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Agnew: Expect Blues to counter in Game 2

Must get physical, slow down Stars to even series

by Amalie Benjamin @amaliebenjamin / NHL.com Staff Writer

For additional insight into the Western Conference Second Round series between the Dallas Stars and St. Louis Blues, NHL.com has enlisted the help of Gary Agnew to break down the action. Agnew will be checking in throughout the series.

Agnew, 55, was an assistant with the Pittsburgh Penguins, Blues and Columbus Blue Jackets. He also served as interim coach of the Blue Jackets for five games during the 2006-07 season, and he has been coach of Syracuse of the American Hockey League and London and Kingston of the Ontario Hockey League.

DALLAS -- One key question as the Dallas Stars and the St. Louis Blues began their Western Conference Second Round series Friday was which team was going to impose its style on the other. In Game 1, that was mostly the Stars, who were able to pick up the speed against the Blues, who were in a bit of a hangover mode.

Though the Blues managed to tie the score late, on a Kevin Shattenkirk goal at 11:32 of the third period, the Stars prevailed, with Radek Faksa getting the game-winner at 15:16 to give Dallas a 2-1 win at American Airlines Center.

"I thought Dallas played with a lot of speed, so for the game, I thought both teams had pretty decent chances off the counters," Agnew said. "They seemed to be turning pucks over in the neutral zone and both teams were trying to attack fairly quickly, but I thought Dallas did it longer.

"They made a bit of an adjustment, looked like they started to stretch the ice a little bit more, so as soon as they got possession off a defensive zone coverage or some kind of turnover, they were immediately heading north, making a little bit of a long pass there and then using their wide speed. So I thought that really was a key for them."

But while it seems that the two teams have opposing styles, they employ some elements of the other's game in their own. There is physicality on the Stars. There is speed on the Blues. So even if the edge in those categories goes to the other team, it's not quite as clear-cut as it might seem.

It wasn't in Game 1. And it won't be in Game 2 on Sunday, either (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports).

"St. Louis is such a great tracking team," Agnew said. "They're always coming back hard, but I thought Dallas backtracked as hard, got some turnovers. … Because both teams track back so well that they're getting their defensemen involved in the rush, which you have to, it's going to lead to a little bit more of an up-and-down game. If you don't score, if the goalie doesn't make the save and freeze the puck, if the puck stays alive and the other team heads north, then it's going to be a bit of a rush fest, which makes it exciting."

That was what led to the goals for Dallas. The Stars used their speed and their passing to stretch out the ice. Antoine Roussel scored at 9:36 of the second period, off a rebound of a shot by Faksa. Then Faksa got that game winner off a rebound of an Ales Hemsky shot.

Each of those goals were scored by the Dallas third line, but Agnew said he was equally impressed with another player on the Stars: Jason Spezza.

Agnew said Spezza had a quietly effective game. And, of course, as he said, St. Louis goalie Brian Elliott was "outstanding."

Neither team was able to get much done on the power play, with the Stars 0-for-3 and the Blues going 0-for-2. That meant good work on the penalty kill by each side.

"I thought their reads were good," Agnew said. "They pressured. Neither team really was able to set up a whole lot and I think that as soon as they saw numbers or they saw loose pucks, the pressure points, the three-point pressure by the penalty kill, where they went after them and didn't give them time and space, was really good.

"So both teams will probably have to make some kind of adjustment on the power play. Whether they use the middle a little bit more or whether they have more support around the puck, they're going to have to do something if they're going to get their power plays going."

The Stars were able to dictate the play a bit, the Blues not as much. Their game is, as Agnew put it, a "physical, hang onto the puck, force the other team to play in their end type of game," and that wasn't exactly the way they played on Friday. It wasn't their style. That means that the Blues and coach Ken Hitchcock will need to adjust things before they take on the Stars again.

"It's going to be a really interesting Game 2," Agnew said. "Because I think St. Louis will be ready, they'll probably be more determined. They probably feel they want to increase their physical presence or will. But Dallas has some guys that can play that game too. So it'll be interesting."

Though there was at least one good sign for the Blues heading into Sunday.

As Agnew said, "Credit to St. Louis because it's 1-0 late in the game. They're being out-shot and probably out-chanced. But they're still a goal away and Shattenkirk gets it, tying the game and hanging around and trying to get it to overtime. They never went away, that's for sure."

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