After defeating the reigning Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks, the St. Louis Blues are left with the number one seed in the Western Conference in return for their efforts.
That being said, the Blues are now a wiser team and have that experience of playing a team that has the ability to reach the finals any year. I think it was just bad luck for Chicago. The Blues play a type of game that runs like a machine, not too much changes but it just keeps chugging along. Eventually the other team gets tired or never finds out how to break this machine and that’s how they win. This machine did a job and a half on opposing forwards Jonathan Toews and Patrick Kane and look to do the same to Benn and Seguin as crucial parts of Dallas’ offense.
And speaking of offense, Vladimir Tarasenko will have to stay on top of his game for the entire series in a lead role on the Blues squad. But, there is no I in TEAM so St. Louis needs to look to their bench and the guys beneath the surface of their lineup for production. Robby Fabbri was outstanding in the first round and if he can build off of that performance than he’ll be a guy Dallas will need to stop.
Dallas has been a scoring machine through the regular season and the playoffs. In the regular season they averaged more than 3 goals a game and led the league in that statistic. In the first round of the playoffs, they managed to score 21 goals in six games and also had the most out of all the playoff teams. That being said they will have to try and produce at the same efficiency against a strong Blues defense and a great goalie in Brian Elliott who has already seen more shots than any other playoff goalie.
But there is one burning question surrounding Dallas. Will the Stars be able to produce in this tough situation?
Tyler Seguin is still questionable with a left Achilles injury for the Stars and they will need to wear down the Blues defense to have any chance of opening up the scoring. And, the only way to do this is to spend ample time in the offensive zone and keep the shots coming. Brian Elliott is in for even more work in the second round. Will he rise to the occasion and put the team on his back all the way to the conference finals? We’ll just have to wait and find out. Definitely taking the Blues in either five or six in this one.
And here we are again with another wildcard team making it past the first round but this time it’s the Nashville Predators. It may have taken them 7 games and only up one goal to win against the Pacific Division champion Anaheim Ducks, but they achieved success and were able to move on to face San Jose who defeated a good LA Kings team as well.
San Jose is up and ready for the second round as they’ve been resting up since friday. For the team its quite the advantage to have rested and healthy bodies being put on the ice come the first game of the next series. They anxiously wait to pick up where they left off on a hot foot and hopefully take down the Preds. In their series against the Kings, San Jose was just flat out quicker than Los Angeles.
They got to loose pucks faster and kept their feet moving. Always being in the face of an opponent will eventually cause them to make mistakes and give up the puck that i could definitely see happen for the Sharks. These turnovers can lead to scoring chances and open up the game early on. Not to mention, Nashville is coming off of a grueling 7 game series and have no rest. They will potentially appear mentally or physically tired giving the Sharks the upper hand in the pace of play.
Some keys for a successful Predators series will be to take control of the Shark’s top line including Thornton, Pavelski, and Hertl. When they’re out on the ice the defense will need to step up to contain the stars. Top defenseman Shea Weber will need to be on top of his game as he and Roman Josi did to Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf in limiting their chances to score and change any outcomes of the games. Also, Nashville needs to get the offense running smooth. They need to make traffic in front of the net and make it hard for Sharks goaltender Martin Jones to get his eyes on the puck. LA wasn’t able to do this therefore there weren’t as many chances to score. Getting pucks to the net will create rebounds and even more scoring chances to put Nashville ahead.
In all it should be an interesting series to watch. Nashville has the confidence to win but do they have the will? San Jose is healthy and good to go. Do they pose a bigger threat than if their series went deeper alike Nashville’s? I have San Jose in five.