In spite of the loss, there are a lot of positives the Dallas Stars can take away from Game 1 against the St. Louis Blues. For starters, it was a close 3-2 game in which the Stars just missed out on tying it late.
In other words, it could be argued that, in outshooting the Blues 29-20, they maybe deserved a better fate, but these are the playoffs, which are inherently unpredictable. So, will the Stars eventually be rewarded for their efforts? That must be the first question on the minds of the Stars and their fans heading into Game 2. Here are some others:
Can Bishop Up His Game to Binnington’s Level?
There’s no denying Stars goalie Ben Bishop got outplayed by counterpart Jordan Binningoton in Game 1. If there were any doubts Bishop allowing three goals on 20 shots wasn’t deflating, the relatively soft game-opening goal he allowed to Robby Fabbri probably was all on its own.
In contrast, Binnington was poised. For his part and that of the Blues as a whole, if there were every any questions as to whether or not a 26-year-old rookie goalie can get it done, they’ve long since been answered. There should no longer be any doubts, especially seeing as Bishop, who had been originally drafted by the Blues, only established himself as a No. 1 when he was the exact same age, but two organizations later, with the Tampa Bay Lightning.
That being said, Bishop has been the better goalie between the two these playoffs. And Bishop is a Vezina Trophy-caliber goalie. Even though Binnington has put together a season that’s worthy of a Calder Memorial Trophy nomination, the Stars should feel secure in the knowledge that Bishop can up his game, carry the load and handle the second-round pressure. Bishop does have one Stanley Cup Final appearance to his name already.
Even if Binnington doesn’t succumb to nerves easily, he’s never been here before. Bishop has. So, for the Stars to win the goaltending battle, it’s likely a matter of patience… or hastening the process by getting in Binnington’s kitchen.
So, Did Comeau Go too Far?
One of the stand-out moments of Game 1 was the skirmish that ensued after a collision between Binnington and Stars forward Blake Comeau. Note the nuance and how Comeau ran into and over Binnington but didn’t necessarily run him.
Running a goalie implies going out of one’s way and making a detour into the crease to make contact with the goalie. Binnington was well out of his crease to play the puck. While it appeared Comeau could have done more to avoid Binnington and seemed to strategically nudge Blues defenseman Vince Dunn into the goalie too, a collision to some degree was clearly unavoidable. At that point, if you’re the opposing player and it’s the playoffs, you’re probably going to want to do as much damage as possible without getting caught.
In Comeau’s case, he did get a goaltender-interference penalty, which was the right call. However, the Blues didn’t get a power play because of the coinciding minors that resulted. If you’re Comeau, it may not be the honorable thing to do, but you take that opportunity 10 times out of 10. Even if it means getting roughed, you take that outcome 11 times out of 10.
Who Will Be Stars’ Answer to Tarasenko?
With two goals, Blues power-forward Vladimir Tarasenko justifiably got the first star of Game 1. Even though Tarasenko’s (undesired) nickname is “Tank”, he’s been far from unstoppable in the playoffs though, with just a total four goals scored (so two in the first round up until his game-breaking performance in Game 1).
Admittedly, it’s been far from a poor postseason for the Russian forward, but it hasn’t been a dominant one. Take Boston Bruins forward Charlie Coyle, who also had two goals in his Game 1 on Thursday, for example. Coyle has five goals overall, but no one is suggesting stopping him is key to a Columbus Blue Jackets series victory or anything.
In fact, the Stars’ own resident power forward, captain Jamie Benn, has had much more of an impressive postseason so far, with seven points in seven games. If he continues to enjoy success, it’s a fair assumption he can negate whatever impact Tarasenko has in the series. Benn even came incredibly close to usurping Tarasenko for first-star honors with a late goal in Game 1 to pull the Stars within one and a missed opportunity at the side of Binnington’s net right before the final buzzer. Had he scored, everyone would be talking about Benn’s two goals and not Tarasenko’s.
Needless to say, sure, the Stars need to worry about Tarasenko, but no more than usual. If they continue playing their game, they should be all right. The Stars have their own offensive weapons after all, including Benn, who’s coming alive at the perfect time after a regular season to forget.
What If Benn Had Tied the Game?
Considering there was literally a second left on the clock when Benn failed to connect on his last-ditch opportunity, it’s fair to say the game would have gone to overtime. Beyond that, there’s not a lot anyone can predict about the hypothetical outcome of an alternate timeline. It’s very possible Benn would have just been delaying an inevitable Game 1 win for the Blues. It’s also possible aliens would have taken the intermission as opportunity to invade, rendering the entire game moot.
So, the Stars and their fans shouldn’t worry about what could have been, just what still can be. Losing a close first game you theoretically could have won is a let-down, but the series is far from over. That’s the clear takeaway here.
Furthermore, the Stars aren’t exactly behind the eight ball yet. If they win Game 2, they’ll be firmly in the driver’s seat, having won one of the first two games on the road and stolen home-ice advantage. Most of the pressure is still on the Blues. That’s the biggest positive of all after a Game 1 many might have thought might have been devoid of them at first glance.
After 10 years of writing hockey, Ryan decided it was as good a time as any to actually join The Hockey Writers for the 2014-15 season. Having appeared as a guest on such programs as CBC Radio One’s Daybreak, Ryan has written for such publications as the Montreal Gazette and Bleacher Report and worked for the NHL itself and his hometown Montreal Canadiens. He currently covers the Habs for THW as a columnist.