Can the Wild slow down Tarasenko? Will Devan Dubnyk show up?

Vladimir Tarasenko comes in red-hot while Devan Dubnyk isn't far removed from a horrible March.
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While Mike Yeo is grabbing the headlines, the first-round playoff series between the Wild and Blues should quickly become a story about how the Wild can or can't slow down the only superstar in the series, Vladimir Tarasenko.

"They have him. Minnesota doesn't. That's going to make a huge difference," said NHL analyst Matt Waymire.

Tarasenko had 39 goals and 75 points this season. 22 of his goals came in 50 games under Ken Hitchcock and then he exploded for 17 goals in 32 games after Yeo replaced Hitchcock in February.

The line Tarasenko is on with Jaden Schwartz and Alex Steen has been equally impressive, tallying 30 goals and 68 points under Yeo.

Pressure falls on Koivu

Slowing down Tarasenko will likely put the most pressure on Mikko Koivu, according to 1500 ESPN's Judd Zulgad, who notes that Koivu was on a line with Erik Haula and Mikael Granlund during Monday's practice.

In the 2015 playoffs, Tarasenko was a minus-4 in six games, but he had a hat trick in Game 2 and racked up six goals before the Wild knocked the Blues out in six games.

Wild have more depth

After the Tarasenko line things get questionable for the Blues, who had only six players with 40 points or more this season. The Wild showcase a lot more depth with nine players above 40 points. If depth proves key in the postseason, the Wild have a clear edge.

ESPN's Scott Burnside agrees:

"A scout told me recently he still loves the Wild in spite of their recent slide. They've got great goaltending, a deep and talented blue line, and with the acquisition of big C Martin Hanzal before the trade deadline, they are as big and gritty down the middle as they've ever been. It all adds up to a Minnesota victory."

Dubnyk vs. Allen

Which goalie shows up could ultimately be the No. 1 reason the Wild or Blues advance. Devan Dubnyk won 40 games but it took him a lot longer to get there after he imploded with a .889 save percentage in March. Before March, Dubnyk was arguably the best goalie in the league with a .932 save percentage and 33 wins.

“I’ve seen it now for a couple seasons for long stretches of time where Dubnyk has been the best player on the ice,” NBC's Brian Boucher told the Pioneer Press. “There’s no doubt in my mind that when we turn the page and start the playoffs he’s a guy that can turn it on.”

That wasn't the case last year when Dubnyk allowed 20 goals in six games against the Dallas Stars

Allen has been just as polarizing for the Blues. He was pulled in four of six games in January but has been a rock with 16 wins since Yeo took over in February, according to NHL.com.

Game 1 is Wednesday at 8:30 p.m. Fans can watch on Fox Sports North or NBC Sports Network.

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