Blues vs. Wild: 3 Things to Know about First Round series

The 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs begin on Monday, May 2. Today, we preview the series between the Minnesota Wild and St. Louis Blues.


Game 1: May 2, 9:30 p.m. ET – Blues at Wild (ESPN, SN360, TVA Sports)
Game 2: May 4, 9:30 p.m. ET – Blues at Wild (ESPN, SN360, TVA Sports)
Game 3: May 6, 9:30 p.m. ET – Wild at Blues (TNT, SN360, TVA Sports)
Game 4: May 8, 4:30 p.m. ET – Wild at Blues (TBS, SN360, TVA Sports)
*Game 5: May 10, TBD – Blues at Wild (TBD)
*Game 6: May 12, TBD – Wild at Blues (TBD)
*Game 7 May 14, TBD – Blues at Wild (TBD)

1. The Blues have had the Wild’s number, especially under Craig Berube

Most of the time, it’s probably best just to throw out two teams’ head-to-head stats come playoff time. Above all else, a few games only tell you so much about either team over an 82-game season. Sure, you can get an idea about matchups and other factors, but it’s dangerous to read too much into such battles.

However, the Blues’ edge over the Wild is a multi-year trend. This is one of those cases where it’s at least worth mentioning just how often the Blues prevail over the Wild.

At the Athletic, Jeremy Rutherford and Michael Russo collected some pretty eye-opening head-to-head stats between the Wild and Blues (sub required).

The Blues are 12-1-1 in the past 14 meetings between the teams, spanning three seasons, and 13-1-2 all-time against the Wild under coach Craig Berube. The Wild are 2-7-5 in those 14 games against the Blues, 0-4-3 in their past seven games in St. Louis and 5-11-7 in their past 23 there. In the past 14 games against the Blues, the Wild have been outscored 61-36 and outscored on special teams 13-3. Their power play is 7.2 percent compared with St. Louis’ 32.1 percent. The Wild’s save percentage is hovering around .850, while the Blues’ is .920.

The Wild have said all the right things about things being different in the playoffs, and it’s fair to expect things to be less extreme in favor of the Blues. Those are some pretty stunning numbers, nonetheless.

2. Two of the hottest teams in the NHL down the stretch

If you look at their place in the standings, you’d already conclude that the Wild and Blues enjoyed strong seasons. The Wild finished with 113 points, good for the second-most in the Western Conference, while the Blues’ 109 were fourth-most in the West.

Dive into recent results, and they look even more impressive.

Since March 16, the Wild compiled a blistering 19-2-3 record, which translates to an absurd .854 points percentage. That’s by far the most in the NHL during that span, with the Maple Leafs, Oilers, and Panthers curiously all tied for second at .773. The Blues are close to that group, though, as they went 15-5-3 for a .717 points percentage. The Flames are the only other team close to that range (.696).

Throw out two low-stakes Blues losses that closed the season, and the Blues were the second-hottest team (behind the Wild) from March 16 – April 24.

By any reasonable measure, the Blues and Wild enter the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs playing their best hockey of their respective seasons. Hopefully that translates to a thrilling, heavyweight battle.

3. The least-established goalie may have the biggest chance to swing this series

You won’t find many series with three fairly well-known goalies.

Marc-Andre Fleury – Few active goalies are quite as famous as “The Flower.”

Jordan Binnington – One of the driving forces of the Blues winning that elusive, first-ever Stanley Cup.

Cam Talbot – Not the most thrilling goalie, but he’s played almost 400 regular-season games and sports a sneaky-strong .923 save percentage spread across 32 career playoff contests.

If you go by name recognition, Ville Husso likely ranks last in this series. Yet, if you judge things by how a goalie has been performing, Husso’s the netminder most likely to be a positive difference-maker.

By this season’s stats alone, both Fleury and Binnington have been struggling. Talbot, meanwhile, has been stable but unspectacular.

[3 Things to Know: Oilers – Kings preview]

Husso, though? It’s fair to wonder where he’d be in the Vezina Trophy race if he took hold of the Blues’ starting goalie job sooner. This is elite stuff.

