Minnesota Wild (+128) at St. Louis Blues (-141, 5 o/u)
One of the Western Conference favorites will inevitably bow out in the first round of the NHL playoffs this year as the Central Division champion St. Louis Blues (51-24-7, 27-12-2 home) face one of the hottest teams from the second half of the season, the Minnesota Wild (46-28-8, 24-15-2 away). Game 1 between the Wild and Blues goes tonight at the Scottrade Center in Saint Louis (9:30 PM Eastern).
The Blues, who largely platooned their goaltending duo of Jake Allen and Brian Elliott all year, will turn to the rookie Allen – who was hotter down the stretch – for Game 1.
“It was a week ago I said one guy’s had a great season and one guy’s had a great last six weeks, and we opted to go with the guy that’s had the great six weeks,” Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. “Either way, it’s a decision that we couldn’t [go] wrong with, to be honest with you.”
Allen went 22-7-4 this season with a 2.28 goals against average, while Elliot posted a 26-14-3 record and a 2.26 GAA.
The Wild, on the other hand, don’t have so much as a whiff of a goaltending controversy. Devan Dubnyk started 39 of the last 40 games for the team and was arguably the best goalie in the league in the second half of the season, posting a 1.78 GAA (second in the NHL).
Looking at the trends, the Blues and Wild posted identical 6-3-1 records in their last ten regular season games. The head-to-head hasn’t been as even, though, with St. Louis taking seven of the last ten, including the last game of the regular season (4-2).
Dubnyk remains confident heading into tonight’s game, notwithstanding the ominous regular season finale: “We’re certainly not worried about the last game of the year; that didn’t count much,” said the tender. But the trends – and home-ice – favor the Blues.
My pick: St. Louis -141.
(Photo credit: Michael Miller (Own work) [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. Photo has been cropped.)