Staal, Wild humiliate bumbling Blues

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The Blues and Wild came into tonight’s game in Minnesota as two teams traveling in different directions. A 8-3 win for the Wild only highlighted those opposing paths.

This marks the fifth consecutive win for the Wild, who are strengthening their grip on the third spot in the competitive Central Division. They’ve quietly been heating up with a 7-1-1 mark in their last nine. Actually, this climb has been taking place for much of 2018; they’re 16-4-4 in their last 24 games.

The formula for success feels fairly familiar.

Devan Dubnyk has been heating up, so the hope is that he’ll avoid an injury after a scare early in the second period. The 31-year-old’s looked quite proficient since December after a slow start to 2017-18.

Staal vs. stalling St. Louis

They’ve also enjoyed surprisingly fantastic work from Eric Staal. While fans were fooled by a hat trick that wasn’t, Staal eventually got his hat trick in this game while also collecting two assists. His top line with Mikael Granlund and Jason Zucker is blazing hot right now, and Staal’s Wild resurgence continues with 64 points in 63 regular-season games.

That’s one point short of his debut Wild season’s 65 points, and that was a fantastic rebound in itself.

His chemistry with Jason Zucker and Mikael Granlund is remarkable, and that trio gives the Wild a dangerous top line, even if it’s not a headlining one for casual fans.

(Zucker also had five points on Tuesday, while Granlund generated four.)

Seven straight losses for Blues

To some extent, the Wild and Blues could relate to each other. These are two Central Division teams who’ve enjoyed some strong regular seasons, only to endure big playoff disappointments, often while seeing division rivals go deep or even raise the Stanley Cup.

Heck, they even took fairly similar trade deadline approaches: the Blues sold off Paul Stastny while the Wild did little beyond a minor move.

The recent picture is quite different, and you wonder if the Blues can fight back after hitting this big pothole. This marks seven straight losses, and the past three have been ugly, as they’ve been shut out twice and have been outscored 16-3. They only managed a single “charity point” during that frame.

[Trading Paul Stastny was painful, but follows Blues’ blueprint.]

The schedule is foreboding, at least in the short term. They play at home tomorrow, but it will close out a back-to-back. After that, they face a four-game road trip.

Sometimes teams show some real spine during these on-paper rough runs. The Blues have shown a knack to fight hard when people count them out, yet you also wonder how many times they can shake off haymakers.

Because make no doubt about it, they received a beating from the Wild in just about every regard on Tuesday.

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.