The Minnesota Wild have eliminated the St. Louis Blues with a 4-1 victory in Game Six of their first round Western Conference playoff series. The Wild will advance to the second round and will play the Chicago Blackhawks.
The Blues have now been eliminated in the first round three straight times. Despite ending the regular season as Central Division champs, St. Louis has continued the trend of teams like Vancouver and San Jose of having a great year but being unable to pull things together in the playoffs.
Credit is, of course, due to the Wild here. Goalie Devan Dubnyk came to play, putting up a 4-2 record over six games, with a .913 save percentage and a 2.32 goals against average. He even posted a shutout in Game Three.
Zach Parise also came to play for the Wild, scoring two goals on Sunday for the series-clinching win. He had seven points on the series, including a short-handed goal. Winger Jason Pominville was also a factor, with five points in six games and one game-winner. 22-year-old Nino Niederreiter had three goals for the Wild, including an empty-netter on Sunday.
Minnesota has been able to come up with a balanced attack and they’ve put in goals when they’ve needed to, but it mostly comes back to the play of Dubnyk. As long as he’s clicking along, the Wild have a chance to win. And even when Dubnyk looked shaky, like in Game Four, he was able to rebound. Since the 6-1 blowout in Game Four, Dubnyk stopped 66 of 68 shots.
St. Louis, on the other hand, failed to get as much consistency from their goaltending. Jake Allen was pulled in Game Six after Justin Fontaine scored a five-hole goal to make it 2-0 Wild and Brian Elliot came in. Allen was decent at times for the Blues, with a 2.20 goals against average and a .904 save percentage, but he came up short in the goaltending duel against Dubnyk and his team wasn’t able to pick up the slack.
Indeed, this seems to be a St. Louis thing. The Blues have been out of the first round just once since 2001 and expectations were high this year. Kevin Shattenkirk led the way in points with eight assists, while Vladimir Tarasenko was good for six goals.
Unfortunately, production slipped after that for the Blues and only Patrik Berglund joined Tarasenko with more than two goals. Alexander Steen tied Berglund with four points, while Jaden Schwartz rounded out the top five with three points.
“To get a chance to win the Stanley Cup doesn’t happen too often in your career, especially with a team like this,” said Allen after Sunday’s game. “This isn’t acceptable for any of us, I don’t think. This isn’t going to sit well with any of us for a while and it’s going to be tough to watch the rest of the playoffs knowing we’re not in it.”
The Blues will have some evaluating to do – again – and the Wild will have some preparing to do. That’s how the playoff cookie crumbles. With a great goalie on his game and a solid team in support, Minnesota could have more of a chance than people think against the Blackhawks. Chicago has struggled to find reliability in goal and that could spell opportunity for Mike Yeo’s Wild.