Sometimes, the games won and lost in a playoff series can be misleading. The numbers simply don’t tell the entire tale.
Case in point: the St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars may be tied up at one game apiece in the second round of the Stanley Cup playoffs, but the advantage clearly tilts in one team’s direction: Dallas.
The Stars are executing their game plan, getting the best of St. Louis on both ends of the ice, imposing their will. The Blues seem to lose complete control of their game for longer stretches than the Stars, which leads to better chances for the opposition.
For the majority of the first 35 minutes in Saturday’s game, Dallas was just better. They had point blank shots at Jordan Binnington, controlled the neutral zone, had the defensemen on their heel, and were more precise than St. Louis.
You could check the game stats, and see an advantage in face-offs, giveaways, and hits. The Stars could have been up 2-0 early if it weren’t for Binnington rejecting their offerings, but they eventually built a 2-0 lead on unbelievably setup and executions down low. On the first Dallas goal, Vince Dunn and Pat Maroon blew their coverage and allowed an easy pathway for Roope Hintz (what the fuck kind of name is that?) to swoop in and finish.
On Dallas’ second goal, Miro Heiskanen took the puck into the Blues zone like he had free tickets to a BBQ, blazing past defenders with the ease of guy pumping gas in the morning.
Seconds after the Blues cut the lead in half, the Stars went up again on a nasty defensive breakdown by Dunn. Mattias Jankman finished a 2 on 1 break-in and gave the Stars a lead they wouldn’t relinquish.
Defensive breakdowns doom a hockey team in the playoffs. In the sudden death atmosphere of this extra month of hockey, it’s all about limiting the amount of fuck-ups. Today, the Blues had five too many.
Binnington kept the game from being put away in the first ten minutes of the third period. He stoned the Stars twice in front of the net in another instance where the Blues defenders seemed to take a holiday.
A late rush of action from the Blues wasn’t enough to keep the series from getting tied up before heading back to Dallas for two games. Unlike the first round against Winnipeg, the Blues don’t have a huge advantage heading into Game 3.
What’s more disturbing is the performance of this team at home so far in the playoffs. They lost Games 3 & 4 against the Jets at home, and dropped Game 2 against Dallas in overall flat efforts that showed a team back on its heels too often.
It’s not just Game 2. The Stars outplayed the Blues in Game 1 as well, and it weren’t for an unreal effort from Vladimir Tarasenko, could have came out on top. Remember those shaky closing seconds with the Stars swarming around Binnington?
Here’s the thing. Ben Bishop is going to match Binnington big save for big save. Bishop’s sprawling effort to deny a goal kept the Stars on top Saturday, and he finished with 32 saves. The St. Louis native has stellar playoff statistics, winning a Stanley Cup playoff game in Tampa Bay once upon a time and gunning for more this spring.
Don’t forget that the Stars had to battle for playoff hockey nearly as hard as the Blues. They handled the “new and improved” Blues down the home stretch of the season. They put an end to their eleven game winning streak, and beat the Blues in dominant fashion. Sometimes, regular season performance translates to the postseason in a bad way.
In order to get the best of the Stars, the Blues have to be more effective on the power play, not wasting five chances like they did Saturday. They have to clean up on face-offs, be able to move the puck through the neutral zone more fluidly, and cut down on the defensive breakdowns that plagued them in Game 2.
You can expect a raucous and downright nasty crowd the next two games. Dallas fans are known for being rough on the visitors, so get ready for some loud, obscene, and generally insensitive action from the stands on Monday. The Blues managed to overcome the noise in Winnipeg in round 1, but something tells me Dallas will be different.
Look on the bright side. The Blues haven’t played near their best and find themselves tied up heading into Game 3. Then again, something needs to change in order for them to win this series. If the trend of the first two games continue into the rest of the series, count the Blues out. Sure, they are playing with house money, but no one’s ready to be done with this team just yet. Don’t fool yourself into something so stupid.
Home ice belonged to the St. Louis Blues once upon a time, but so far during the playoffs, I haven’t noticed a huge advantage at Enterprise Center.
I’d buy more bourbon.