One of the most exciting individual player matchups in the Stanley Cup Playoffs features Ryan Suter of the Minnesota Wild trying to shut down Vladimir Tarasenko of the St. Louis Blues.
Another key matchup in this series will take place behind the benches, where Bruce Boudreau of the Wild is facing Minnesota's former coach, Mike Yeo. Each has quickly transformed his current team into a Stanley Cup contender.
The outcome of these matchups will determine which team will advance.
Here are five interesting stats about this series:
Tarasenko vs. Suter
Tarasenko is the key to the Blues offense. His 39 goals were tied with Brad Marchand of the Boston Bruins for fifth in the NHL. Patrik Berglund was second on the Blues with 23 goals, and was their only player to score at least half as many goals as Tarasenko.
Tarasenko's 286 shots ranked sixth in the NHL, and led the Blues by 98 shots over Colton Parayko (188).
Can Suter contain Tarasenko's scoring? Tasked with shutting down top opponents with 2207:49 minutes of ice time, which ranked second to Drew Doughty of the Los Angeles Kings (2225:50), Suter led the NHL with a plus-34, tied with teammate Jason Zucker.
Video: Wild vs Blues First Round Preview
The coaching factor
The Blues went 22-8-2 after Yeo replaced Ken Hitchcock as coach on Feb. 1. Their 46 points tied the Washington Capitals for the League lead since that date.
In that time, St. Louis outscored its opponents 93-60, which was the fewest goals allowed, and had a League-best plus-33 goal differential.
Under Boudreau, the Wild improved to 106 points from the 87 they had in 2015-16 under Yeo and John Torchetti. They set franchise highs in points and wins (49).
Low shot volumes
Statistically, Blues games are known for low shot volumes, at each end of the ice.
St. Louis and its opponents each averaged 28.4 shots per game this season, which ranked last among playoff teams offensively, and sixth defensively. The combined total average of 56.8 shots per game was the League's lowest.
Minnesota doesn't need a lot of shots to score; its shooting percentage of 10.4 percent ranked second to the Capitals (10.5 percent). The Wild ranked second in the NHL with 263 goals.
With the lower-shot volumes, goaltending could be the decisive factor in this series. Judging the two starting goalies strictly using the season-end numbers, it appears that Minnesota has an edge in goal, with a .923 save percentage for goalie Devan Dubnyk, compared to .915 for Blues goalie Jake Allen. However, they are trending in opposite directions.
As 2016 came to a close, Dubnyk appeared to be the early favorite for the Vezina Trophy as the League's top goalie. On Dec. 28, he led the NHL with .947 save percentage and 1.58 goals-against average (minimum six games). Since then, his .905 save percentage ranked 27th among the 32 goalies to play at least 20 games.
In contrast, Allen has come on strong under Yeo. Since Feb. 1, his .938 save percentage led the League among those who played at least 10 games.
Great discipline and shorthanded effectiveness means special teams will likely be less of a deciding factor in this series.
St. Louis ranked third in the NHL with a penalty-killing percentage of 84.8 percent this season, which includes a League-best 88.8 percent under Yeo.
As for the Wild, they play a disciplined game that won't give the Blues many opportunities with the man-advantage. The Wild ranked 29th with 1,284 hits, and tied the New York Rangers for the fifth-fewest minor penalties (244).