As the regular season was winding down this year, it wasn’t clear where the Blues would finish the season. Discussion happened about which team would be the best for the Blues to deal with in round one. Would it be the Nashville Predators, who the Blues manhandled during the regular season? Would it be the Winnipeg Jets, who hadn’t faced the Blues after the season turnaround (and who were in the process of slumping their way into the postseason)? Or, would the Blues bet better off dealing with the wild card Dallas Stars.
No one picked option 3.
Dallas was 3-1 against the Blues this season, and that includes games played after the rise of Jordan Binnington. As a matter of fact, Stars forward Jamie Benn is one of the few players in the NHL to consistently solve the Binnington question. If anyone knows how to score on the Blues, it’s Benn. Benn’s scored five goals against Binnington in two games, which means that the Blues need to be very, very situationally aware when he’s on the ice.
The last time that these two teams met in the playoffs three years ago, the Blues took the series in seven games. There’s no reason to think that outcome won’t be similar this season. If the Blues can win in fewer games, that’d be fine.
What’s key for the Blues tonight is that Jaden Schwartz, who had a hat trick in game six and scored the game winning goal in game five, continues to find his scoring touch. Playing on a line with Brayden Schenn seems to have woken both of the dormant forwards up. With a few days rest, they should be ready to go - or the momentum is kaput. We’ll figure out which is true tonight.
Supporting Binnington with solid defense is paramount to a win. The Blues allowed 16 goals in their six games against the Jets, including six in a disastrous game three. Scoring - primary and secondary - is important, but if the Blues have defensive lapses this round, the Stars will make them pay.
Long story short: more game six Blues, less game three. Play consistent hockey, and the Blues have got this.