If you are a fan of seeing fresh teams going deep in the playoffs, you will certainly enjoy the Stars-Blues series.
The two teams have combined to win zero series and lose four in the previous three seasons. All four series losses in six games. Both teams finally got over the hump this year. Dallas defeated an underwhelming and banged up Minnesota Wild team, and St. Louis took down the defending champs in a thrilling series.
These teams do have some similarities. They both have veteran head coaches, who have a lot of wins to their resume, but not a ton of playoff success in Lindy Ruff and Ken Hitchcock. Also, both teams have young superstars that have not yet played past the first round of the playoffs in Vladimir Tarasenko for the Blues, and Jamie Benn for the Stars.
There is, however, a stark difference is goaltending. Brian Elliot was near the top of the league in save percentage with a .930. Even current backup Jake Allen was great with a .920. It is safe to say that St. Louis own the best and the second best goalies in this series.
Goaltending was Dallas’ flaw this season, as it has been in the past few. Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi are the highest paid goalie tandem in the league, yet they could only post a below average .904 save percentage.
The Blues had the best team save percentage in the NHL this season, while the Stars finished 24th in that category. The worst of the playoff teams.
A major story to follow in this series is the status of Tyler Seguin. After playing just one first round game, Seguin re-injured a partially torn Achilles. Seguin has already been ruled out of the first two games versus St. Louis, and people should expect Dallas be cautious with this injury. Seguin was less than a quarter of an inch from completely tearing his Achilles and being out for the season.
What has to happen for the Blues to win
Elliott, or Allen if he happens to get any action, need to be light years better than the Dallas goaltenders. The Blues biggest advantage is who they have in net. They need to take advantage of that.
Keeping up with the Dallas offense, is a key for St. Louis. If the Tarasenko, Alexander Steen, and Jaden Schwartz line is able to match what Dallas’ stars do, pun intended, it will be hard for St. Louis to lose the series.
The Blues also have more scoring depth than Dallas, whether it is David Backes on the third line, or Colton Parayko on the backend. St. Louis gets scoring everywhere, and if they can match Dallas’ top-end scoring, they will win the series.
Keeping the games low scoring will also benefit St. Louis. Over the course of the season they scored much fewer goals than Dallas, but also allowed far fewer. With the better back end, St. Louis will win the series if they can hold Dallas to less than three goals in several games.
What has to happen for the Stars to win
Tyler Seguin needs to get healthy as soon as possible. Hopefully for Dallas’ sake, Seguin is back by Game 3 in St. Louis. To beat the Blues, they will need their first line center, who scored 73 points in 72 games this season. We saw them struggle against a Minnesota team that they should have swept without him. In the end, the Stars will either need to find someone to replace his production, or get Seguin back.
Dallas needs to score, score, and score some more. Dallas plays a high tempo, offensive game, and Ruff should have his team playing aggressive to tempt the Blues to play a back and forth style game. If he makes the Blues run and gun with them, he will likely find success.
The Stars need at least average goaltending from either Lehtonen or Niemi. Most teams do not go far in the playoffs unless their goalie gets hot. No teams go far if their goalie is below average. Although both goalies struggled in the first round, best guesses right now are that Niemi will start the series between the pipes.
Dallas also needs to be better at finishing the chances they do get. The Stars were eigth in the NHL in shooting percentage this year, while the Blues were 21st. It is more important that the Stars capitalize on the chances they get, because of the style of play they have. The Blues on the other hand could miss more often, because they can lock down the other team to very few chances.
There is a chance that St. Louis is drained emotionally and physically after seven hard fought games against Chicago. Even if they are, they will get refocused after a game at most.
Prediction: Blues win series in 6
1.) Brian Elliott will be significantly better than both of the Dallas goalies. He can steal a game or two for the Blues, while Niemi or Lehtonen will likely lose their team a game.
2.) The physicality of St. Louis will overwhelm the Stars. The Blues are big up front and on the back. The Stars had more than 400 less hits than the Blues in the regular season, and didn’t play a physical team in the first round to prepare themselves for the hard hitting Blues. Every defenseman on St. Louis can crush you with a hit. Parayko, Kevin Shattenkirk, Alex Pietrangelo, Jay Bouwmeester, etc. They can all do it. Dallas’ top guys like John Klingberg and Alex Goligoski are great offensive defenseman, but are about as maniacal as a box full of puppies.
3.) Both teams are great possession teams. The Stars are even a little bit better in most categories, but it is so close that neither team should dominate the other in possession. That was how Dallas won so much. Having the puck, and generating far more chances. Now that they play a team that also always has the puck, unlike Minnesota, they will have much more trouble.
St. Louis is a favorite, to many, to represent the Western Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals Beating Chicago should have been the hard part, but we will see how tough Dallas actually plays them in comparison.
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