The second round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs is set to begin Thursday night. The unlikely pair of Dallas and St. Louis are clashing for the right to advance to the Western Conference Final. Let’s go inside the Central Division Notebook as we preview this series.
NHL Central Division Notebook: Blues and Stars Set to Clash
As wild and wacky as the regular season was, the Stanley Cup Playoffs have been even crazier. Just take a look at the teams left in the playoffs. One of those match ups feature two Central Division teams that nobody expected would be here.
All season long the St. Louis Blues were battling and climbing their way up the standings. St. Louis decided to make changes and allowed them to get hot at the right time. That momentum carried into the playoffs as they defeated the Winnipeg Jets in six games.
On the other hand, Dallas was a team in the playoff picture for the most of the season. Though some of the players were called out by the CEO of the team. From that point, the team played a lot better. While it took some time to get going, Dallas worked hard to get into the playoffs and continued that through their first-round series. Dallas took down Nashville in six games.
This will be a hard fought series between two teams that have a lot of history in the playoffs. The Stars and Blues have met 13 times in the playoffs, this number includes when the Stars were in Minnesota. This will be the 14th meeting in playoff history. St. Louis leads the series 8-5, with St. Louis winning the previous meeting in the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Blues and Stars met four times in the regular season as Dallas won the season series 3-1. All these meetings happened after the Blues were on their upswing. During the season series, the Stars outscored the Blues 13-7. Both teams are red hot coming into this series after emotional victories in their respective Game Six battles.
While both teams have firepower on offense, team defense will be a key to this series. Against Winnipeg, the Blues allowed 16 goals, which was sixth in the NHL amongst the 16 playoff teams. While the Stars only surrendered 12 goals against Nashville, which ranks fourth amongst the 16 playoff teams.
St. Louis will have to contend with the big line of Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov. Not only is the Stars power play great, but so is the penalty kill. Throughout the series, the Stars took 15 penalties killing them all off. It will be interesting to see if they have the same success against St. Louis.
On the other hand, Dallas will need to stop players like Ryan O’Reilly, Jaden Schwartz, Vladimir Tarasenko, Brayden Schenn just to name a few. Schwartz scored the last four goals for St. Louis in their series with Winnipeg. He is heating up at the right time. Also, the Blues were perfect on the road going 3-0 at Bell MTS Place. Considering both Dallas and Stars found ways to win on the road, this could come down who is able to win on home ice.
Another key to this series will be goaltending. Jordan Binnington continues to prove why he has the mentality of veteran netminder, not a rookie. Considering Binnington was excellent against Winnipeg especially after he gave up six goals in Game Three. Since coming up to the big club all Binnington does is win. Clearly, this series will be a big test for him considering the goalie at the other end of the rink.
Binnington’s adversary is Ben Bishop. Bishop has a good history in the playoffs as he guided the Tampa Bay Lightning to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final. To go along with his great record in elimination games, Bishop is a nominee for the Vezina Trophy and was 4-2 with a 1.90 GAA and .945 save percentage against Nashville.
As the series begins Thursday night, sit back and relax as this has the potential of going seven games.