St. Louis Blues (+118) at Minnesota Wild (-130, 5 o/u)
A 4-1 win on Saturday brought the St. Louis Blues (1-1, 0-0 away) back to life after dropping the first game of their series with the Minnesota Wild (1-1, 0-0 home). Tonight, the Blues will look to earn back home-ice advantage when they visit the Xcel Energy Center in Saint Paul for Game 3 (8:00 PM Eastern Time).
The Blues’ regular season leading scorer Vladimir Tarasenko showed up in a big way on Saturday, netting his first career playoff hat-trick. Tarasenko had been largely invisible in Game 1, failing to register a shot on goal in almost 19 minutes of ice-time.
“You need to forget whatever it was. Bad game, good game, doesn’t matter,” Tarasenko said of his bounce-back performance. “You need to make a next step. If you think about your success, you’ll stop playing.”
St. Louis coach Ken Hitchcock knows that his team’s fortunes are tied to their 37-goal-scorer. “We need [Tarasenko] to rise up,” said Hitchcock. “For us to have success, our best players have to be significant, and that was a big step today.”
Meanwhile, Minnesota, which closed the regular season on a 6-3-1 run, were brought back to reality with the loss.
“You lose a game, and it’s frustrating, it’s disappointing,” Wild coach Mike Yeo said. “We knew we were going to face their best game. We’ll find a way to get better.”
All in all, the Wild put in a lackluster effort on the weekend, managing just 25 shots on net and drawing just one penalty. Marco Scandella had the only tally for Minnesota which brought the team within one early in the third. Patrick Berglund responded late in the final frame for the Blues before Tarasenko finished off his hattie with an empty netter.
In the trends, three of the last four games between the Blues and Wild have gone over the game total; Saturday’s game ended in a push. Dating back to last season, the Wild have won five of their last six playoff games on home ice, taking all three at Excel from the Avalanche in round one and two of three from the Blackhawks in round two.
Expect Yeo’s squad to come out with a better effort tonight in front of their home fans.
Pick: Wild (-130).
(Photo credit: Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo may appear cropped.)