The Defensive Mentality
Statistically speaking, the Blues are not as good as Minnesota defensively. The Blues allowed 10 more goals during the regular season.
On top of that, Minnesota has the edge in most categories. They have a lower goals against average. Their opponents’ shooting percentage was lower. The Wild are ranked higher in goals against and goal difference per game as well.
That’s all well and good, but that’s regular season. The Blues priority, though it has slipped during this year, is primarily defense first.
That mentality is better suited to the grind that is the NHL Playoffs. The Wild are race horses, built to attack but perhaps not suited as well to the proverbial mile-and-a-half track.
It’s great to have the scorers to take on anyone and everyone. You can’t simply have an attack at all costs mentality though.
If that worked, the Pittsburgh Penguins would have more than just two Stanley Cups with their current core.
The Blues defense is not so much better that they have a clear edge. They do have a team-wide plan to defend and then spring the attack from there though.
That sort of gameplan is much better suited to the postseason and could be a big difference.
The Blues are not quite as defense oriented as they were under Ken Hitchcock, but Mike Yeo already proved he could formulate a gameplan to shut down offensive teams when he beat the Blues.
While Yeo favors a slightly more up-tempo game, he still wants guys to be sure of their defensive assignments and that way of thinking has really clicked with this current group.