Few analysts, reporters, or hockey fans expected that the second round of the NHL playoffs would see a matchup between the Dallas Stars and the St. Louis Blues, and yet, when the puck drops at the Enterprise Center tomorrow night, those will be the teams on the ice.
With that matchup on the horizon, it felt appropriate to give Stars fans a guide to the Blues. We did the same thing for Winnipeg Jets fans before their first-round series, but each team and each fan base is different, and Dallas fans will hate the Blues in totally unique ways. So, without further ado, here is your guide.
Blues vs. Jets
If you want a fuller history of the Blues’ history and season, you can peruse the earlier guide for this series. For now, let’s catch you up to speed on your opponent’s first-round matchup. The Blues met the Jets, winning the series in six games.
That series was a strange one. The road team won each of the first five games, despite the fact that the home team scored first in every single game. In typical Blues’ fashion, they roared out to a two-game lead before letting that lead dwindle in Games 3 and 4 at home.
Game 3 was their worst performance, surrendering six goals in the final 40 minutes. That was the only game in which goaltender Jordan Binnington looked particularly vulnerable.
Entering the third period of Game 5 with a 2-0 deficit, it seemed the Blues were letting a first-round series slip once again. But then they scored three unanswered goals, including one with 15 seconds left, to win the game. Two days later, Jaden Schwartz would add three more goals to give the Blues control in a game they dominated, though they eventually won it 3-2.
The Blues’ leading point scorer was team captain Alex Pietrangelo, who had six assists (Stars fans may remember him as the player your captain once sat upon on the ice). Schwartz’s four straight goals, along with one assist, put him second. The team’s best player was Binnington, who posted a .935 save percentage (SV%) and a 1.96 goals against average (GAA) in the five games, excluding the Game 6 breakdown.
Blues Players to Watch
While Miro Heiskanen and Jordan Binnington will likely steal a lot of the headlines, one rookie whose play cannot be overlooked is Robert Thomas, the Blues’ young center (who currently spends most of his time on the wing of a line with Patrick Maroon and Tyler Bozak). Thomas’ play has steadily improved throughout the season, and he looked sterling in the first series. Look for him to make a big impact.
This Blues’ top-six winger had been having his worst career season until he scored four unanswered goals in Games 5 and 6. Now he is red-hot, and the Stars will have to find a way to slow him down if they want to win the series.
Thomas’ linemate Maroon also had a disappointing season in many ways, but he was a monster in the first round. He flew up and down the ice, shooting, hitting, and agitating the Jets. The Stars will need to silence him and ignore his taunting to succeed where Winnipeg failed.
Reasons to Hate the Blues
The Whole Hull Thing
Make no mistake: Blues fans are really salty that the best player in the history of their franchise won his first Stanley Cup with the Stars. And for the record, yes, his skate was in the crease. Yes, his most memorable moment may have come in Big D, but make no mistake, he’s still ours.
Bishop Likes Our Team Better
The Stars have been held aloft at times this season by their Vezina Trophy finalist goaltender, Ben Bishop. But he didn’t start his career in Dallas. He began his career with St. Louis, which, it turns out, is his hometown.
There he is, rocking the Blue Note in all its glory. Bishop has posted strong numbers in his career against the Blues, including a .926 SV% and a 2.12 GAA. But we’re sure that’s about to change, because he probably wants the Blues to win anyway, right?
The Pizza, Apparently
St. Louis-style pizza is the source of constant debate with fans from other markets. To us, it’s manna from heaven, to outsiders, it’s… well, we’ll let Dallas area reporter Ben Baby do the talking.
There are a lot of criticisms to be made about the Blues, and about St. Louis, but when you come after our pizza, you start a fight that you can’t win. That’s a blood feud, folks, and St. Louis won’t rest until justice is done.
Good Luck, Stars
All jokes aside, the Blues and Stars are evenly matched teams with a ton of history, and this series has all the makings of a classic. Both teams are motivated to win, as the winner of this series will have as good a chance as anyone to go on to win the Stanley Cup. Best of luck to both teams, and if you come to town for a game, for the love of God, try the pizza.
Stephen Ground is an author with The Hockey Writers and is co-host of the Two Guys No Cup Podcast. He enjoys studying the numbers and providing fresh looks at various stories.