Mike: “Ok, Blues – Stars preview, you’re up.”
Me: “Oh…uh…I wasn’t really expecting the Blues to win, so I think I used up all the words I know in the last preview.”
Hello round 2, it’s been a while. The Blues and Stars met four times during the regular season, with the Blues winning just one game. Before digging deeper into the season series, as someone who has been referred to as both ‘intelligent’ and ‘artificial’, I’m always one to extol the virtues of algorithmic literacy. I always look for hockey analysis rooted in metrics (albeit arcane, for now), rather than atavistic practices like ‘hockey guys’ simply spouting platitudes like ‘this team will win because they want it more,’ as if by fiat. To that end, Micah Blake McCurdy (Twitter @IneffectiveMath), who focuses on hockey analytics and data visualization, did a remarkable job predicting first round series (and showing that Tampa Bay was not the Cup favorite all ‘experts’ seemed to think they were). Let’s check in with Mr. McCurdy regarding the second round:
54% Dallas, 46% St. Louis? Whatever, what does this guy know? This is hockey, not bean-counting.
While the Stars did take 3 out of 4 games during the regular season, similar to last series against the Jets, this does not tell the whole story, because the Blues were rarely at full-strength. In the first game, on January 8, the Blues were without Jordan “sangfroid” Binnington, and this was a particularly ignominious defeat for Jake Allen:
Though Allen did play well after he blew the game, it was not enough. Binnington did start the next 3 games (winning just 1), but the Blues were without Brayden Schenn – a critical part of the top line at the time – for both of the losses. Now I’m not saying that Schenn’s presence is going to be a panacea for the Blues’ struggles against the Stars, but he will absolutely make a big difference.
Aside from Schenn (and the always-noted goaltending battle), the keys to the series essentially boil down to:
- Will Vladimir Tarasenko score? and
- Will Jamie Benn not score?
Benn scored 5 goals in the Stars’ three wins, so keeping him at least relatively off the scoresheet is critical to the Blues’ success. Similarly, Tarasenko seems to rise to the occasion against Dallas, scoring 3 goals this season.
It’s as simple as that. I’m taking the Blues in 6, and once again, if that happens, I’ll tell you that I’m omniscient (oh, by the way, the Blues won the last series, so allow me to say it: I’m omniscient), but as always, if I’m wrong, let’s not talk about it.
Ultimately, I believe this is going to be a hard fought series, with neither team really having the upper-hand. If the Blues happen to lose, I’ll be upset, but I will not feel angry or indignant unless one of their fans happens to speak derisively about one particular topic:
Ok. Fine. It’s on now.
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