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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.

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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Head-to-Head Season Stats
Stats
Blues
Wild
Record

2-2-0

2-1-1

Goals

10

13

Shot Attempts

180

154

 

Season Stats
 
Blues
Wild
Rank
Stats
Rank
Stats
Shot Attempts For/60

9

55.1 14

54.1

Shot Attempts Against/60

8

50.0 13

51.2

Shot Attempt %

10

52.4 15

51.4

Goals For/60

7

2.45 6

5.51

Goals Against/60

9

2.04 17

2.22

Goal %

5

54.6 9

53.1

Shooting %

9

8.1 6

8.5

Save %

16

92.3 24

91.8

Powerplay

4

22.3 27

15.8

Penalty Kill

8

83.7 1

86.3

 

Key Matchup-

David Backes vs. Zach Parise: Both American Olympians are crucial to the success of their teams. Parise has continued to produce while Backes’ numbers have tapered off a bit this past season. Backes has a history of outplaying Parise head-to-head, but with possession numbers dropping it will be a challenge for him to contain Parise this series.

Minnesota Wild-

Winning Formula: Drafting, development, and trades have created a team of depth. They have a strong offense in Zach Parise, Jason Pominville, Mikael Granlund and Thomas Vanek. Nino Niederreiter, Charlie Coyle, and Chris Stewart add muscle to their wings. Mikko Koivu, Erik Haula and Sean Bergenheim add strong two-way play to the mix. Ryan Suter holds down the blueline, and Marco Scandella and Mathew Dumba have been producing offensively. Devan Dubnyk has become a more efficient goaltender and has been getting out in front of the play rather than chasing the puck.

How to Lose the Series in 7 Games or Less:  The team leans too heavily on Dubnyk who has no NHL playoff experience. His last playoff experience was for the ECHL’s Stockton Thunder. He only played 10 playoff games in major junior as well. They are lacking depth on their blueline and Suter needs players that will compliment his skill. They don’t produce enough offensively.

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St. Louis Blues-

Winning Formula: They started off their season on a mundane note in their first six games. They bounced back and  surged to win 10 of 11 and with those wins they found their confidence to keep playing strong. They are a team that learns from its mistakes and because of that quality they won the Central Division. St. Louis’s skaters are an incredible group. Their first two lines are David Backes between Alexander Steen and T.J. Oshie and Jori Lehtera between Jaden Schwartz and Vladimir Tarasenko. Paul Stastny centers the third line and had 10 points in seven playoff games last spring. Tarasenko is an elite scorer. The Blues don’t give up a lot of high-quality scoring chances.  Kevin Shattenkirk has been out with an abdominal injury, but may return to the blueline where he moves the puck, Alex Pietrangelo is the well-rounded workhorse, Barret Jackman offers experience and muscle, and Jay Bouwmeester eats up minutes and is a great skater to round out the blueline. Brian Elliott or Jake Allen are the Blues net options. Elliott is a very good percentage goaltender. He has good positioning and isn’t afraid to leave his net and challenge the shooter.

How to Lose the Series in 7 Games or Less:  The Blues have a history of choking in the playoffs. The last three years the team has been loaded with talent, but hasn’t made it past the 2nd round of the playoffs. Maybe it’s the lack of confidence as not a single player on the roster has won the Cup or maybe it is the uncertainty in the goal as splitting the net keeps the goaltending fresh, but it can be a blow to Allen and Elliot’s confidence if one bad play can cause the starter to be pulled and replaced.

