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Key Matchups-

This series will be a tale of two snipers. Jamie Benn had 41 goals and Vladimir Tarasenko had 40. Tarasenko is superior at 5-on-5 exceeding Benn in goals and points per 60 minutes while generating more shot attempts, but Benn gets more ice time leading to more production. Tarasenko hasn’t been great in his own end this season causing a cut of his minutes. Benn racked up 10 points in six games even without Tyler Seguin by his side. It will be an interesting showdown to watch.

St Louis Blues–

St. Louis pushed past the Blackhawks after three straight seasons of first-round exits, all after the Blues had dominant regular seasons. It will be important that they keep that momentum in Game 1 against the Stars to hold their momentum.

The Blues was league’s deepest, most versatile teams offensively. Vladimir Tarasenko’s goal scoring ability nearly cancels out the threat of Jamie Benn. The line of Jaden Schwartz, Tarasenko, and Jori Lehtera in the first round combined for 17 points in seven games, with Schwartz leading all scorers with seven points (three goals, four assists). Troy Brouwer brought size and experience as a Stanly Cup champion and center ,David Backes, will play an important part in the success of the team as the Blues run continues.

St. Louis has the defensive advantage and Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Jay Bouwmeester providing the blueline tremendous mobility. Pietrangelo  was tied for second on the Blues with six points (one goal, five assists). Rookie Colton Parayko provides size and a slapshot that no goalie wants to face. St. Louis does a better job suppressing shot attempts than Dallas. The Blues allowed a score-adjusted Corsi For per 60 of 50.5 this season, ninth in the NHL, whereas Dallas sat 16th at 51.8.

The power play went 5-for-18 (27.7 percent) against Chicago, but the penalty kill will have to be better than it was against the Blackhawks, who were 6-for-19 (31.5 percent) on the power play. The Blues have two strong power-play units. Tarasenko, Steen, Shattenkirk, Backes, and Schwartz make up the first; Pietrangelo, Parayko, Stastny, Brouwer, and Fabbri are the second group. Schwartz scored three of the Blues’ five power-play goals; while Tarasenko and Parayko had the others.

Brian Elliott delivered a .929 save percentage in the first round series and, after playing sloppy in Games 5 and 6, he stopped 31 of 33 shots in Game 7, and a high of 44 in Game 3.

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Dallas Stars-

The Stars are phenomenal at scoring goals and generateing chances, but they aren’t the greatest at stopping those against them. Benn is an elite player and will be the greatest asset to Dallas. Veterans Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp need to pick up the pace and find a way to use their experience to better the team. Second-line center Jason Spezza had nine points (four goals, five assists) and Sharp is at his best in the 3rd period and OT; he had three goals for the Stars in the first round. John Klingberg and Alex Goligoski have contributed by delivering offense from the back end.  In the first round Patrick Eaves contributed five points, Cody Eakin had four points, and Ales Hemsky, and rookie Mattias Janmark each had three.

Vernon Fiddler was gritty and made an impact on the faceoff for his team. Antoine Roussel helped his team by agitating the Wild and contributing a goal in the first round. Colton Sceviour was a playmaker against the Wild and Valeri Nichushkin added size and presence. They used a six-man core of Jason Demers, Alex Goligoski, Stephen Johns, John Klingberg, Johnny Oduya, and Kris Russell. Klingberg added three points in the series, in Games 5 and 6. Goligoski  and Oduya have both won the Stanley Cup: Goligoski with the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2009 and Oduya with the Blackhawks in 2013 and 2015 adding big game experience to the Stars.

The Dallas power play was fourth in the regular season at 22.1 percent, and finished 4-for-19 (21.4 percent). Their penalty kill had a success rate of 82.3 percent during the regular season, and fell to 75.0 percent against Minnesota.

Goaltending duties were divided between Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi almost evenly during the regular season, but in the first round Lehtonen started four games and performed well, going 3-1 with a 2.27 goals-against average, .911 save percentage and one shutout. Niemi delivered mixed results in two starts against the Wild, going 1-1 with a 3.36 GAA and .870 save percentage.

