Dallas Stars versus Saint Louis Blues
The Stars and Blues each come off beating a higher seeded team. The Stars dispatched Nashville in a six game series behind dominating goalie play by Ben Bishop. The Blues and Winnipeg Jets each lost games on home ice before Saint Louis prevailed in game six to advance to the second round.
The series between the two rivals is most likely not going to be the most exciting hockey in the playoffs. Each team has elite goaltenders playing at extremely high levels. Ben Bishop is an imposing force guarding the net for the Stars. He can be 100% unbeatable and Dallas relies on him to shut down the opposition on a nightly basis. Bishop is a Vezina Trophy finalist and held Nashville at bay, allowing more than 2 goals only twice in the series.
Binnington is not far behind. The rookie was not overwhelmed by the intensity of the playoff spotlight against a higher seeded Winnipeg team. Binnington is just as able at Bishop to stymie the opposition throughout a series. The Blues netminder did allow six goals in game three which let Winnipeg back in the series.
The Stars stars showed up against Nashville in a major way. Jaime Benn played a physical game against the Predators setting the tone for the rest of the squad. Tyler Seguin and John Klingberg are solid on the front line. No different than Columbus in the East, the Stars are not a typical wild card team- they demonstrated this by beating the Central Division winners in round 1.
Saint Louis’ story is now well known across the hockey landscape. The Blues went from worst team in the league to Stanley Cup contender in the back half of the year. Vladimir Taraskenko will be the best player on the ice in the second round against Dallas. Saint Louis continues to possess the ability to score from any position on the ice which is important against a solid Stars defense.
On paper and during the regular season, I give the advantage to Saint Louis. They have the best player and a top goalie playing outstanding. They beat a very good Winnipeg team in round one. The Blues should win this series in 5 games……..except one wild card I have not mentioned. For full disclosure- I live in the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex and have watched most of the Stars games. The Stars made a under the radar transaction when they acquired Mats Zuccarello from the New York Rangers. Zuccarello’s first game for Dallas resulted in a broken arm, keeping him shelved until the final week of the season. Zuccarello changes the Stars lineup and their ability to score goals. I believe he is the key to the series. I do not believe the bookmakers or the public realize the difference he makes to Dallas’ lineup and at +140, the Stars show value in the matchup. Dallas in 7 games
Saint Louis -160