Follow me @TristinHuntamer

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EASTERN CONFERENCE FIRST-ROUND MATCHUPS
SERIES A – A1 vs. W1 TIME (ET) Ottawa-Montreal NETWORKS
Wednesday, April 15 7 p.m. Ottawa at Montreal CBC, TVA Sports, NHL Network
Friday, April 17  7 p.m. Ottawa at Montreal CBC, TVA Sports, CNBC
Sunday, April 19 7 p.m. Montreal at Ottawa CBC, TVA Sports, NBCSN
Wednesday, April 22 7 p.m. Montreal at Ottawa CBC, TVA Sports, USA
*Friday, April 24  TBD Ottawa at Montreal CBC
*Sunday, April 26  TBD Montreal at Ottawa CBC
*Tuesday, April 28  TBD Ottawa at Montreal CBC
SERIES B – A2 vs. A3 TIME (ET) Detroit-Tampa Bay NETWORKS
Thursday, April 16 7:30 p.m. Detroit at Tampa Bay CNBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Saturday, April 18 3 p.m. Detroit at Tampa Bay NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
Tuesday, April 21 7 p.m. Tampa Bay at Detroit NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Thursday, April 23 7 p.m. Tampa Bay at Detroit NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
*Saturday, April 25 TBD Detroit at Tampa Bay TBD
*Monday, April 27 TBD Tampa Bay at Detroit TBD
*Wednesday, April 29 TBD Detroit at Tampa Bay TBD
SERIES C – M1 vs. W2 TIME (ET) Pittsburgh-NY Rangers NETWORKS
Thursday, April 16 7 p.m. Pittsburgh at NY Rangers NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
Saturday, April 18 8 p.m. Pittsburgh at NY Rangers NBC, CBC, TVA Sports
Monday, April 20 7 p.m. NY Rangers at Pittsburgh NBCSN, CBC, TVA Sports
Wednesday, April 22 7 p.m. NY Rangers at Pittsburgh NBCSN, SN 360, TVA Sports
*Friday, April 24 TBD Pittsburgh at NY Rangers TBD
*Sunday, April 26 TBD NY Rangers at Pittsburgh TBD
*Tuesday, April 28 TBD Pittsburgh at NY Rangers TBD
SERIES D – M2 vs. M3 TIME (ET) NY Islanders- Washington NETWORKS
Wednesday, April 15 7 p.m. NY Islanders at Washington USA, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Friday, April 17 7 p.m. NY Islanders at Washington NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Sunday, April 19 Noon Washington at NY Islanders NBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Tuesday, April 21 7:30 p.m. Washington at NY Islanders USA, SN 360, TVA Sports
*Thursday, April 23 TBD NY Islanders at Washington TBD
*Saturday, April 25 TBD Washington at NY Islanders TBD
*Monday, April 27 TBD NY Islanders at Washington TBD
WESTERN CONFERENCE FIRST-ROUND MATCHUPS
SERIES E – C1 vs. W1 TIME (ET) Minnesota-St. Louis NETWORKS
Thursday, April 16 9:30 p.m. Minnesota at St. Louis NBCSN, SN 360, TVA Sports
Saturday, April 18 3 p.m. Minnesota at St. Louis NBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Monday, April 20 8 p.m. St. Louis at Minnesota CNBC, SN1, TVA Sports
Wednesday, April 22 9:30 p.m. St. Louis at Minnesota NBCSN, SN 360, TVA Sports
*Friday, April 24 TBD Minnesota at St. Louis TBD
*Sunday, April 26 TBD St. Louis at Minnesota TBD
*Wednesday, April 29 TBD Minnesota at St. Louis TBD
SERIES F – C2 vs. C3 TIME (ET) Chicago-Nashville NETWORKS
Wednesday, April 15 8:30 p.m. Chicago at Nashville NBCSN, SN 360, TVA Sports
Friday, April 17 9:30 p.m. Chicago at Nashville NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Sunday, April 19 3 p.m. Nashville at Chicago NBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Tuesday, April 21 9:30 p.m. Nashville at Chicago NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
*Thursday, April 23 TBD Chicago at Nashville TBD
*Saturday, April 25 TBD Nashville at Chicago TBD
*Monday, April 27 TBD Chicago at Nashville TBD
SERIES G – P1 vs. W2 TIME (ET) Winnipeg-Anaheim NETWORKS
Thursday, April 16 10:30 p.m. Winnipeg at Anaheim CNBC, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Saturday, April 18 10:30 p.m. Winnipeg at Anaheim NBCSN, Sportsnet, TVA Sports
Monday, April 20 9 p.m. Anaheim at Winnipeg Sportsnet, TVA Sports, NBCSN
Wednesday, April 22 9:30 p.m. Anaheim at Winnipeg Sportsnet, TVA Sports, USA
*Friday, April 24 TBD Winnipeg at Anaheim Sportsnet
*Sunday, April 26 TBD Anaheim at Winnipeg Sportsnet
*Tuesday, April 28 TBD Winnipeg at Anaheim Sportsnet
SERIES H – P2 vs. P3 TIME (ET) Calgary-Vancouver NETWORKS
Wednesday, April 15 10 p.m. Calgary at Vancouver CBC, TVA Sports, USA
Friday, April 17 10 p.m. Calgary at Vancouver CBC, TVA Sports, CNBC
Sunday, April 19 10 p.m. Vancouver at Calgary CBC, TVA Sports, NBCSN
Tuesday, April 21 10 p.m. Vancouver at Calgary CBC, TVA Sports, USA
*Thursday, April 23 TBD Calgary at Vancouver CBC
*Saturday, April 25 TBD Vancouver at Calgary CBC
*Monday, April 27 TBD Calgary at Vancouver CBC

