SAINT PAUL, Minn. — While steadfastly refusing to reveal his team’s lineup prior to game day, per normal practice, St. Louis Blues coach Mike Yeo joked that goalie Jake Allen might get the start for his team in Game 2 of Friday’s first-round playoff series at the Minnesota Wild.
“Still trying to figure it out. We don’t discuss our lineup until the next day,” Yeo deadpanned after Thursday’s practice when asked who would be between the pipes on Friday night while denying that fatigue would affect Allen. “He looked good today, felt good. Obviously, he knows tomorrow will be a new one and that’s one thing he’s done well for a long time — he’s re-set himself.”
One key to Allen’s resurgence as one of the top goalies in the Western Conference has been his off-day work with legendary goalie Martin Brodeur, now part of the Blues staff.
“Marty does a real good job with that, too — helping him prepare and put the last one behind him and focus on the next one,” Yeo said.
All Allen did in the opener of the best-of-seven series with the Wild is pretty much single-handedly give his team a 1-0 lead in the series, stopping 51 shots and holding off the home team long enough for his team to find a way to win in overtime.
Perhaps most interesting on Thursday was hearing the winning team talk about the need to play better and hearing the losing team talk about needing to stay the course.
“Fifty-something saves is pretty remarkable,” said Blues defenseman Joel Edmondson, who notched the overtime winner on Wednesday. “We relied on him a bit too much. We weren’t too happy with the way we played, but luckily (Allen) came to play and he stood on his head and got us the win.”
Wild coach Bruce Boudreau, whose playoff struggles are well known, said there was a sense of determination and even anger among his players after Minnesota set a franchise record for shots on goal in a game, but saw the home-ice advantage disappear.
“They were ticked off, which is what you want them to be,” Boudreau said. “But I don’t think they were, ‘Oh, woe is me’ type thing. Just let’s get back at it, and let’s go.”
In a pair of meetings since early March, Yeo’s team has done a good job of keeping the Wild to the outside, using the Blues’ size advantage on defense to keep many close-in pucks away from Allen and swat rebounds away. It’s also the second time in the past month that tactic has produced a one-goal St. Louis win over the Wild.
“They did a tremendous job of blocking out and not letting us get those second chances,” Boudreau said. “That’s two games in a row they’ve done that to us, so it’s a pretty good template for them. But if we want to have success, we have to find ways to get in there.”
The Wild, one of the tougher home teams in the NHL, now have a 13-17 all-time record at Xcel Energy Center in the playoffs, including a 4-5 mark in overtime games.