The Dallas Stars trail the St. Louis Blues three games to two in the second round of the Western Conference Playoffs.
If the Stars want to force a Game 7 and avoid elimination then they’ll have to be better in Game 6 in certain areas. The Stars need to figure out their special teams, which haven’t been special in these playoffs. They’ll have to be better with the puck, play to their strengths, eliminate the Blues’ fore-checking game as best as they can and the goaltending has to be better than it has been in this series.
The duo of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi hasn’t played its best hockey this series against the Blues. Lehtonen has played in all five games, while only starting four of them. He is 2-1 with a 3.05 goals against average to go with a .892 save percentage. He was pulled after the first period in game two and then came in to relieve Antti Niemi in game three. Niemi came in to relieve Lehtonen in game two after he allowed three goals on five shots in the first period. Lehtonen did have a solid effort in Game 4 allowing only two goals on 26 shots, but allowed three goals on 21 shots in Game 5.
Niemi hasn’t been spectacular tending the net himself this series. He is 0-2 with a 3.27 goals against average and a .875 save percentage. He was pulled after allowing three goals on 12 shots in game three. The Stars haven’t exactly been playing the best defense in front of the goalies, but the goalies need to make saves and not give up the “soft” goal. The Game 6 starter will need to make the easy saves and make some spectacular saves to keep them team in the game and series.
Dallas’ special teams have been anything but in the playoffs. The Stars’ have only scored one power play goal in the series so far. They are 1-for-16 against the Blues while on the man advantage. The power play has only cashed in on five of the 35 opportunities they have had in the playoffs (14.3%). Of the teams remaining in the playoffs, only the Nashville Predators have a worse power play at 9.8%. Dallas is a measly 1-for-22 while on the power play at home (4.5%) in six games, but are 4-for-13 (30.8%) on the road in five games.
The penalty kill hasn’t been much better than the power play, but it hasn’t helped that the Stars have been shorthanded 30 times in the postseason. Dallas has killed off 14 of the 19 penalties they have taken against the Blues. The Blues did score the overtime game-winning goal in game two while on the power play. The Stars have killed off 25 of the 34 penalties (73.5%) they have taken, which ranks them last among the teams still in the playoffs. The special teams need to be better in order for the Stars to even have a chance of avoiding elimination.
Dallas will need to play smart hockey during Game 6. They’ll need to avoid taking unnecessary penalties since they haven’t been good on the penalty kill. The Stars will need to not force plays. If something isn’t there then just dump the puck in and get in on the forecheck or just get the shot on net. They’ll need to avoid the blind pass and turnovers in its own zone that could lead to scoring chances or sustained time in the offensive zone for the Blues.
The temail needs to get back to playing to its strengths. They’ll need to use their speed and skill while adding in a little grit. The Stars out hit the Blues in game one and came away with the win. Dallas will need to use its speed to get to loose pucks and use its skill to have a clean break out of its own zone. They also need to play with speed coming through the neutral zone so the Blues defense is backing into its own zone, and not being able to stand Dallas up at their own blueline. The Stars need to use its speed and skill in transition to create more odd man rushes and get the defense involved in the offense.
One of the biggest thing besides the goalies are trying to eliminate the Blues second chance opportunities. The starter will need to have better rebound control than has been displayed in the series so far. The defense needs to have better coverage in front of the goalies so the Blues player standing around the crease can’t get the positioning to get to a rebound, should there be one. The Stars need to have better breakouts from their own zone to go with quicker, smarter decisions with the puck. The forwards need to come in and support the defense to win the board battles so the forechecking game of the Blues can be disrupted.
The Stars will have to weather the storm that will be coming to start the game and play a solid road game to have a chance at forcing a Game 7 back on home ice
Game 6 will be played Monday night in St. Louis at the Scottrade Center. The puck is set to drop at 8:00 p.m. and the game can been seen on NBCSN.