* – if necessary TBD – To be determined (JIP) – joined in progress

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Jets 3 points clear of Kings, one from Flames

ST.LOUIS – It was déjà vu all over again as it was the Ondrej Pavelec show as he posted back-to-back shutouts his 4th of the season and 14th of his career and was again named the game’s first star as he stopped 30 shots including a couple huge stops off Jaden Schwartz and David Backes to help his team to a 1-0 victory over the St. Louis Blues.

“There’s no better way, shut out the two teams, that’s as good as it gets,” Jets coach Paul Maurice said. “[Monday] night’s game, there was a cost to it, and you could see it at times (tonight) but not in terms of effort.

“Our goaltender again was really good and everybody on the bench had a piece of the game.”

The Jets moved three points up on the Los Angeles Kings (who lost to the Edmonton Oilers) and one point up on the Calgary Flames (who beat the Arizona Coyotes).

“It’s a really good four points,” Pavelec said. “Good wins but we’ve got two more (games remaining).

“We know we can do it. Overall we played a very good game, so we know we can play with these guys. They were missing some guys (Alexander Steen and Vladimir Tarasenko) in the lineup, so that’s always good. … I was able to see (the puck) all game. In the third period the puck was just missing the net. You needed luck to get a shutout.”

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It was another total team effort for the Jets who won for the first time in franchise history at Scottrade Center, a building that has not been kind to them. There was maybe some luck on their side as with five minutes remaining in the second period it appeared that Paul Stastny had scored on a breakaway to tie the game at 1-1 but it was later decided that he would receive a slashing penalty as he hacked the stick out of Tyler Myers hands to get the breakaway. This would prove to be the turning point unless you take a handful of Pavelec stops.

“I was just battling, getting good stick position, playing simple,” Stastny said. “I saw a pass coming. I’m just trying to make body or stick position. I thought nothing of it.

“I think if I would have gone extremely hard, if I would have been hesitant about it or broken [Myers’] stick, I would have understood; it’s an easy call.”

These two teams have developed quite the rivalry and have a serious dislike for each other and this would be quite the first round match up for the NHL if they end up meeting.

“We play these guys five times a year, it seems like we’re getting a little bit of a rivalry in there,” Blues right wing T.J. Oshie said. “It was a good, hard-fought game. They played [Monday] night and came in, did a good job pushing back when we had momentum, and we have to find ways to score.”

Both teams are big hard hitting fast skating teams who love the aggressive style. There were many one-on-one battles that will carry over for sure. Mark Stuart and T.J. Oshie had something going on all game and things were nasty at times. Blues captain David Backes may be getting a call from the league for a vicious cross check to the back of the neck of Stuart late in the game.

Winnipeg got its lone goal from an unlikely source as fourth liner Chris Thorburn notched his 7th of the season to get the game winner.

Blues netminder Jake Allen stopped 30 of 31 shots and was named the game’s second star as it was the battle of the goalies tonight.

Jets will head to Denver to face the Avalanche on Thursday night in another huge division battle for them.

Follow me on Twitter @hrank94