.

Advantage: Blues

DEFENSE

Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports

Besides Suter, the Minnesota Wild have as many noteworthy defenseman as the Slovenian olympic team. None. And that’s meant with no disrespect to Jared Spurgeon or Clayton Stoner, but the lack of NHL experience and under-developed skill sets are so obvious when watching the Wild play it makes you wonder how incredibly frustrating it must be for the $98 million dollar man who was used to skating next to a guy named Shea Weber during his years in Nashville. The Blues have five defenseman that would immediately replace the five names on the Minnesota roster behind Suter.

Advantage: Blues

GOALTENDING

The Minnesota Wild have had a more than challenging and somber year between the pipes. Their starter in net, Josh Harding, began the season on a tear, ripping off 18 wins in 28 games while posting a .933 save percentage and a league leading 1.66 goals against average. But Harding would unfortunately not be able to continue his success after the new year, as the symptoms from his MS were too challenging to play through. To make matters more unsettling, Minnesota made the odd decision to acquire the ever wacky, Ilya Bryzgalov. Talk about a guy who’s lived with some ‘humaingus beag’ expectations over the past few years. He’s been decent as part of a goalie trio that the Wild have been utilizing, with lifer, Niklas Backstrom, and youngster, Darcy Kuemper, to share the duties.

Unless Harding makes an incredible comeback, as we all hope he does, there will always be a question mark in the Minnesota net. Ryan Miller and Brian Elliot are as solid of a goalie tandem that exists.

Advantage: Blues

POTENTIAL SERIES PREDICTION

Minnesota will win if…

Parise scores four goals a game.

Blues will win if…

The offense stays healthy and Miller stays focused.

SERIES PREDICTION

Get yo brooms ready, 4-0 sweep for the Blues.

Tags: NHL Playoffs St. Louis Blues

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