At times this season, both teams outshot expectations, pointing to at least some luck driving their successes. Big-picture, the Wild present a much sturdier structure than the Blues, and their firepower looks more or less even.

If season trends carried over to the playoffs, you’d either think the Wild’s 5-on-5 advantages would swing the series, or Husso would alter the balance in favor of the Blues.

Of course, strange things can happen in a span of 4-7 games. We’ve also seen plenty of cases where MAF gets hot and plays as well as any goalie in the world.

Whatever happens, this could be an exciting series. That’s good news for hockey fans, but maybe bad news for the goalies involved.

Prediction: Wild in 7.

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

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    Capitals sign Dylan Strome to five-year, $25 million extension

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    FT. LAUDERDALE, Fla. – The Washington Capitals signed forward Dylan Strome to a five-year extension worth $25 million.

    The team announced the contract during NHL All-Star Weekend, which is taking place in South Florida – the place Strome was drafted third in 2015.

    Strome will count $5 million against the salary cap through the 2027-28 season. He was set to be a restricted free agent this summer.

    “Dylan is an intelligent and skilled center and has been a great addition to our organization,” general manager Brian MacLellan said. “We are pleased to sign him to a long-term contract. We feel his skill set is a great fit for our team as he enters the prime years of his career at an important position.”

    Strome is getting a raise from the $3.5 million deal he signed with the Capitals after the Chicago Blackhawks opted not to tender him a qualifying offer and made him a free agent. Strome has 11 goals and 25 assists in 36 games this season and ranks third on Washington’s roster with 14 power-play points.

    The Mississauga, Ontario, native who played his junior hockey alongside Connor McDavid with the Erie Otters has 206 points in 325 regular-season NHL games with the Arizona Coyotes, Blackhawks and Capitals.

    Golden Knights captain Mark Stone undergoes back surgery

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    LAS VEGAS — Vegas Golden Knights captain Mark Stone is out indefinitely after undergoing back surgery in Denver, the club announced.

    The Knights termed the procedure as successful and that Stone “is expected to make a full recovery.”

    This is the second time in less than a year that Stone has had back surgery. He also had a procedure May 19, 2022, and Stone said in December this was the best he had felt in some time.

    But he was injured Jan. 12 against the Florida Panthers, and his absence has had a noticeable effect on the Knights. They have gone 1-5-2 without Stone, dropping out of first place in the Pacific Division into third.

    Stone is second on the team in goals with 17 and in points with 38.

    Devils associate coach Andrew Brunette charged with DUI

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    DEERFIELD BEACH, Fla. — New Jersey Devils associate coach and former Florida Panthers head coach Andrew Brunette was arrested in South Florida while driving home from a bar in his golf cart, authorities said.

    Brunette, 49, was pulled over just blocks from the ocean in the Deerfield Beach area, north of Fort Lauderdale, according to a Broward Sheriff’s Office arrest report. He was charged with one count of driving under the influence and two counts of disobeying a stop or yield sign. Brunette was released on $500 bond.

    The Devils said in a statement that the team was aware of Brunette’s arrest and gathering additional information.

    According to the arrest report, a deputy was in the process of giving Brunette’s illegally parked golf cart a ticket around midnight when Brunette walked out of a nearby bar and told the deputy he was about to leave. The deputy said Brunette seemed unsteady on his feet and slurred his speech, and when he was joined by his wife, the deputy said he overheard the wife tell Brunette not to drive while the deputy was there.

    The deputy remained in the area and reported watching the couple drive away about 17 minutes later, according to the report. The deputy said he watched the golf cart run two stop signs before pulling Brunette over on a residential street about a mile away from his home. According to the report, Brunette had difficulty following instructions during a field sobriety test before eventually quitting and asking for an attorney. He also declined to take a breathe test to measure his blood-alcohol level, officials said.

    Online jail and court records didn’t list an attorney for Brunette.

    Brunette is in his first season as associate coach of the Devils. He was interim coach of the Florida Panthers last season after taking over when Joel Quenneville resigned for his connection to a 2010 Chicago Blackhawks sexual abuse scandal.

