The St. Louis Blues came into an absolutely electric Xcel Energy Center and pulled the plug on the noise, deflating the crowd early and never letting them get back into it.
The Minnesota Wild came into game one of the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs riding high on their 8-1-1 record in the last 10 games, which allowed them to power their way past the Blues for home ice advantage in the series.
None of that seemed to matter as the Blue’s special teams controlled the game and shut out the Wild 4-0.
David Perron set the tone early for the Blues with a power play goal, and it snowballed downhill for the Wild from there. The Blues continued to be outstanding on both the power play and penalty kill as three of their four goals came from man advantage opportunities and they shut down all six (SIX!) Wild power play chances.
Perron would stay hot all game and go on to get a hat-trick.
The keys to the series moving forward:
Check the emotions and stay out of the box.
At 5-on-5 the Wild were absolutely dominant. The problem is the lack of sustained even strength play time. At 5 -on-5, the Wild had a 72.1 corsi percentage, a 60.5 shots percentage, a 75.0 high danger chances for percentage, and a 61.8 expected goals for percentage. Poor decisions and high emotions played right into the Blues game and they took advantage.
Emotions are obviously a huge part of hockey, even more so in the playoffs, but it was obvious the Blue’s had got to the Wild when the usually upstanding Lady Byng candidate Jared Spurgeon made a dangerous and careless crosscheck to the ankles of a Blues player, which he was fined for.
Marc-Andre Fleury was a surprise call for the game one starter to most fans. While there was no bad choice to make between the proven veterans of Cam Talbot and Fleury, it felt like Talbot deserved the role after going unbeaten in regulation in his last 15 games.
While Fleury did not have a bad game, and made some huge saves, including a penalty shot in the first, his animated and eccentric play style seemed to feed into the emotion of the game negatively. He left some massive rebounds that the Blues capitalized on and was completely outclassed on the other side of the ice by Ville Husso.
It is difficult to say who will start for the Wild in game two, but Talbot’s more methodical and positional based play style may be a better fit.
A playoff series is a race to four wins and in a series that is expected to be tight and potentially go all the way to game seven, you can’t dwell on a single loss. The Wild are a fairly unexperienced team when it comes to the playoffs and you could definitely tell there were some nerves as an unusual amount of players just seemed off.
With Game 1 over, the team can settle back into their groove and come back hard. A win on Wednesday will even the series and give the Wild some momentum heading into St. Louis for Games 3 and 4.