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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

Follow us on Twitter @TristinHuntamer and @BandBHockey

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

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Key Matchups-

Brent Burns and Shea Weber will be expected to light the lamp for their respective teams. Burns was number one among defensemen scoring 27 goals this season. He can move the puck in the offensive zone and is aggressive on the forecheck. He put 353 shots on net making him second in that aspect to Alex Ovechkin. Weber was fourth for goals and finished the season with 20 goals; his third time doing so. Burns is the superior offensive player while Weber has impressive shot suppression numbers, and has already been chosen to play for Team Canada’s World Cup squad.

San Jose Sharks–

Coach Peter DeBoer prefers to roll four lines, keeping his forwards fresh. In Round 1 the top line dominated scoring seven of its 16 goals. All forwards averaged a minimum of 11 minutes of ice time per game except Tommy Wingels who is second among forwards with 11 shots on goal and averaged 9:49 per game. The Sharks’ Joes Pavelski and Joe Thornton made an impressive showing in the first round. Pavelski scored five goals in five games, with two coming on the power play and one standing as a game winner. Thornton had a goal and two assists, and was one of the most solid players on the ice. Logan Couture, Joonas Donskoi, and Patrick Marleau, were an offensive powerhouse trio against the Kings. Joel Ward had four assists and made his presence known alone the walls. Center Chris Tierney and left wing Matt Nieto also made contributions.

Brent Burns has been a force to be reckoned with the past two seasons, and it’s going to be a battle for the Predators’ defense to keep him at bay while trying to hold off Pavelski and Thornton. Burns lead the Sharks with eight points in the first round. Paul Martin was Burns’ partner in Round 1and his adept play allowed for Burns to thrive. Marc-Edouard Vlasic made his contribution averaging 23:12 of ice time per game and leading the Sharks with 18 blocked shots.

The Sharks are a team of playmakers who proved how important puck possession and seizing scoring opportunities is during their matchup with the Kings and the past season. For every 60 minutes played at 5-on-5, the Sharks generated about 13 chances from the slot and allowed less than 10 against per 60 minutes. Against the Kings the Sharks were able to average 13 chances per 60 minutes at 5-on-5 in the first round.

The Sharks goaltending has something to be desired. Martin Jones isn’t the caliber of goalie you hope to see in the playoffs. His .912 save percentage was right in the middle of the pack for goaltenders in the first round. He’ll need to be better against the Predators for the team to win the series, and if he is the Sharks could be back in the Western Conference final for the first time since 2011.

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Nashville Predators-

The Predators are a defense dominant team with Shea Weber, Roman Josi, Ryan Ellis, and Mattias Ekholm. In Round 1 Weber and Josi combined for two goals and eight points, playing nearly half of each game and played a crucial role in shutting down Corey Perry and Ryan Getzlaf. In Round Two, they’ll be tasked with slowing down Joe Pavelski, Joe Thornton, and Brent Burns. Josi averaged 27:16 of ice time and 33.6 shifts per game. His average shift length was 48 seconds. Fourth-line center Paul Gaustad brought a physical presence in the first round. Gaustad has been proven effective in the faceoff circle; he won 55.4 percent of his faceoffs against the Ducks and had a 54.1 winning percentage in the defensive zone. Nashville finished the regular season tied for the most points in the NHL by defensemen.

Nashville’s penalty kill faced the league’s best power play in Round One and only allowed four power play goals against in 25 attempts. That made for the sixth-best penalty kill in Round 1 against the Ducks. Nashville’s penalty kill is going to be utilized against San Jose who drew the fifth-most power plays in the regular season and had the league’s third-ranked power play. Nashville’s power play struggled in the first round, going 1-for-26.

Nashville offensive production is lacking compared to San Jose’s. The Sharks could win with forward depth if the Preds forwards can’t get the puck to the back of the net, but there is hope for the offense with Ryan Johansen, Filip Forsberg, and James Neal, but it’ll be crucial that they are better than they were in Round 1.

Pekka Rinne had issues in the first five games. In Game 7 Rinne played a solidly and saved the Predators by making 36 saves, allowing one goal, on a power play. Rinne finished the series with 2.45 goals-against average and a .915 save percentage.

Prediction: Sharks in 6

Follow us on Twitter @TristinHuntamer and @BandBHockey

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

Key Matchup-

The focus of the Blues will be to shut down Art Ross winner Patrick Kane, who finished with a career-high 46 goals and 60 assists, and that responsibility will fall to Alex Pietrangelo. Kane prefers the control of having the puck as much as possible, and it will be Pietrangelo who will need to manipulate Kane into rushing shots he isn’t ready to take.

Chicago Blackhawks-

Winning Formula: 

The Blackhawks are stacked with talent with the likes of offensive weapon Patrick Kane, phenomenal two-way center Jonathan Toews, and premier defenseman Duncan Keith. Corey Crawford remains at the top of his game in the crease. Added defense comes from the skilled Artemi Panarin and Artem Anisimov on Keith’s line adding more dimension to the team’s defensive game. Andrew Ladd, Dale Weise, and Tomas Fleischmann add new depth to an already tremendous team and it will be interesting to see how Joel Quenneville chooses to use them throughout the series.

How to Lose the Series in 7 Games or Less: 

The Blackhawks are a modern day dynasty with three Stanley Cup wins since 2010, but has not won in two years. They have players from those previous wins in their ranks, but the question is if it’s been too much; too much play and pressure taking a toll on a star studded team. The Hawks have averaged 16.7 playoff games per season since 2009-10, and Kane, Toews, Keith, Hjalmarsson, Brent Seabrook and Marian Hossa have been roster pillars for each of those runs. The playoffs mean less time off of arguably the most physically and mentally demanding major sport in the world.

