The Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues are set to square off in the first round of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs, and what a series it will be. With the puck set to drop in St. Paul on Monday night, Zone Coverageposed a series of questions to eight of its writers. Here are their thoughts and predictions regarding what should be an epic Round 1 showdown between the NHL’s two hottest clubs.
Why the Wild Will Win
Tony Abbott- They’ll win if the Blues can’t stop Kevin Fiala and Matt Boldy. St. Louis will have to hard-match Ryan O’Reilly‘s line to put a lid on Kirill Kaprizov. Last year, the Vegas Golden Knights did that, knowing Fiala had no help. That’s not the case this year. Even if Kaprizov’s quiet again, Fiala and Boldy can still run amok.
Kayla Hynnek- The Wild have home-ice advantage, which is huge with how well they’ve played at the Xcel Energy Center this season. The Wild had a great end of the season and goaltending has been very good. Kaprizov and Fiala will play like they did in the regular season and score goals like they’re supposed to.
Aaron Heckmann- While goaltending is always unpredictable, especially in the playoffs, the Wild should have the advantage in net and are the better defensive team by a mile. If Minnesota can stay out of the box and shut down the Blues’ top guns, they should be able to take the series. Kaprizov and Fiala have to be at the center of the Wild’s offense, too.
Adam Stafki- The Blues might have scoring depth, but the Wild’s top two lines will be too much to contain in a seven-game series. Kaprizov will exorcise some of his playoff demons from the previous season and Fiala will continue to show why he should be considered an elite forward in the NHL.
Justin Wiggins- I firmly believe the stronger blue line will win out over what I assume is a long series. The Blues are coming in even more banged up than the Wild, particularly on the blue line, and I think that will eventually be too much for them with Minnesota’s forward depth.
Aaron Propson– They’ll win because the better 5-on-5 team prevails. Play tightens up in the playoffs, and Minnesota has demonstrated all year that they’re well-equipped to grind out ugly wins.
Cam Jensen- Their ability to come back in games can help them steal a few wins and win the series. I also believe the Wild’s goalie tandem is better than St. Louis’.
Joe Bouley- They have the most skill. The Wild win by letting the 1-2 punch of Kaprizov and Fiala dominate on the scoreboard.
Why the Blues Will Win
Tony Abbott- Their skill will overwhelm Marc-Andre Fleury and Cam Talbot. The Blues produce a lot of high-danger passes at 5-on-5, which may give both of them fits. As for the power play? If they’re making Minnesota’s goalies move, they’ll cash in frequently, and certainly more than the Wild’s iffy power play.
Kayla Hynnek- The Blues have had the Wild’s number for the last few seasons, and they keep finding ways to win against them. They will take that momentum and roll with it.
Aaron Heckmann- St. Louis is lethal offensively with nine 20-goal scorers. Leading the way is a very balanced group with veterans O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko and young talent in Jordan Kyrou and Robert Thomas. If the Blues figure out how to exploit the Wild’s defense and capitalize on their power plays, they’ll have a good shot, especially if Ville Husso‘s emergence continues into the postseason.
Adam Stafki- The Wild won’t have the defensive depth to contain all of the scoring threats across the Blues roster, especially on the power play, where they ranked second in the NHL in the regular season. Husso will become Jordan Binnington 2.0, getting hot in the postseason and guiding St. Louis to a deep run.
Justin Wiggins- Because Jake Allen once existed and he still haunts my dreams.
Aaron Propson- They’ll win because their top-nine forward group is the best in the league. They have some question marks, but Can they score in bunches? is not one of them.
Cam Jensen- To be honest, I haven’t seen them play a lot this year. However, even though I said the Wild’s goalies are better, if Husso gets on a hot streak that scares me.
Joe Bouley- Blues get goaltending, but even more crucially, the Wild don’t. Talbot and Fleury have been great down the stretch, but not necessarily against the Blues.
