This is one of the series that I’m most interested in watching play out. I personally do think that the Blues are the most talented team in the Western Conference at this time, but I also think they have the most difficult first round match up of all the teams who I believe have a chance to go the distance.
The Wild are a very strong team, especially with Dubnyk at his best. They turned their season around and play a very complete game. This is one series that I’m less confident about my prediction, which is why I’ve chosen to give it out as my free pick.
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St. Louis Blues vs Minnesota Wild Series Pick
The Blues have a history of losing early in the playoffs after a strong regular season. Here is how they’ve made out in recent years:
- 2014, lost first round in 6 games to Blackhawks
- 2013, lost first round in 6 games to Kings
- 2012, lost second round in 4 games to Kings (they defeated San Jose in 5 games in round 1)
The Blues had home ice advantage in each of these 4 playoff series. That said, I see this years Blues team as having much more talent and depth than those other lineups. They still have a very strong defense anchored by Pietrangelo, Shattenkirk and Bouwmeester, but now their offense has also progressed with the emergence of young superstars such as Vladimir Tarasenko & Jaden Schwartz.
In the past Backes, Steen and Oshie had to shoulder the load on offense, but with the emergence of these two young stars and even the additions of Paul Stastny and Jori Lehtera the high end depth of the Blues is much stronger.
The Wild also have a strong core, but their younger players haven’t made quite the same jump this year as the Blues. Granlund, Niederreiter and Coyle are key parts of this team, but I think it will take another year or two for these players to really make that next jump to match the productivity of Parise, Pominville, Vanek and Koivu. Once this happens, I think the Wild will be a force to be reckoned with.
At this point though I have to give the edge to the Blues. Dubnyk definitely has the ability to steal this series and I can see the Wild making a deep run if they pull of an upset in the first round, but I think the Blues are just too strong and too deep this year. For me, this could definitely be the year the Blues get over the hump and make a big run in the West.
My Pick: St. Louis Blues 1.714 @ PinnacleSports.com