Three ways to beat the Blues
The Wild’s late-season run to the playoffs was fueled by Devan Dubnyk (above), and the goaltender must stay on top of his game for his team to advance. Dubnyk’s numbers with the Wild have been well-chronicled — a 27-9-2 record, 1.78 goals-against average, .936 save percentage — but he has never played an NHL playoff game. He also carried a backbreaking workload in the second half of the regular season, starting 39 of the past 40 games. Though Dubnyk has no experience in the pressure-filled, intensely competitive atmosphere of the playoffs, he is overflowing with confidence and will be well-served by his easygoing nature.
2 Special teams
The penalty kill, which leads the NHL with an 86.3 percent success rate, has been instrumental to the Wild’s success. The power play has been an unsolved problem. In a series where five-on-five goals will be hard to come by, the Wild must get the physical Blues to take penalties, then score on the power play. But it enters the series ranked 27th in the NHL (15.8 percent) and endured a 13-game power-play drought on the road before scoring two power-play goals in the final two games. Zach Parise (above) leads the team with 11 power-play goals.
Parise said Monday that the Wild wins “by committee,’’ adding that he views the team’s depth as a key to its playoff success. It enters the postseason with a greater well of talent than it had in its previous two playoff appearances, with four capable lines and a strong group of reserves who can add different elements. In addition to its good balance and unselfish attitude, the Wild is healthy, too, as Jason Zucker (above), Matt Cooke and Ryan Carter all recently returned to bolster the lineup.