The St. Louis Blues and the Dallas Stars had their first round series play out quite differently. The Stars were able to move past the Minnesota Wild, scoring 21 goals in six games. Meanwhile, the Blues played an epic seven-game series versus the Chicago Blackhawks, scoring 19 goals, where the teams were separated by one goal in all but one game.
Only two points separated the teams in the overall standings as they sat second and third respectively. Toughness, sound defensive play and timely scoring will help get the Blues one step closer to Lord Stanley.
— St. Louis Blues (@StLouisBlues) April 28, 2016
A Scoring Touch
It’s no surprise that the Stars are a high-scoring team. With the powerful offense lead by Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, the team lead the league in scoring and points per game (3.23 PPG).
The Blues haven’t been a team known for their offensive prowess but had a balanced attack all year. While Russian sniper Vladimir Tarasenko hit the 40-goal mark during the regular season, goals and points were well spread out up and down the roster. St. Louis is not in the business of heavily outscoring their opponents; however, Dallas is. Players like Robby Fabbri and Troy Brouwer found their scoring touch at key and opportune times versus the Blackhawks. Whether it’s those forwards or others, the Blues will need to have individuals step up and convert on their chances.
Those chances may come more frequently versus the Stars, as well. They’re a team ranked in the bottom half of the league in defense this year (19th), so chances will present themselves. At the same time, the defensive game St. Louis played against Chicago must stay just as tight and structured.
Unfortunately we play in the Central Division, you’re going to get a really tough opponent… we’re going to have to be better than we were versus Chicago. Quite frankly we have more in us… there are some guys who had a tough time wwith the stress and pressure, now it’s all gone & we can just coach & play
– Ken Hitchcock
Defense is the Best Offense
With the league’s third-best overall defense, the Blues know they have what it takes to shut down their opponents. In Rd. 1, they shut down players like Jonathan Toews, who was held without a goal for all seven games.
While Seguin is still on the mend from an early Rd. 1 injury, the Stars have a plethora of talent to make up for his 73-point regular season. Having Brian Elliott elevate his game in the latter-half of the season and the first round of the playoffs has proved to be a massive (and obvious) difference maker, but the blue line needs to continue to help out. Only one game got away from the Blues versus the Blackhawks, a 6-3 loss in Game 6. Otherwise, the sound defensive play could be seen as the biggest difference maker all series.
Dallas is another team that strikes from all angles of the offensive zone, keeping an eye on players up high like Alex Goligoski could be a tall order. Both teams have very talented blue lines, but on the defensive side of the puck, the Blues will need to keep the play to the outside and limit chances in tight, as well.
Ken Hitchcock knows the Stars will be a tough out, but as he’s said in his pre-series interviews, there’s a chance for particular players to step up their game and make an even bigger difference in Rd. 2. The Blues elevated their game versus Chicago, and that enhanced play will need to develop.