Prediction: Blues in 5

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Read our analysis of the Blues and the Stars Round 1 matchups to learn more about these teams.

Key Matchup-

Ryan Suter is one of the league’s best defensemen, but Jamie Benn has had the edge every time the two have met on the ice over the past five years. But it’s how they play with their respective partners; Benn with Tyler Seguin and Suter with Jared Spurgeon that will make it interesting. These players are good standing alone, but their partners compliment them and will create an interesting matchup to watch.

Minnesota Wild-

Winning Formula: 

Devan Dubnyk has continued to be a stone wall in the net and the Wild have tremendous forward depth. Mikko Koivu, Mikael Granlund, Erik Haula, and Charlie Coyle are some names of players on this team that have produced consistently. Ryan Suter leads Jared Spurgeon, Jonas Brodin and Mathew Dumba on the blueline. Nino Niederreitier had three goals in the 2014 playoffs and four more in 2015. Three of his seven post-season goals were game winners. On a team that severely falters in possession, Niederreitier’s score-adjusted Corsi mark of 55.6 put him 10.3 percent above his teammates, giving him the best relative Corsi number in the NHL.

How to Lose the Series in 7 Games or Less:

Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, and Thomas Vanek have not been producing as well as they should have been offensively this past season, and now Parise and Vanek are out indefinitely. The Wild’s penalty kill ranks low in the league and they have a hit or miss power play. They are not a puck possession team and that does not bode well for them as Corsi stats have had an impact in recent Stanley Cup final history.

Dallas Stars-

Winning Formula:  

The Stars lead the NHL in goals per game, generate the third-most shots on goal per game, and rank second in score-adjusted Corsi For per 60 minutes. Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin are a powerhouse duo. Seguin puts numbers on the board while Benn is one of the league’s top power forwards. Jason Spezza has proven himself as a power play specialist and second-line center. John Klingberg has come into his own this year and really shown what an asset he can be both adding to the score and moving the puck.

How to Lose the Series in 7 Games or Less: 

The Stars defense has something to be desired even with Johnny Oduya on the blueline. They allowed the most goals per game among the teams in the first round of these playoffs. Their defense does have great mobility, but it’s not enough. They need to play a heavier and more physical defensive game to survive to the next round. Antti Niemi was brought in to share goaltending duties with Kari Lehtonen. Although it seems like a good idea to have a pair of goalies switching off and staying fresh the past six of the last seven Stanley Cup champions won with one goalie in the net earning all 16 wins.

 

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WINNIPEG – Opening up a very important four-game homestand against a tough division opponent in the Dallas Stars, the Jets were in must-win mode as they are now in a dog fight for the two final playoff spots in the West. The injury bug is biting the Jets as well lately as the team has lost Mathieu Perreault, Ben Chiarot for the season and Blake Wheeler was out for Tuesday’s game

The Jets got a gritty team effort and pulled out an important 4-2 win and put a real dagger in the Stars’ playoff hopes.

“That’s tough in a playoff race,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “No doubt, that’s a hard one to swallow because we need points. We’re desperate for points. We could have gotten points tonight the same as we could have gotten points in Minnesota.”

Michael Hutchinson was making his 4th start in the last five games made 26 saves off 28 shots to get the win. He had some help from his posts as the Stars rang three shots off the iron. Hutch was clutch when needed and was named the game’s first star. He improves to 18-7-4 on the season.

“We knew that Dallas has a lot of offensive skill and that they were going to have a push at some time in the game,” Hutchinson said. “They had a big push during the second period.”

Dallas countered with newly acquired Jhonas Enroth in the net and he wasn’t to busy as he faced only 24 shots giving up three goals taking the loss.

The Jets came out and played a solid first period with a very strong attention to detail and defence but struggled a bit in the second period before getting it going after getting chewed out on the bench by Coach Paul Maurice who voiced his displeasure with being held without a shot for the first ten minutes of the second.

