It's Mardi Gras time in St. Louis, and what better way to celebrate than... a game against the Minnesota Wild? While a game against the Hurricanes might've been more appropriate, another Blues home victory to keep that point streak rolling might be a great thing to witness before stumbling onto the streets of Soulard.
The home team has been victorious in this match-up every time, and just by a goal. The Blues' first shootout win of the season came against the Wild on January 14th. The win against the Wild, also, came with Jaroslav Halak in net; today's starter, Brian Elliott, was responsible for the 3-2 loss on November 19th. The Blues couldn't start Halak today, however -- he's out with the flu, meaning that Ben Bishop'll be manning the bench behind Elliott.
These two teams have very different motivations for getting points in the standings. The Blues would love to maintain fourth place in the West and gain home ice advantage in the playoffs, while the Wild would just like to get to the playoffs. The former Western Conference points leader has lost six in a row and has been positively anemic in goals and positively apathetic in play. And the coach, Mike Yeo? According to Judd Zulgad of 1500ESPN, his yo-yo of emotions is messing with the team's minds:
Yeo seemed to be living and dying with every game and that his emotions would be based solely on what he had just seen on the ice. He liked how his team had played against Chicago, so deep down it felt like a win. He was unhappy with the effort against the Islanders, so this was a loss that left him seething.
This much had become clear about the 38-year-old Yeo: Things were going to be black and white. Performances were either going to have been good or bad and there was little room for any in between.
The Wild have lost 22 of 27 since a 2-1 loss in Winnipeg back in December. If you want two teams that resemble night and day, look no further than the Wild and the Blues.
Of course, that's because the coaches are totally different. Yeo's going emo, and Ken Hitchcock's just motivating through fear.
"We’re getting close to the trade deadline, so we want as many players as we can maneuver around. We want to keep the players on edge that aren’t performing, so they understand that it’s not a given. They’re not just going to get a spot on the team and keep it. It’s going to be performance-based. And the third thing is, we want to know that if somebody goes down, we’ve got somebody comparable to come in."
Fair enough, and a perfect strategy. It's assumed that the Blues won't do much at the deadline, but as last year's huge trade taught us, anything's possible.
If the Wild want to win, they'll have to try to contain David Perron, who has seven goals in his last six games. That, my friends, is easier said than done.