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Blues vs. Wild: Analytics preview

by Corey Masisak /

What Devan Dubnyk has done since arriving to the Minnesota Wild in a trade from the Arizona Coyotes has been incredible. Will he be able to continue his masterful play with maybe the most complete team in the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs trying to send him home early?

The St. Louis Blues are a top-eight team in the NHL in goals for, goals against, on the power play and on the penalty kill. Their numbers aren't quite as strong at even strength, and the Blues were just outside the top 10 this season in shot attempt percentage (SAT%).

St. Louis did improve through the course of the season, save for a brief decline very late that coincided with emerging superstar Vladimir Tarasenko and strong all-around talent Alexander Steen each missing some time with an injury.

Minnesota's puck possession trend went in the other direction. The Wild began the season looking like a burgeoning juggernaut. Not only did they outplay the Chicago Blackhawks in their Western Conference Second Round series in the 2014 playoffs, they were one of the best puck possession teams in the NHL in the early going this season.

The goaltending collapsed, and nearly the entire defense corps missed time with the mumps. Dubnyk arrived and saved the season with his standout play, but the Wild's ability to possess the puck has never really recovered. There were a couple of brief flashes of a revival, but the general trend continued to move in the wrong direction.

One interesting subplot to monitor will be the defensemen not on the top pairings. Ryan Suter and Jonas Brodin for Minnesota and Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester for St. Louis will log a ton of minutes, but each team features a strong supporting cast on the blue line. Kevin Shattenkirk had his best season despite an injury. He and Wild counterpart Jared Spurgeon have been excellent possession players this season.

Each team has plenty of skill up front, though Paul Stastny anchoring the third line could be an advantage for the Blues. He and David Backes will draw most of the tough assignments, and that allows a line of Jori Lehtera flanked by Tarasenko and Jaden Schwartz to thrive against weaker opponents.

The Blues don't have any holes, but Brian Elliott's previous postseason performance casts at least a small amount of doubt. Dubnyk will be one of at least five and possibly six goaltenders making his first Stanley Cup Playoff start this week, but his resume in the past few months is incredible.

Elliott has the worst career playoff save percentage of anyone expected to start a Game 1. He's at .898 in 18 postseason games. He's had a fine season, but not a spectacular one. Like the Anaheim Ducks' Frederik Andersen, Elliott has never really extended his grip on the No. 1 to the point where his coach, Ken Hitchcock, wouldn't consider going to the young guy/potential future No. 1, Jake Allen (like John Gibson in Anaheim), if he struggles.

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