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Instant analysis: Blues at Stars, Game 7

Brouwer, Stastny power St. Louis to first Western Conference Final since 2001

by Amaile Benjamin @AmalieBenjamin / Staff Writer

DALLAS -- The St. Louis Blues are headed to their first Western Conference Final in 15 years after defeating the Dallas Stars 6-1 in Game 7 of the Western Conference Second Round at American Airlines Center on Wednesday.

In a best-of-7 series in which home-ice advantage meant next to nothing, the Blues won their third game in Dallas. The Blues got goals from Robby Fabbri, Paul Stastny, Patrik Berglund, David Backes, Troy Brouwer and Vladimir Tarasenko to set up a conference final against the winner of Game 7 between the San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators.

What we learned: The Blues have a real shot at making the Stanley Cup Final and winning the Cup for the first time in their history. They have been strong and balanced and feisty, and have knocked off the No. 1 seed in the West (Stars) and the defending Stanley Cup champions (Chicago Blackhawks). St. Louis won Game 7 in each of the first two rounds of the playoffs, the second time in its history winning two in a single playoff run, the first since their inaugural season in 1967-1968.

What this means for the Blues: They have arrived. The Blues hadn't been able to make it out of the first round for the past three seasons, putting coach Ken Hitchcock on the hot seat. Now they have reached the conference final on the strength of impressive goaltending, physical play, balanced scoring and a strong power play.

Video: STL@DAL, Gm7: Fabbri lifts backhander past Lehtonen

What this means for the Stars: They simply did not have good enough goaltending. That was the knock on the Stars all season: The combination of Kari Lehtonen and Antti Niemi was not up to the task of taking Dallas deep into the Stanley Cup Playoffs. And in Game 7, that was proven to be the case. Lehtonen, who had been solid for the Stars in Game 6, including on a game-saving stop with 22 seconds left on Jaden Schwartz, allowed three goals on eight shots. He also allowed another goal that was disallowed due to an offside call. But it wasn't just that. Lehtonen did not look good on any of the goals he allowed, and yielded to Niemi to start the second period. In seven games in the series, the Stars pulled their starting goaltender in three of them.

Key moment: With 2:21 left in the first period, it appeared as if Tarasenko scored a bad-angle goal to give the Blues a 2-0 lead. But the Stars challenged, and the goal was overturned after video review, with the ruling that Tarasenko was offside entering the zone. No goal. New life for the Stars. But 43 seconds later, Stastny gave the Blues back their two-goal lead, taking the puck behind the net and dishing it to Brouwer, who sent it back to Stastny for the goal, as Lehtonen misplayed the situation badly.

Video: STL@DAL, Gm7: Stastny beats Lehtonen in tight

Unsung player of the game: Brouwer was playing in his eighth consecutive Game 7, making it old hat for the veteran forward. But he played as if he wanted to continue the run, scoring the Blues' fifth goal of the night and getting the primary assist on the first two goals of the game, scored by Fabbri and Stastny. The Blues won each of the four games in the series when Brouwer had at least one point.

What's next: The Blues head to the conference final for the first time since 2001. They'll face the winner of the Sharks-Predators second-round series, which concludes Thursday (9 p.m. ET; NBCSN, SN, TVA Sports).

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