There is no better drama than playoffs in sports.
The Stars seemed to be in control of their first round opponent Minnesota Wild. They jumped out early winning Game 1, 4-0. The Stars went up 2-0 before going on the road for Game 3 which strengthened their confidence. But it’s not just about your start.
The Wild stormed back to take Game 3. Stars’ fans were then put on edge when the Stars surrendered an overtime goal in a close-out game at home (Game 5). Finally, blood pressures boiled during the frantic third period where the Stars nearly blew a four goal lead in Game 6.
It wasn’t easy, but the Stars took four out of six against the Wild to advance to the second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Their next opponent is the St. Louis Blues, who defeating the defending champions Chicago Blackhawks in seven games. The Blues won four out of five meetings in the regular season against the Stars. In those victories, St. Louis hindered the top rated offense with physicality and blocked shots. Expect the same strategy for this series.
The first series proved to be a defensive challenge. The Stars allowed 17 goals in six games. Defensemen seemed fatigued and banged up while both goaltenders (Lehtonen, Niemi) faced their difficulties. The Wild put the Stars in a pinch with their checking, out hitting the Stars in the series. The young and fast Stars team looked befuddled at times by the physicality of playoff hockey.
That same play will be on display from the Blues. Where the Wild and Blues differ is in scoring. The Blues scored nearly three goals a game against the Blackhawks star goaltender Corey Crawford. On the other side, the Blues allowed two goals in their first seven games.
For the Blues to win, they will have to keep the Stars scoring under control. The Stars average 3.5 goals per game so far this postseason. The Blues have the advantage in size, look for them to be aggressive and finish checks.
For the Stars to win, their defense and goaltending have to hang on. Forward two-way play needs to improve with a consistent goaltender. My hope is Kari Lehtonen plays the majority, if not all, of games.
Players to Watch
Vladimir Tarasenko leads the Blues on offense. His 40 regular season goals was fourth in the league, leading his team in power-play goals with 12. It will be interesting to see how the Stars defend him.
Stephen Johns has been one of the Stars’ top defenders. His puck movement and defense awareness is essential for the Stars goals against. Standing at 6’4” his frame could counter the physicality of the Blues.
Is Tyler Seguin going to be healthy? If he completely recovers from his injured Achilles laceration, it’s safe to assume his impact will help the Stars. Yet, if his injury is still lingering, his play significantly drops. Let’s see how Lindy Ruff handles Seguin’s situation.
Goaltending could be the difference in the series. Both teams struggled with goals against but scored enough goals to squeak past the first round. Which team’s goalie can control the other’s offense?
The two hardest things to predict are four game series sweeps and seven game series. I would be willing to guess this series will be closer to the latter. Both teams are poised for the Conference Finals, and either team is a prominent candidate for the Cup Finals.
Okay fine I’ve dragged out the inevitable long enough. Give me…Stars in six or seven, whichever. It will be tough for either team and it will require both teams’ best play. It should be a fantastic series.
Series Schedule- All Times Central
4/29 vs Blues 7:00 pm
5/1 vs Blues 2:00 pm
5/3 at Blues TBD
5/5 at Blues 7:00 pm
*5/7 vs Blues TBD
*5/9 at Blues TBD
*5/11 vs Blues TBD
* If necessary