A thundering hit by Dustin Byfuglien on Antoine Roussel got the team going also got the crowd roaring at MTS Centre.

Winnipeg got goals from Bryan Little who notched his 24th a power play marker, Adam Lowry banged in his own rebound for his 7th of the season , Byfuglien showed some soft hands with his 15th a breakaway goal, Michael Frolik scored his 13th into an empty net to seal the deal.

“It’s like Groundhog Day,” Ruff said. “It’s the same story. We dominated play. We had some point-blank [chances] that if you don’t take advantage of that, you know you’re going to make a mistake here or there, and we made a mistake.

“You’ve got to give them credit. When we made [a] mistake, they take took advantage of it. That was the counterpunch that hurt us.”

Dallas got goals from Erik Cole his 18th, Jason Demers sniped his3rd of the year.

Frolik had a strong game filling in on the top line with Andrew Ladd and Little. He had 5 shots on goal and logged just under 22 minutes of ice time. Jay Harrison made his way back into the lineup with the injury to Chiarot, he hadn’t played since jan.27.

“(Hutchinson) hasn’t looked a whole lot different for me,” Maurice said. “He really hasn’t in most of his games. He prepares the same way and made some really big saves. The game got away from us in the second period, and he looked great.”

The Jets gave themselves a tiny bit of breathing room with the win but will face a tough test against the Blues on Thursday night.

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DALLAS, Texas – The Winnipeg Jets came into Dallas looking for a big win as they opened an important two-game road trip against Central Division foes and a chance to create some breathing room in the standings. They got a strong performance from all four lines and used a strong second period where they scored three unanswered goals and cruised to a 5-2 win over the Stars and moved ten points ahead of Dallas in the standings.

“It was great,” Jets right wing Blake Wheeler said of Lowry’s performance. “He’s been close all year, and I think when he’s playing physical and he’s playing fast, he creates a lot of havoc out there for himself and for his linemates. It’s great to see him rewarded for all the good things he’s done for our team this year.”

Michael Hutchinson was solid between the pipes stopping 26 of 28 shots and committed grand theft as he robbed Antoine Roussel with an outstanding glove save that will surely be on as the play of the night on most sports features. Hutchinson improves to 6-1-2 on the season.

“[Being left-handed] definitely helped on that one save,” Hutchinson said. “Their players made a good play. Fortunately, got a good push across, was able to track the puck and make the save.”

Dallas started Kari Lehtonen made 14 saves on 17 shots but was pulled after the 3rd Jets’ goal and was replaced by Jussi Rynnas who made 13 saves off 15 shots.

Winnipeg goal scorers were Mathieu Perreault who scored his 4th a power play marker, Wheeler his 9th, Adam Lowry had a pair his 3rd and 4th, Michael Frolik got his 6th of the season a shorthanded marker.

Dallas got goals from Tyler Seguin his 22nd and Roussel potted his 6th of the season.

This was a great game for the Jets from start to finish as they now have a seven game point streak going and are 5-0-2 in that stretch since losing 4-2 to the St. Louis Blues. Both teams had a power play marker as the Jets have now been starting to find success with the extra man.

“These are critical games,” Winnipeg coach Paul Maurice said. “I liked the way we started. Our energy level was right, and we played a good, solid game.”

Dallas is still looking for their first win against Central Division teams as they now have a 0-7-3 record within the division.

“Their puck movement was a lot better than ours. There’s no secret,” Stars coach Lindy Ruff said. “We threw some pucks away and we tried some stuff that we didn’t need to try. I didn’t think our puck movement up top was sufficient to win this game.”

The Jets had multi-point games from Dustin Byfuglien who saw his four-game goal streak come to an end but he did pick up two assists, Frolik had a goal and an assist , Lowry had a pair of goals , Wheeler had a goal and assist on the night.

This was the Jets annual father trip as most players have their dads on the two-game trip or a brother or buddy so it was nice to see all four lines playing strong games for the extra fans on this trip.

The Jets will head to Denver for a Thursday game against the Avalanche.

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