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5 Keys: Blues at Stars, Game 2

St. Louis needs more desperation, must control tempo against Dallas

by Amalie Benjamin @amaliebenjamin / Staff Writer

DALLAS -- The St. Louis Blues and Dallas Stars play Game 2 of the Western Conference Second Round series on Sunday (3 p.m. ET; NBC, SN, TVA Sports). The Stars lead the best-of-7 series 1-0 after a 2-1 victory on Friday.

Here are five keys for Game 2:


Well, not quite. But Stars coach Lindy Ruff commented on the importance of Game 2 for the Blues, given that they lost the first game. "This series is going to start to heat up right now because they're going into a Game 2 where I know what as a coach he's thinking over there," Ruff said. "This is like a Game 7. They don't want to go down 2-0. They want to make their statement and I have to have our team ready for that." While that is, obviously, a bit of an overstatement, the Blues don't want to go back home to St. Louis having lost the first two games of the series, especially given Blues coach Ken Hitchcock's dissatisfaction with the way his team played in Game 1. The Blues have to rediscover the emotional engagement they showed in Game 7 of the first round. If they can do that, maybe they can steal a game in Dallas.

Video: STL@DAL, Gm1: Roussel nets rebound to open scoring


Game 1 was played at the Stars' preferred speed. The question now is whether that continues, or whether the Blues can force the Stars to play the way they want to play. As Blues defenseman Carl Gunnarsson said, "We can play fast players, it doesn't matter; we just need to slow their game down. It's tough to feed them. When you play a fast team you're usually talking about transitions. How do you feed that? You give them turnovers. That's what we did. We turned the puck over too many times and they feed off that. They don't go 1-2-3 guys, they go four guys. When they fly like that, it's tough to cover." So does that continue in Game 2? If it does, that would be a bad sign for the Blues.


Vladimir Tarasenko played 21:04 in Game 1, just 24 seconds shy of his playoff high this season -- and that came in a double-overtime loss to the Chicago Blackhawks. But Tarasenko wasn't able to have an impact against the Stars, getting three shots on net and attempting four others. That was, in part, because of the way the Stars defended him. When asked to compare the defensive effort by Dallas on Tarasenko to what the Blackhawks had done, Blues coach Ken Hitchcock said. "That's the problem, they did exactly the same, so we have to change, we have to adjust. We can't keep playing that way and expect to have success. We need to adjust. The line needs to adjust, the line needs to adjust and we need to adjust." The Blues spent time looking at video on Saturday to try to fix the issues, but whether they can will play a big role in Game 2.

Video: STL@DAL, Gm1: Shattenkirk's one-timer evens game at 1


With Patrick Eaves questionable for Game 2 after taking a shot off his leg and leaving Game 1 at 5:05 of the third period, the Stars will need to replace their third-leading point producer in the playoffs. Ruff called Eaves "day-to-day" after practice Saturday. It's a blow to a team that's already without Tyler Seguin for the near future. Ruff said that Eaves will be replaced by Valeri Nichushkin in Game 2. The 21- year-old has played in five of the Stars' seven playoff games this year but was not in the lineup for Game 1. "I think every time he steps on the ice, he works as hard as he possibly can," Ruff said of Nichushkin. "He's been responsible. I think there's always some frustration with not producing, which there's a lot of good players that are still in the playoffs or that are out of the playoffs that weren't able to produce. It's not an easy gig, even [Friday] night was not easy to get on the board. I think if you can get by that frustration, he'll be fine."


Neither team got much traction on the power play in Game 1, with the Stars going 0-for-3 and the Blues finishing 0-for-2. The Stars cut their first power play short when Jamie Benn took a cross-checking penalty on Alex Pietrangelo halfway through a delay of game penalty to St. Louis goaltender Brian Elliott. Both teams were excellent in this area in the regular seasons, with the Stars finishing fourth (22.1 percent) and the Blues finishing sixth (21.5 percent). Whichever team fixes its power play and figures out the other's penalty-killing strategies could gain a significant edge.

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