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5 Keys: Blues at Wild, Game 2

Minnesota must get to the net; St. Louis can't rely solely on goalie Jake Allen

by Jessi Pierce / NHL.com Correspondent

ST. PAUL, Minn. -- The St. Louis Blues play the Minnesota Wild in Game 2 of their Western Conference First Round series at Xcel Energy Center on Friday (8 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN360, TVA Sports 3, FS-N, FS-MW).

The Wild outshot the Blues 52-26 in Game 1, but St. Louis goaltender Jake Allen made 51 saves in a 2-1 overtime win.

Here are 5 keys for Game 2:

 

1. Get to the net

Minnesota attempted 90 shots in Game 1 and had a Wild record 52 shots on goal. But 70 percent of those 52 shots came from the perimeter. Minnesota outscored opponents 263-206 during the regular season; most of the Wild's goals were scored from close to the net.

The combination of Allen's goaltending and a defensive strategy aimed at keeping Minnesota's shooters to the outside limited the Wild's close-range opportunities. Minnesota has to get to the front of the net against one of the hottest goaltenders in the NHL to have a chance to even the series.

"He's playing well so it's going to be second, third and fourth efforts; rebounds, garbage goals, stuff like that," forward Charlie Coyle said. "We've got to get him moving side to side, take away his eyes more and create some more traffic in front of him. It's tough when a goalie's playing well. You've got to keep at him; just keep shooting and it'll go in eventually."

Video: STL@MIN, Gm1: Parise nets tic-tac-toe play, ties game

 

2. Can Allen do it again?

Blues coach Mike Yeo said he doesn't want Allen to face 52 shots for a second straight game, but a repeat performance in all other aspects would be great.

"It's nice to have confidence and a good start," Yeo said. "I think the real key to his success lately is he's been able to put real strong performances behind him and focus on the next one."

Allen is at the top of his game; he's 12-2-2 with 27 goals-against and two shutouts in his past 16 starts. He was the biggest reason the Blues won Game 1.

Video: STL@MIN, Gm1: Allen notches a pair of strong stops

 

3. Taking advantage of home ice

Home ice hasn't helped teams through the first two nights of the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Visiting teams went 5-3 in Game 1 of the eight series.

The Wild were 27-12-2 at Xcel Energy Center during the regular season, though they've lost five of their past six playoff games at home.

"[The crowd] brings a lot of energy [at home]," Coyle said. "It makes for a fun, exciting game, gives us some momentum, and it gets us in the game too. We really like playing [at Xcel Energy Center], we want to take advantage of it and make sure we're playing good at home."

As coach of the home team, Bruce Boudreau also gets the last line change. That helped the Wild limit Blues leading scorer Vladimir Tarasenko in Game 1. Tarasenko had four shots on goal but wasn't a major factor until the end, when the rebound of his shot turned into defenseman Joel Edmundson's overtime goal.

Video: STL@MIN, Gm1: Edmundson nets game-winner in OT

 

4. Blues can't sit back

St. Louis won the opener but has to pick up its game against the team that finished second in the NHL in scoring during the regular season. The Blues have to find a way to counter the Wild's aggressive forecheck and generate more scoring chances of their own.

"They're obviously one of the best offensive teams in the League for a reason," forward Scottie Upshall said. "They generate tons of scoring chances with shots and funneling pucks. We have a good transition game, so you know, [we have to] limit their chances, block shots, create more opportunities for sure to generate offense through that."

 

5. More power from power plays

The Blues were 0-for-4 on the power play in Game 1, and the Wild went 0-for-2. That's a credit to each team's penalty-killing units, but St. Louis and Minnesota know they need to be better with the man-advantage in Game 2.

"[During the] playoffs you feel like the refs let a lot go, so you might get one or two chances on the power play and you really want to make those count. Goals are tough to come by in the postseason," Wild forward Zach Parise said. "On the same side, you want to make sure you're killing power plays off and you don't want to put yourself in a hole … When you're in a special-teams game, you're going to give yourselves a good chance to win."

Yeo said the Blues need more from their power play.

"Our power play was not good enough. Our penalty kill was very good," Yeo said. "Power play, I thought, was slow. It matched our 5-on-5 game. … We'd like to see ourselves be more aggressive. We've got to move the puck a lot quicker. It made it easy for them to defend."

 

Blues projected lineup

Jaden Schwartz -- Ivan Barbashev -- Vladimir Tarasenko

Magnus Paajarvi -- Patrik Berglund -- David Perron

Vladimir Sobotka - Jori Lehtera -- Alexander Steen

Scottie Upshall -- Kyle Brodziak - Zach Sanford

Jay Bouwmeester -- Alex Pietrangelo

Joel Edmundson -- Colton Parayko

Carl Gunnarsson - Robert Bortuzzo

Jake Allen

Carter Hutton

Scratched: Dmitrij Jaskin, Luke Opilka, Jordan Schmaltz, Ryan Reaves

Injured: Robby Fabbri (knee), Paul Stastny (foot), Nail Yakupov (undisclosed)

 

Wild projected lineup

Erik Haula -- Mikko Koivu -- Mikael Granlund

Nino Niederreiter -- Eric Staal -- Zach Parise

Jason Zucker -- Martin Hanzal -- Charlie Coyle

Chris Stewart -- Joel Eriksson Ek -- Jason Pominville

Ryan Suter -- Jared Spurgeon

Marco Scandella -- Matt Dumba

Jonas Brodin -- Christian Folin

Devan Dubnyk

Darcy Kuemper

Scratched: Jordan Schroeder, Ryan White, Nate Prosser

Injured: None

 

Status report


Bortuzzo returns after missing six games with an upper-body injury. "Barring any setbacks, we're excited to jump back in there," he said. "Obviously it's going to be a good test tonight. Looking forward to it." Yeo said Steen will play despite not skating with his teammates in the morning, and Sanford also will be in the lineup.

 

Who's hot

Pietrangelo has eight points (three goals, five assists) in his past eight games. Schwartz has 12 points (five goals, seven assists) in his past 12 games. … Koivu has six assists in his past seven games.

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