    The Panthers fired Brunette after they lost in the second round of the playoffs last spring despite him leading them to the Presidents’ Trophy as the league’s top team during the regular season.

    The Sudbury, Ontario, native played 1,159 NHL games for Washington, Nashville, Atlanta, Minnesota, Colorado and Chicago from 1995-2012. He was a Wild assistant in 2015-16 and worked on Florida’s staff from 2019-2022.

    Stars aligned with new coach DeBoer, Nill-constructed roster

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    DALLAS — General manager Jim Nill sensed things were coming together for the Dallas Stars even before the season started with new coach Pete DeBoer and a roster mixed with proven veterans, up-and-coming young players, and even a teenaged center.

    At the NHL’s All-Star break, after 51 games together, these Stars are leading the Western Conference.

    “Every year you start, you put a team together, and there’s always going to be question marks,” said Nill, in his 10th season as the Stars GM. “You have ideas how you think you’re going to come together, but there’s always the unknown. . This year has been one of those years where right from the start, you could just see everything was kind of jelling.”

    The Stars (28-13-10, 66 points) have their trio of 2017 draft picks that just keep getting better: All-Star winger Jason Robertson, goaltender Jake Oettinger and defenseman Miro Heiskanen. The seemingly ageless Joe Pavelski, at 38 and already re-signed for next season, is on the high-scoring top line with Robertson and point-a-game winger Roope Hintz. Wyatt Johnston, their first-round pick in 2021 and half Pavelski’s age, has 13 goals.

    There is also the resurgence of six-time All-Star forward Tyler Seguin two years after hip surgery and 33-year-old captain Jamie Benn, who already has more goals (19) than he did playing all 82 games last season.

    The Stars have a plus-40 goal differential, which is second-best in the NHL. They are averaging 3.37 goals per game, more than a half-goal better than last season when they were the only team to make the playoffs after being outscored in the regular season. They are also allowing fewer goals, and have improved on power plays and penalty kills.

    “Where we sit at this break, I think guys are happy with that,” Seguin said, before being asked the keys to the Stars leading the West and on pace for a 100-point season with their new coach.

    “Our style, our team speed, our puck speed, being predictable. All the clichés, knowing where the puck’s going. Really how we play the five-man unit,” he said. “Our pace this year, it’s been a lot quicker. There’s been some solid depth scoring this year while we’ve got one of the best lines in hockey.”

    The Stars went into the break on their only three-game losing streak of the season, all 3-2 overtime losses at home.

    “Those aren’t real losses,” said DeBoer, who twice has gone to the Stanley Cup Final in his first season with a new team. “I’m happy where we’re at. I like how we’re playing.”

    Plus, Dallas won’t have to worry in the playoffs about 3-on-3 hockey, which has been the only real stain on their season so far. Only one team has more than its 10 losses after regulation.

    “We’ve played a lot of good hockey. We’ve made a lot of good strides in our game,” DeBoer said. “We still have another level we have to get to when we get back, but there are a lot of good things that have happened. They’ve worked to have us where we are right now in the standings. Good spot to be in.”

    The Stars have 31 games left in the regular season. The first four after the break at home, like the last four before their week-long hiatus.

    Robertson’s 33 goals rank sixth in the NHL, and the 23-year-old has the same number of assists while averaging 1.29 points a game even after he missed most of training camp before signing a four-year, $31 million contract. Pavelski has 48 points (14 goals, 34 assists) while playing every game, and Hintz 46 points (20 goals, 26 assists) in only 43 games.

    Oettinger, who is 21-7 in regulation, has a .923 save percentage and 2.26 goals against average since signing his three-year, $12 million contract. That deal came after 223 saves in a seven-game playoff series against Calgary last May, capped by 64 in the series finale that went to overtime.

    Nill said Robertson’s production has improved even with the league adjusting to the high-scoring forward, and that Oettinger is proving to be one of the league’s best goalies. But they are just part of what has been a tremendous team effort.

    “They kind of had that mojo right from the start, and it was kind of this team’s got the right mix,” Nill said. “It’s come together well, and it’s shown in the standings. It’s been good to watch.”