By Craig D. Schroepfer
The Stanley Cup Playoffs are set to get underway Wednesday night, and the opponent for the Minnesota Wild will be a familiar one.
Familiar in the team being the St. Louis Blues, who Minnesota eliminated in 2014 and familiar in the head coach of the Blues being Mike Yeo, who was the boss behind the bench for the Wild until February of last season.
For that alone there will be no shortage of story lines going into this series. However coaching is only a small part of deciding who will advance to the second round.
Will Minnesota be able to knock out St. Louis for the second time in three years? Or will the Blues avenge their defeat from two years ago and get revenge on the Wild? Let’s break it down.
Minnesota finally has something here that they have not had in their team history; quality depth at forward that allows them to skate four lines during the entire game.
A big part of the Wild success in this area has been the signing of Eric Staal. He was second on the team this season with 65 points (28 goals, 37 assists).
More importantly, the addition of Staal gave Minnesota the number-one center they needed, allowing Mikko Koivu to settle into the number-two center position where he is better suited to play at this point in his career.
Staal and Koivu, along with Martin Hanzal, gives the Wild three centers capable of playing against any group of forwards in the Western Conference.
Another reason why the forward depth has been so good for Minnesota this year is that their young players finally took that next step.
Mikael Granlund led the team in scoring with 69 points (26 goals, 43 assists) while Nino Niederreiter (25 goals, 32 assists), Jason Zucker (22 goals, 25 assists) and Charlie Coyle (18 goals, 38 assists) all had career highs in points this season.
For St. Louis, any discussion at forward must start with Vladimir Tarasenko.
He led the Blues in scoring this season with 75 points, 20…