NHL Western Conference Semifinal: Why Pick St. Louis
The St. Louis Blues finally polished off the Chicago Blackhawks in seven games in their Western Conference semifinal, and what they have waiting for them is the top seed in the Western Conference — the Dallas Stars. This is actually a coaching rematch from the 1999 Stanley Cup Finals, as Lindy Ruff and Ken Hitchcock will square off again. Then, Ruff was the coach of the Buffalo Sabres, while Hitchcock was behind the bench in Dallas. The Blues try to use puck possession to squeeze the life out of the opposition, while the Stars try to use their “shock and awe” offense to overwhelm the opposition. The key, as it was between St. Louis and Chicago, will be which team can make key stops at the right time. Let’s look at some reasons why the Blues are a little better. Find the updated NHL online betting odds here.
NHL Western Conference Semifinal: Why You Should Pick St. Louis Blues To Beat Dallas Stars
The monkey is off their backs
The Blues had gained a reputation for storming into the playoffs and to limp out after one series. After weathering a seven-game storm with the Blackhawks, they now know what it takes to win a long playoff series. It takes a lot of inner strength to fight off that kind of series, and the Blues showed it in knocking off Chicago. The Blues excel at keeping their forwards spread out, and they have three strong scoring lines. Robby Fabbri looked nothing like a rookie in that first round, and he played a huge role in the St. Louis offense. If you combine that with the pressure game that shut Patrick Kane and Jonathan Toews down, you have a recipe for victory.
The Blues have the better goalie
Dallas has two good goalies, in Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi, but neither one is the sort of shutdown goalie, in the mold of former Stars great Ed Belfour, or Mike Richter. Instead, each one has shown that he can play a terrific game or two but also will go through some egregious errors. Lehtonen was the one in net when the Stars went through that dumpster fire in the third period of Game 6 against Minnesota, when they gave up four goals and almost turned a 4-0 lead into overtime or a loss. A fifth potential goal hit Kari Lehtonen’s pad with most of the puck over the red line — but not all of it, and so the video review kept that goal off the boards. Lehtonen also made a huge blunder with a puck that ended up on a Wild player’s stick, but he missed an open net. Either one of those mistakes could have sent the game to overtime — and possibly a Game 7. The Blues feature Brian Elliott in net. He posted a .929 save percentage in the first round, which is definitely good enough to win the series. If he plays as well against the Stars, Dallas will be at a disadvantage here.
This solid defenseman came through time and time again, pounding the top Blackhawks behind the net and making them uneasy with the puck. He will be looking for Jamie Benn and Jason Spezza (and Tyler Seguin if he’s back on the ice).