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If Game 1 is indicative of the way the rest of the second-round series between the St. Louis Blues and the Dallas Stars is going to go, the Blues may as well give up now. The final 2-1 score fails to convey how dominant Dallas was, and how badly and for how long St. Louis took it on the chin.
Ken Hitchcock’s team seemed unprepared for the Stars’ speed and aggressive style, and that simply can’t happen again.
The shot tally tells much of the story, particularly at even strength:
- First period: 13-5 for Dallas
- Second period: 14-8 for Dallas
- Third period: 15-11 for St. Louis
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The Blues let the Stars dominate for two frames before rallying in the third period, trying to come back from a one-goal deficit. Thanks to goaltender Brian Elliott, the deficit wasn’t larger than a single goal and St. Louis had a shot at coming back in the third period. But it was only because of the goaltender that the game was even that close.
The frightening thing is that the Stars didn’t even have Tyler Seguin while they were dominating the opening two frames.
St. Louis had no answer for nominal second-line Dallas centre Jason Spezza. He saw Colton Parayko more than any other Blues defencemen, and the shots were 8-1 Dallas in that matchup. Over the course of the game, the Stars fired 22 shots at net to just 11 for the Blues when Spezza was on the ice.
Cody Eakin did a decent job of filling in on the top line for Seguin, with his line holding a 7-1 edge in shots in its matchup against St. Louis captain David Backes. As for the goals, those came primarily from the relatively unknown third-line trio of Antoine Roussel, Radek Faksa and Ales Hemsky.
Roussel, better known as an agitator than scorer, notched the first marker for Dallas less than 24 hours after he was verbally dismissed by Blues’ pest Steve Ott. Via ESPN’s Craig Custance:
Steve Ott on playing against Antoine Roussel: “There are a lot better players to worry about over there.”
— Craig Custance (@CraigCustance) April 29, 2016
The game-winner came courtesy of Faksa, who went to the net and cashed in on a drive by Hemsky. The two Czechs have worked beautifully together since being united at midseason. In three hours together at five-on-five, Hemsky and Faksa have combined for a 56 percent Corsi despite hefty defensive zone assignments; Dallas meanwhile has outscored the opposition by a nearly 3:1 margin with the duo on the ice.
Faksa goal pic.twitter.com/xPcLBcCAbR
— Stephanie (@myregularface) April 30, 2016
The veteran defensive duo of Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo was victimized on both Dallas goals, with Bouwmeester in particular looking ineffective. On the Roussel goal he got in the way of his own goaltender while trying to block the shot; on the winner he failed to take the passing lane away and then couldn’t hold the front of the net.
But the big story here isn’t the specific goals so much as it is the utter territorial dominance from Dallas over the first two periods. No matter how good the goaltender or how strong the defensive system, a team that spends so much time in its own end is going to surrender goals eventually. The Blues were playing with fire and got burned.
Ex-Predator Joel Ward Makes Former Team Pay in 5-2 Sharks Victory
Rocky W. Widner/NHL/Getty Images
Joel Ward took an unusual path to the NHL, playing four years with the University of Prince Edward Island after completing his junior career. He turned pro at the age of 24 with Minnesota’s farm team and spent three years with the Wild organization, playing almost exclusively at the AHL level.
At the age of 27, he signed with the Nashville Predators. He hasn’t played a game in the minors since.
For all the good he did in three seasons with the Preds, on Friday Ward came back to haunt the team that gave him his first real NHL opportunity. Nashville entered the third period with a lead but Ward—who had nine goals and 17 points in 18 playoff games with the Predators—helped setup Tomas Hertl’s game-tying goal and then gave San Jose a lead they would not relinquish with a neat fake and follow-up:
Ward go-ahead goal pic.twitter.com/ngoT8gfeb8
— Stephanie (@myregularface) April 30, 2016
Ward had the best possession numbers on his team; San Jose had a 10-6 edge in shots when he was on the ice. Shutdown defenceman Marc-Edouard Vlasic came in right behind him, putting in a brilliant performance against Nashville’s top line of James Neal, Ryan Johansen and Calle Jarnkrok.
Nashville’s own shutdown duo of Shea Weber and Roman Josi was less effective, getting outshot 8-4 when lined up against Joe Thornton.
For San Jose, the challenge is not to spend so much time playing from behind, as they did in Game 1. For Nashville, it’s going to be tough keeping both Ward’s unit and the Thornton line in check, but it’s critical if the club is to come back to win the series.
Statistics courtesy of NHL.com, NaturalStatTrick.com and Stats.HockeyAnalysis.com
Jonathan Willis covers the NHL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter for more of his work.