St Louis Blues-

Winning Formula:

This is not a David vs Goliath series. The Blues are a force to be reckoned with. Vladimir Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Robby Fabbri provide youth and jump on the wings. David Backes, Colton Parayko, Troy Brouwer add size to the team. Paul Stastny and Jori Lehtera are playmakers. Alex Pietrangelo, Kevin Shattenkirk, and Jay Bouwmeester make up a blueline that is both strong and mobile and able to manipulate adversaries; while every line plays some degree of a defensive game including the team’s offensive lines. St Louis has never finished worse than seventh in goals against since Ken Hitchcock took over coaching duties in 2011-12.

How to Lose the Series in 7 Games or Less: 

St. Louis averages the fewest goals per game of any franchise in playoff contention. The team has dealt with injuries, players getting older such as Backes, and players like Fabbri and Dmitrij Jaskin being too inexperienced to be true weapons in a battle such as this. Criticism is aimed at GM Doug Armstrong who did not address the glaring scoring issues this team has at the trade deadline. Jake Allen in the crease has come into his own when Brian Elliot wasn’t in the position over the last season, but looking at his .904 save percentage in the 2015 playoffs, losing four of six starts it’s understood that he cannot perform that way in this series if the Blues want a shot at round two, lucky for the St Louis they have Elliot on hand if Allen doesn’t live up to his last season’s performance.

Prediction: Blackhawks in 6

 

Follow us on Twitter @TristinHuntamer and @BandBHockey

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SERIES O – A2 vs. C3 TIME (ET) Chicago Blackhawks vs. Tampa By Lightning NETWORKS
Wednesday, June 3 8 p.m. Chicago at Tampa Bay NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
Saturday, June 6 7:15 p.m. Chicago at Tampa Bay NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
Monday, June 8 8 p.m. Tampa Bay at Chicago NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
Wednesday, June 10 8 p.m. Tampa Bay at Chicago NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
*Saturday, June 13 8 p.m. Chicago at Tampa Bay NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
*Monday, June 15 8 p.m. Tampa Bay at Chicago NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
*Wednesday, June 17 8 p.m. Chicago at Tampa Bay NBC, CBC, TVA Sports

* if necessary

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Calgary Flames –

Learning from Round 1: Calgary needs to improve their PK. They killed 13 of 16 shorthanded opportunities in their series against the Canucks (81.2 percent), a nearly identical rate as the regular season when they finished 20th at 80.6 percent. They were fortunate that they were successful on their penalty kill in crucial moments of the series, but luck doesn’t get you very far in the playoffs. The Flames won their first game against the Canucks trailing 1-0 in the third period of Game 1 but scored twice in the third to win it, capped by defenseman Kris Russell’s goal with 29.6 seconds left. In Game 6, the Flames trailed 3-0 less than 10 minutes into the game and 4-3 entering the third period but scored four goals in the final 20 minutes to win it 7-4. Just because they can win late in the game doesn’t mean they should. They need to buckle down earlier to avoid the uncomfortable position of fighting for goals in the final period.

Winning Formula: They need to go into each game believing that they can win. The Ducks are intimidating as the top seed, but if the Flames play well in their own barn and steal the home-ice advantage from the Ducks the way they did with the Canucks in the first round they have a shot at moving on. They have been looking great on defense. The Flames were 13th in the NHL on the power play during the regular season, scored four of their 11 goals through the first five games with the man-advantage. Five of Calgary’s 18 goals came on the power play; they went 5-for-18 (27.8 percent) in the 1st round, and they will need to keep that up going against the Ducks.

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Anaheim Ducks –

Learning from Round 1: The Ducks were not challenged much offensively during the first round against the Jets. They cannot expect the same situation from the Flames. The Ducks became the first team in playoff history to win three games in a row when trailing after two periods, but as their playoff run continues the forwards need to find the back of the net earlier to provide a safety net.

Winning Formula: This series may be in the forwards hands as both teams have a tendency of earning their wins late in the game. Anaheim gave new life to its power play in the first round, scoring three goals in Games 1 and 2 after it was 1-for-23 in the final 11 regular-season games. They need to also take advantage of their ability to draw penalties. The Ducks got 11 power plays in the four games after it got two or fewer in six of its final nine regular-season games.

Goalie Matchup: The Duck’s Frederik Andersen improved since last year’s playoffs from 3.10 goals-against average and .899 save percentage to  2.20 goals-against average and .924 save percentage. Two of the nine goals he allowed came with Winnipeg on the power play. John Gibson didn’t play in the first round because of an upper-body injury; his status for the second round is unknown. Jason LaBarbera has been the backup for the position.  Andersen is likely the starter for the series based on performance and experience. Calgary has more offensive depth than Winnipeg, and Andersen likely will be tested more. It will be the furthest Andersen has gone in the postseason; as he was injured last year mid-playoffs. The Flames had Jonas Hiller and Karri Ramo split time in the net for most of the regular season, but after Ramo sustained a lower-body injury on April 4th, Calgary went with Hiller as their No. 1 tendy for the playoffs. It worked out well for the Flames until Game 6, when Hiller allowed two goals on three shots and Ramo took over making 17 saves on 19 shots to earn the win in relief. Hiller, who spent his first seven NHL seasons with the Ducks before signing with the Flames as a free agent last summer, had a 1.84 goals-against average and .942 save percentage in the first five games against the Canucks. He has 32 games of playoff experience compared to Ramo’s two.

Follow @TristinHuntamer on Twitter.

Read about the Ducks and the Flames first round matchups.

Read recaps of the Ducks Round 1 series: Games: 1, 2, 3, 4.