On the eve of the New Year, the Blues prepare for the Winter Classic. A tradition for the NHL, this is the second time the Blues will participate in the great outdoor game. Though only a few players from that 2017 team remain on this active roster, the team feels ready to get back on the ice. After an extended holiday break, the team picked up where they left off on Wednesday night. The offense looked like they never missed a game and put on a great show beating the Edmonton Oilers 4-2. One of the things that spurred this win was the return of a few player from the IR. After a solid return, the team heads north to the frozen tundra of Minnesota to take on a division rival on New Years day. Here is the things they need to pick up their second Winter Classic win.
Winter is a delightful time in the great north. Outdoor games are nothing new to the state of Minnesota, and mother nature is making sure the weather is welcoming to the Blues and their fans. Talk is that at puck drop the air temperature will be around -10 fahrenheit. Plans are in place for extra layers on players, warmed benches, and more. The biggest key will be managing the play and keeping an eye on shift times. Obviously, players know their bodies best but expect the coaching staff to try to keep players on a shorter shift schedule. Keeping time on the ice shorter will help players remain fresher and less likely of having an injury which is likely in the cold like that. Frostbite will be a serious concern. Dealing with the cold will impact both clubs so whoever does it better will have the upper hand in this game.
Before the break, the Blues had been battling Covid and injuries. David Perron and Robert Thomas made their returns to active play on Wednesday. Perron had been on unavailable since November 26th, and Thomas was down since December 4th. They both picked up a point in their return. More good news came to the Blues on Thursday. Coach Berube announced the return of a few more players. Ivan Barbashev, Pavel Buchnevich, and Oskar Sundqvist were cleared to return to play just in time for the Winter Classic. There is still the chance that Brayden Schenn could be ready to go Saturday night, but no official word on his status. With a nearly whole line up, the Blues look poised to have a strong game.
Ideally, the Blues need to play aggressively the whole game. Pounce first, get on the scoreboard and don’t let up. The Minnesota Wild are a good team with some firepower. To avoid giving them a chance in this game, the offense is going to be your best defense. I want to see them aggressive on the forecheck and see the defensemen pinching. With guys like Torey Krug and Colton Parayko on the blue line, their typical speed should be able to overcome any possible mistakes. Jordan Binnington is expected to be in net for the Blues. As long as he can get eyes on it, he should have no problem stopping the puck.
It is a road game, and normally it might be difficult to build some momentum as the visiting squad. However you should be able to just delete the fans from this game as they’re going to be too far from the ice and frozen to their chairs. The electric atmosphere created in the Xcel Energy Center will be nonexistent for the Wild players. Therefore, creating your own energy first will be key, and the Russian line with Tarasenko, Buchnevich and Barbashev should get a fair amount of playing time early on. Their ability and spark should get the Blues rolling early.
The Winter Classic, like every year before, will be a classic. A lovely tradition to ring in the New Year. Both teams have had some very entertaining games before, and this one should be another. The Blues continue to produce and show why they’re a force to be reckoned with. Meanwhile, the Wild have had a fantastic start to their season and look to take back the lead in the Central. I expect this to be a tight game, but with the Blues getting back some key components, I expect them to win 4-3 and join the Bruins, Rangers, and Capitals as teams to have 2 Winter Classic victories. Happy New Year!
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