You’d be hard-pressed to find two NHL teams that are as diametrically opposed in terms of style than the Dallas Stars and the St. Louis Blues are these days.
The Stars are fast, loose, and high-flying. They’re an offense-oriented squad that finished 1st in the NHL this season in goals-for per-game at 3.23 and 4th on the powerplay at a 22.1% success rate.
The Blues, in contrast, are big, physical, and methodical. They’re a defense-first club that finished 4th in the regular season in goals-against per-game at 2.40 and 3rd on the penalty kill at 85.1%.
It’s that classic “unstoppable force versus immovable object” scenario, and it’s going to make for one of the most interesting match-ups in the second round of the 2015-16 postseason.
A large part of what makes this match-up so fascinating is that both teams, despite their differing styles, are ultimately achieving similar levels of success. The Stars finished 2nd overall in the NHL with a 50-23-9 record, good for 109 points. The Blues finished right behind them at 3rd in the NHL with a 49-24-9 record and 107 points.
(Side note: why are two of the NHL’s three best teams playing each other already, in just the second round of the playoffs? Well, that’s because of the league’s new divisional playoff format, which is an entirely separate controversy for another time…)
And lest you think that the head-to-head season series between the two teams would help to illuminate who has the upper hand in the battles that lie ahead, that, too, had quite a narrow margin of difference:
In reg season the @DallasStars & Blues each shut the other out 3-0 once. The other 3 games (all STL wins) were decided in OT or a shootout.
— Josh Bogorad (@JoshBogorad) April 26, 2016
All this being said, at this point it’s nearly impossible to predict how this series will go down. Will the Stars’ blistering speed allow them to skate circles and create holes in an otherwise staunch Blues defense? Will St. Louis’ heavy forecheck and cycle physically wear down a smaller Dallas blueline? Could it be both?
A hockey traditionalist would probably suggest that the Blues, by virtue of being defensively-oriented, would naturally have a huge advantage in a playoff series, regular season results and trends be damned, but as I wrote about recently that’s probably not thinking critically enough about the subject.
Regardless of how the end results may ultimately shake out, hockey fans of all stripes are sure to be in for a real treat when it comes to actually watching the situation unfold. These are two very good teams with two very different philosophies, and seeing them go toe-to-toe should make for some highly entertaining action.