The Dallas Stars will meet fellow, Central Division opponent, the St. Louis Blues in the second round of the NHL Playoffs.
The Stars are coming off of a fairly easy series where they defeated the Minnesota Wild in six games. Dallas won the series against the Wild by outscoring its opponent. The Blues are coming off of a brutal series with the Chicago Blackhawks that went seven games. St. Louis was the more physical team and got the opportune goals when they needed it. The two teams met five times in the regular season with the Blues going 4-1-0 in those meetings, while the Stars were only 1-1-3.
Dallas is still without star player Tyler Seguin, who came back for game two of the series against the Wild, but hasn’t played since because of injury. St. Louis is as healthy as one would expect a team that just went seven games in the first round of the playoffs to be.
The Stars have no problem putting the puck in the back of the opponent’s net. They had 21 goals for, which ties the Pittsburgh Penguins for the most goals scored so far in the postseason. Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza led the way with four goals a piece in round one. Patrick Eaves, Spezza and Benn each had more than five points in the previous series with Benn leading the way with 10 points. The Stars offense is missing a key piece in Seguin.
St. Louis is fourth in the postseason in goals scored with 19 of them. The Blues’ offense is spread out between the forwards and the defensemen. Vladimir Tarasenko leads the way in goals with four. Jaden Schwartz, Alex Pietrangelo and Tarasenko all have more than five points in the postseason for the Blues. St. Louis will need to get in on the forecheck because the Stars will give up goals.
Dallas will have to do a much better job defensively this series than they did against the Wild. The team can play a loosey-goosey style of defense throughout the course of a game. If the Stars want to have a chance in the series then they will have to tighten up and play better defense. In round one, the Wild came back from deficits in three different games that can’t happen against the Blues.
The Blues defensemen aren’t afraid to shoot the puck and will contribute in the offensive zone. If needed then they can also play physical and stay-at-home. The Stars will have its chances to get shots through to the net since St. Louis is giving up 36.6 shots against per game played this playoffs. Kevin Shattenkirk will look to bounce back from his round one performance, which wasn’t particularly great.
Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi have been splitting the goaltending duties all season long and that continued in round one. In four games, Lehtonen is 3-1 with a 2.27 goals against average and .911 save percentage. He also has one shutout in the postseason. In two games against the Blues he was 1-0-1 with two goals allowed in the regular season. Niemi is 1-1 in two postseason starts and has a 3.36 goals against average to go with a not so stellar .870 save percentage. In three regular season games against the Blues, he was 0-1-2 with 11 goals allowed.
Brian Elliott has been good for St. Louis in the net so far during these playoffs. In seven games, he is 4-3 with a 2.40 goals against average and a .929 save percentage. If he has been able to see the puck then he has been able to stop it. He did have one game against Chicago where he allowed six goals, but that was an elimination game for the Hawks in Chicago, who fed off the home crowd for a 6-3 win.
The x-factor for Dallas will be the way the defense plays. If they can play a tight, team defensive game then they will be able to hang around in the series. St. Louis’ x-factor will be the goaltending specifically Elliott. He was face a lot of shots and if he can play the way he did in round one then the Blues will have a chance to make it to the next round. St. Louis will have to keep an eye on Benn and be able to solve whichever goalie is in net for Dallas. The Stars are going to have to find a way to keep Vladimir Tarasenko off the board.
The Blues are going to play a physical style of hockey and the Stars just don’t match up well against them. The Blues will beat the Stars in six games to advance to the Western Conference Finals.