St. Louis Blues (-105) at Dallas Stars (-115, 5 o/u)
With only one game remaining in their series, it would stand to reason that both the St Louis Blues (7-6, 4-2 away) and Dallas Stars (7-5, 3-3 home) will put their best foot forward tonight in a winner-take-all.
But that hasn’t been how their best-of-seven series has gone so far: it’s been one team dominating for long stretches while the other just tries to withstand the barrage. Which team will take control for long enough in Game 7 tonight at the American Airlines Center (8:00 PM Eastern)?
If you think the team that’s hotter coming in will roll, you’d have to side with the Blues. St. Louis completely took it to Dallas for the final 40 minutes of Game 6, outshooting them 37-14 overall. However, after three quick goals to start the game, the Stars hung on to avoid elimination (3-2) thanks to an outstanding night by goalie Kari Lehtonen.
It was a true reversal of the script, as St Louis is the team that tries to hold on to early leads for two periods with lockdown goaltending. But after a great postseason run, Brian Elliott finally had an off-night, getting the hook after allowing three goals on seven shots.
Unless “Elliott Moose” can bounce back from that disappointing performance, it won’t matter how much pressure the Blues can apply because the Stars shooters only need a sliver of daylight to score. Jamie Benn, Jason Spezza, Radek Faksa, and Alex Goligoski are all shooting over 16-percent these playoffs, and Dallas has even more scoring options behind them.
Game 6 marked only the second time in the last eight years the Stars have faced an elimination game; they’re now 1-1 with their backs against the wall in that span. While that’s too small a sample size to draw conclusions from, the Blues mark in this spot is not. Before their Game 7 win over the Blackhawks last round, St Louis hadn’t won an elimination game since 2000, going 0 for 9 during.
But this team is supposed to be different. It’s supposed to reverse the curse. And they’ve certainly been the better team for longer over the last six games. They’ve outhit the Stars this series (187-156). They’ve been better in the faceoff circle (199-181). They’ve outperformed Dallas on special teams (25-percent on the PP to the Stars 12-percent). By every conceivable metric, this series should already be over.
St. Louis’ history is a reason to be nervous, but not reason enough to avoid them altogether. Lehtonen hasn’t been able to throw together two solid games in a row and won’t steal another one for Dallas. In an evenly contested game, I like the Blues to emerge in this one.
Pick: St. Louis (-105).
(Photo credit: Lisa Gansky from New York, NY, USA (IMG_6077) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons.)