Tony Abbott- Jordan Greenway. Greenway’s played the best hockey of his career in the lead-up to his most recent injury. In 15 games between March 11 and April 10, the Big Rig had eight points, 49 shots, and 34 hits. If he’s healthy enough to keep up that momentum, he’ll stand out as the Blues have little in the way of power forwards.
Kayla Hynnek- Mats Zuccarello. He’ll be the one to set up the big plays that win games.
Adam Stafki- Jost. Between potential injury issues with Zuccarello and Marcus Foligno, Jost is probably going to be given a golden opportunity to show what he can do with skilled teammates around him. He might not put up the same numbers as the stars around him, but this could very well be his chance to show everyone how good he actually is.
Justin Wiggins- I think our old friend “T-shirt Guy” arrives at two different home games and the Wild win both en route to a series win. Craig Leipold will insist the dancing maniac was reason No. 1 his Wild are moving on, signing him to a two-year contract and abolishing Nordy as the mascot. The fan base becomes split on this decision as both Nordy and Ragnar file class-action lawsuits against Minnesota sports owners.
Aaron Propson- Jake Middleton. Bill Guerin knew he couldn’t roll into the postseason with Alex Goligoski opposite Jared Spurgeon on the top pairing, and Middleton has stepped in flawlessly. His play alongside the Wild captain will be crucial in this series.
Cam Jensen- Freddy Gaudreau had a strong finish to the season, and I wouldn’t be shocked if he had a strong first round.
Joe Bouley- Boldy. Dude has the size and skill to blow up this series.
Tony Abbott- Boldy. I think he (as well as linemates Fiala and Gaudreau) are the key to winning this series. Fiala’s getting a ton of headlines, and deservedly so, but Boldy creates a ton of space for Fiala to do his thing. Look for him to not only support Fiala but wow you on his own with his skill and ability to stickhandle through traffic.
Kayla Hynnek- Fiala.
Aaron Heckmann- The obvious answer is the Wild’s top guns: Kaprizov, Fiala, or Boldy. But I’m going to be bold and pick Spurgeon and Jonas Brodin, who will need to shut down the Blues’ offensive firepower for the Wild to escape Round 1.
Adam Stafki- Fiala. As long as Zuccarello is healthy, the Blues will need to focus on shutting down the top line. That leaves Fiala with easier matchups throughout the series, which should mean plenty of opportunities to continue his torrid pace into the postseason.
Justin Wiggins- Fiala — not that Kaprizov won’t have an impactful series, but I think his line gets the tough matchup of O’Reilly and the Fiala-Gaudreau-Boldy line flourishes.
Aaron Propson- Kaprizov. My heart says Fiala, but I simply can’t ignore the guy that’s fresh off a 108-point season.
Cam Jensen- Kaprizov.
Joe Bouley- Fleury. I think Talbot has a shaky start in the series and forces Evason to go to The Flower. He dominates and allows the Wild to win big.
Tony Abbott- Wild in 7. This is Colorado in 2013 vibes to me. The Blues have an awesome collection of offensive talent, but a fairly lousy system. I know the Blues have won against Minnesota a bunch, but it’s hard to trust a sub-50% expected goals team with suspect goaltending. St. Louis’ match-up problems will give the Wild trouble, but I suspect Kaprizov and Co. ultimately advance.
Kayla Hynnek- Wild in 7.
Aaron Heckmann- Wild in 7.
Adam Stafki- Minnesota Wild in 7 games. The Wild holding onto home ice will likely be a major factor in the series. Both teams might be able to steal a game away from home, but having game seven at Xcel should give the Wild the boost they need to make it out of the first round for the first time since 2015.
Justin Wiggins- Wild in 7.
Aaron Propson- I was awfully close to going Blues in 7, but I think the team recognizes this may be the best opportunity they’ll get for a few seasons. Wild in 7.
Cam Jensen- Wild in 6.
Joe Bouley- Wild in 6. I just feel the Wild are the better team and have the better star player. The Blues are good, but Husso falters, and Binnington just sucks.