The St. Louis Blues will host the Central Division-leading Dallas Stars tonight in hopes of closing the gap and coming that much closer to leading the division. As two dominant teams in the Western Conference the battle should be difficult, but telling.
The Blues are (16-9-4) through 29 games with their most recent loss coming at the hands of the Philadelphia Flyers Thursday night. They’ve struggled in overtime and at various points throughout the season because of inconsistency, but overall they’ve found success against difficult opponents.
The Stars are (22-5-2) through 29 games, having just beat those same Flyers last night 3-1. Turnovers have been their greatest downfall this season which was evident as they almost surrendered a four-goal lead late in the game against the Carolina Hurricanes earlier this week, but earned the two-points with a last-minute goal by Patrick Sharp to win 6-5.
Both teams have rather incredible offensive talents. The Blues have Vladimir Tarasenko who consistently surprises even the most dedicated St. Louis fans with his scoring touch and the Stars have Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin who have been the best duo in the league since Seguin was traded in 2013.
Here Tarasenko shows his strong skating abilities in addition to his game-changing style of play.
The Blues and Stars also both have quality goaltending: Jake Allen has been great for St. Louis with Brian Elliott serving as a solid back-up and Dallas leans on Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi for their two-starting goaltender set up. Allen is currently 12th in the league in wins with 12, while his expected opponent Lehtonen sits 20th with 10.
Allen has posted a 2.17 goals against average and a .924 save percentage this season, while also being among the leaders in shutouts with three. Lehtonen has a 2.63 goals against average and a .911 save percentage with no shutouts on the season.
The Blues could benefit from more scoring throughout the line-up because so much of their offense does come from no. 91. It would also be good for them to play with more confidence in the defensive zone and make quicker decisions moving the puck to offense.
The Stars need to rid their game of turnovers, which the Blues could dangerously capitalize on, if they wish to keep the rather dominant pace they’ve established thus far this season. They also have to find a way to play with a lead and not jeopardize their hard work with lackadaisical plays that eventually end up in the back of their net.
St. Louis can hope to receive a gift like this from the Stars tonight.
Tonight’s game will not determine the Central Division champion for this season, but it will serve as a four-point game for both the Blues and the Stars. It will be a test of both clubs to see how they faceoff against the other leading team in the division. It will be influential, but it’s also just the start.
This game is the first of five meetings this season for these division rivals and it will only set the tone for what’s to come.