Alexander Shun | @alexpshun
Digital Content Manager | KFAN.com
The NHL regular season has come to a close and it is time for the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs to begin.
For the Minnesota Wild, the first round begins on Wednesday as they take on the St. Louis Blues in a best of seven series.
After capturing second place in the Central Division and the second overall spot in the Western Conference (behind only the Chicago Blackhawks), the Wild enter the Playoffs as one of the hottest teams in the NHL, winning their last four games while setting franchise records for wins (49) and points in a single season (106). Now they must 'defend' such records by knocking off St. Louis in the first round.
"It'll be a really fun series and I'm sure both teams are going to be ready for it," Erik Haula said on the team's upcoming series with the Blues. "We're just excited that 82 is done and now we start the fun part."
The Blues won the season series against Minnesota winning three of the five meetings including the last game between the two squads in St. Paul.
St. Louis enters the series as one of the few teams on a hotter run than Minnesota as they have won their last three games and seven of their last 10. Led by superstar Vladimir Tarasenko who tallied 75 points on the year (39 G, 36 A), the Blues are ready to put their previous playoff woes behind them and make a deep run in the Playoffs.
"They defend well, they have a lot of skill up-front and they're well coached," Mikko Koivu said. "It's a whole package that we're going to face and like you said both teams are familiar with each other and when you play a division rival that's what it is and we have some history in the playoffs with them as well so it should be a good match-up."
When it comes to the odds of winning the series and, more importantly, Lord Stanley's Cup, the Wild and Blues are on opposite ends of the spectrum.
According to Bovada, Minnesota has 8/1 odds to win the Cup, tied for the third-best odds of all teams in the Playoffs. Meanwhile the Blues have just 33/1 odds to win the Cup the worst odds of any team.
One of the most prominent storylines of the series will be the return of Blues Head Coach Mike Yeo.
Yeo spent five seasons behind the bench for Minnesota before he was relieved of his duties, choosing to head to St. Louis and take an assistant role behind then Head Coach Ken Hitchcock.
Before the season, Hitchcock announced that the 2016-17 season would be his last, leaving Yeo to take the reigns when the Blues' season concluded. For Yeo, his chance came sooner than expected though as St. Louis struggled to find consistency through the first quarter of the season causing Blues management to cut ties with Hitchcock and replace him Yeo.
In 32 games under Yeo this season, the Blues are 22-8-2 and have played their way to third in the Central Division tied for the fifth-most points in the Western Conference.
"They don't really have a weakness," Wild Head Coach Bruce Boudreau said of St. Louis. "They've got six really good defensemen, they've got four lines that can go, especially with the addition of [Vladimir] Sobotka, and their goalie has been on fire since the change so our work is cut out for us but I've seen our team all year and when we need to rise to the challenge, I think we will."
The Wild and Blues play game one of the series on Wednesday night at the Xcel Energy Center with the game set to start at 8:30 P.M. CST.