One of the major questions in the series between the Blues and Stars will be the health of Dallas center Tyler Seguin. (Bill Greenblatt/UPI)

By Nicholas Hand

After defeating the archrival Blackhawks in a thrilling seven-game series, the Blues now turn their attention to the number-one seeded Dallas Stars in the Central Division final beginning on Friday night in Dallas.

The Stars were able to edge the Blues for the number-one seed in the division and earn home-ice advantage in this round by finishing the season with 109 points, two more than the Blues in a race which came down to the final weekend of the regular season.

The Stars defeated the wild card Minnesota Wild in a six-game series to advance to this matchup against the Blues. While the Stars have home-ice, the Blues carry the confidence of knocking out the defending Stanley Cup champs and escaping the first round for the first time since 2012.

While this marks the first postseason matchup between the Blues and Stars since the 2001 Western Conference semifinals, regular season matchups over the past few seasons between the two divisional rivals has created animosity that will likely reach a crescendo in this series.

One of the most critical aspects of this series will be the Blues’ ability to keep their composure when the Stars attempt to get the Blues off their game and into the penalty box. Expect one of the NHL’s best agitators in the game, forward Antoine Roussel, to do everything in his power to pester the Blues throughout the series.

The Blues have a major advantage when the teams are playing five-on-five. The Blues have greater depth than the Stars and Blues coach Ken Hitchcock should be able to exploit his team’s solid two-way play at forward.

This series will be won in the neutral zone by the team that is best able to create turnovers off rushes and catch the opponent up ice. The Stars’ play is predicated on speed but their lack of structure should play into Blues hands. The Blues will have their hands full in the series if they lack discipline and put the dangerous Stars on the power play.

Here is a look at how the series breaks down:


Brian Elliott is coming off his best postseason performance of his NHL career, posting a .929 save percentage and a 2.40 goals against average against Chicago. Elliott’s play early in the series helped propel the Blues to the 3-1 series lead that was a major factor in winning the series. While Elliott has been solid, it should not come as a surprise if at some point in the series Jake Allen sees action.

The Stars’ offense has the potential to explode in any game. If that happens or Elliott shows signs of wearing down, Allen provides the safety net to spell Elliott on an off-night or if Elliott is unable to carry the load throughout the series.

Speaking of a goaltending tandem, the Stars utilize both Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi between the pipes. Lehtonen finished the first-round series with a 2.27 goals against average and a .911 save percentage, and while those numbers look solid, it is important to remember that the Wild were a weak team offensively throughout the season and were without the services of two of their best offensive weapons in Zach Parise and Thomas Vanek against the Stars because of injuries.

Niemi started two games for the Stars in the first round, posting a 3.36 goals against average with only a .870 save percentage. The key for the Blues is to break the Stars’ goaltending with quantity and consistent pressure in front of the net throughout the series.


Much like the series against the Blackhawks, the Blues have a distinct advantage over the Stars on defense. Dallas has better overall depth at defense than Chicago, but lacks the top end talent of the Blackhawks with the exception of John Klingberg, who is a fantastic young defenseman.

Alex Goligoski is paired with Klingberg but is more of second-pair player forced onto the first unit. Steven Johns is a promising young defenseman but his growing pains are still evident as he learns the position at the NHL level. Veteran defensemen Johnny Oduya, Kris Russell and Jason Demers round out the Stars’ defense, providing a consistent effort but are in for a challenging series against the Blues’ forward depth.

The Blues need more consistency from Kevin Shattenkirk and Jay Bouwmeester in this series. Alex Pietrangelo was the best defenseman in the Chicago-St. Louis series and will likely play 28-30 minutes each game against the Stars. Rookie Colton Parayko was excellent for the Blues against the elite offensive skill of the Blackhawks and highlights the defensive depth the Blues possess including Carl Gunnarsson, Joel Edmundson and Robert Bortuzzo.


The biggest key for the Blues in this series is shutting down the speed and skill of the Stars’ top forwards, including Jamie Benn, Patrick Sharp and Jason Spezza. The major wildcard in this series is the health of center Tyler Seguin, who played in only one game in the Wild series and is still attempting to recover from a partially torn Achilles. How effective Seguin can be if he does return is a major question.

Spezza has been centering a line with Mattias Janmark and Valeri Nichushkin which is dangerous but not the quality of Chicago’s both in terms of skill and two-way play. The Blues’ line of Robby Fabbri, Paul Stastny and Troy Brouwer should have the advantage against this line. If the Blues attempt to match the Alexander Steen, Patrik Berglund and David Backes line against the Stars top line it will provide a mismatch for the ‘STL line.’

The Jaden Schwartz, Jori Lehtera, and Vladimir Tarasenko line was a critical element to the Blues’ first round success against the Blackhawks despite receiving limited ice-time.

The Stars’ third line features the agitator Roussel with center Radek Faksa, who had a terrific series against the Wild, and right winger Alex Hemsky. Regardless of the line matchups, the Blues should have a significant edge up and down the forward lines.

Both of these teams have solid fourth lines capable of providing secondary scoring as shown in the first round. Patrick Eaves burned the Wild for two goals and three assists in the second game of the series. Scottie Upshall, Kyle Brodziak and Steve Ott were solid throughout the Chicago series and can flip the ice with their energy and forecheck.


The Blues have the edge in all three position categories but cannot afford to overlook the dangerous Stars, who can burn any team offensively if given the open ice to do so. The Blues’ formula for success against Chicago needs to remain the blueprint against Dallas. The Stars’ power play was as lethal in the first round as the Blues and undisciplined penalties by either club could flip the script in any game.

The Stars will attempt to make this series a back and forth affair with each team trading offensive chances with open-ice. The Blues can play that style but it serves the Stars better. The Blues’ highly structured play and strong forecheck taking away the Stars’ time and space is a style of play that the Stars cannot match, and should provide the Blues with more high quality scoring chances against mediocre goaltending.