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Breaking Down the St. Louis Blues-Dallas Stars Series By Statistics - You Can Basically Flip a Coin

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The underlying possession metrics for both teams are surprisingly even as the two teams face off in a battle for MDK superiority.

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

According to the hive mind of hockey knowledge, the St. Louis Blues are a prohibitively large favorite to win their second-round series against the Dallas Stars.

And that's fine. There's the narrative to consider as well as the fact that the Blues are, at this point in their team cycle, significantly more experienced in the playoffs.

But the numbers don't suggest a runaway series. In fact, they suggest a series that should be incredibly even and turn on a play or two rather than single-sided domination. And while you have to take quality of opponent into account, the numbers also suggest one team is playing significantly better than the other.

So let's start with the 5-on-5 from the first round series for both teams, just to see where things are starting off:

Team G/60 GA/60 CF% Shooting% Save% PDO FO% Zone Start %
Dallas Stars 3.3 2.2 56.1 12.5 91.1 103.6 51.6 48.6
St. Louis Blues 2.1 1.6 47.2 7.5 95.2 102.6 51.2 40.1

The Blues beat the Chicago Blackhawks for basically one single reason - goaltending. The Hawks outpossessed St. Louis for the most part and forced them territoriality back into their own zone, but the Blues goalies really bailed out their teammates with some all-world saves.

That's concerning for any opponent - the ultimate trump card in hockey is a hot goaltender, after all - but it suggests that St. Louis is not exactly a juggernaut. As with any team, they have weaknesses - and in their case, it's offense, possession and the penalty kill.

About those special teams, here's what the team's first-round series looked like in all situations:

Team G/60 GA/60 CF% Shooting% Save% PDO FO% Zone Start %
Dallas Stars 3.5 2.8 54.9 12.8 89.1 101.9 51.2 49.3
St. Louis Blues 2.5 2.7 47.0 9.3 92.2 101.5 50.7 40.8

The teams had fairly similar special teams performances. Both teams struggled at times on the penalty kill (a kill rate of 75 percent for the Stars and 72.2 for the Blues) and St. Louis was more dangerous in the power play, but in fewer opportunities (31.3 percent conversion rate for the Blues on 16 opportunities to 21.1 for the Stars on 19 tries). That's significant because at such small sample sizes, an extra opportunity or two can change a lot.

But that's the playoffs, where the teams faced two entirely different opponents. How did things look in the season series between the two?

Well the numbers at 5-on-5 even strength are about as event as you could get:

Team GF Shots For Missed Shots Blocked Shots CF SCF HSCF Off. Zone Starts Hits Penalties FO Won
Dallas Stars 6 114 43 59 216 117 51 76 107 16 126
St. Louis Blues 6 104 50 53 207 96 30 80 123 17 120

That's pretty darn dead even, with the most notable part being the Stars were more effective at creating scoring chances and high-danger scoring chances.

Of note, three of the five games featured Antti Niemi in net, and three of the five had Jake Allen in net for the Blues. Kari Lehtonen was the man in net when the Stars beat the Blues 3-0 in December as they shelled Brian Elliott, and Niemi was the goalie of record in the Stars lone regulation loss in the season series - a 3-0 loss with Jake Allen in net.

The special teams were as even as you could get too, with the Stars and Blues each going 3-for-18.

What the Blues were somewhat successful at was forcing the Stars away from their high-event style of play. Dallas averaged 61.3 Corsi For events per 60 minutes at event strength in the regular season but only 55.4 against the Blues. They weren't able to successfully contain the scoring chances as much, though. At even strength, the Stars averaged 30 scoring chances per 60 against the Blues to 31.3 for the regular season and 13.1 high-danger scoring chances per 60 against St. Louis to a regular-season average of 12.6.

The takeaway from all that? St. Louis was able to limit the Stars less dangerous shots but not effective at all at slowing down their trips to the more dangerous areas of the ice.

The Blues, meanwhile, were slightly held in check by the Stars, dropping a little bit in even-strength averages for Corsi For events (53.1 per 60 against Dallas vs. 55.5 overall), scoring chances (24.6 per 60 vs. 27.4 for the season) and especially high-danger scoring chances (7.7 per 60 against Dallas to 11.0 for the season).

Because remember, while this was a 4-1 regular season series for the Blues, it was 1-1-3 the other way, which means three of the decisions came in the type of gimmicky overtimes that don't exist in the playoffs.

The Stars got most of their production from players you would expect at 5 on 5 play, even while using the top line in a power-on-power matchup with more defensive zone starts than you might expect:

Player GP G A1 A2 iSCF iHSCF CF/60 CA/60 ZnStOff ZnStDed Pen
Stephen Johns 1 0 0 0 1 1 65.9 62.0 4 5 0
Kris Russell 1 0 0 2 0 0 60.5 64.5 4 3 0
Travis Moen 2 0 0 0 1 0 25.8 47.3 5 5 0
Tyler Seguin 5 1 1 0 6 3 65.4 51.2 21 28 1
Alex Goligoski 5 0 0 3 5 1 66.7 56.1 30 23 1
Patrick Sharp 4 0 1 0 9 5 59.2 44.7 12 24 0
Jason Demers 4 0 0 0 1 0 53.2 41.7 25 24 3
Colton Sceviour 3 1 0 0 7 4 58.5 38.5 15 10 0
John Klingberg 4 0 0 0 4 3 60.1 50.8 21 23 0
Valeri Nichushkin 5 0 1 0 7 3 56.6 47.8 23 18 0
Jason Spezza 4 2 0 0 11 6 71.3 65.5 16 17 1
Vernon Fiddler 5 0 0 0 1 0 39.9 36.8 17 6 1
Ales Hemsky 5 0 1 0 9 3 56.4 55.4 21 22 2
Jamie Oleksiak 2 0 0 0 0 0 39.6 42.3 12 5 0
Mattias Janmark 4 1 0 0 4 1 54.0 55.2 14 13 2
Jamie Benn 5 0 1 1 5 2 53.3 54.2 18 30 0
Radek Faksa 2 0 0 0 1 0 56.6 62.3 7 7 1
Jordie Benn 4 0 0 0 2 0 49.4 52.9 16 20 0
Antoine Roussel 5 0 0 0 4 0 55.9 62.4 21 22 1
Cody Eakin 5 1 1 0 3 2 51.7 57.6 21 24 1
Johnny Oduya 5 0 0 0 0 0 48.5 53.9 27 32 0
Patrick Eaves 4 0 0 0 2 0 47.2 66.1 13 13 0
Patrik Nemeth 2 0 0 0 0 0 38.9 80.0 6 8 0

Hello, Jason Spezza and Patrick Sharp. So you're saying playing the Blues is fun, right?

There are positive and negative possession players on the Stars, but they are all relatively bunched around a midpoint (save Patrik Nemeth, Travis Moen and, of all people, Patrick Eaves). It is interesting to note the against-narrative success the pairing of Alex Goligoski and John Klingberg had against the Blues. Though it must be noted that those two tend to give up goals not by being stuck in their own end by through bad turnovers that lead to great scoring chances.

Valeri Nichushkin also had a relatively successful season series against the Blues, so when he gets himself back into the lineup, it should be a series that plays to his strengths.

And speaking of Russians...

Player Gm G A1 A2 iSCF iHSCF CF/60 CA/60 ZnStOff ZnStDef Pen
Vladimir Tarasenko 5 1 0 1 22 5 71.6 53.7 35 21 0
Jaden Schwartz 2 1 1 0 4 2 81.7 49.0 10 4 0
Jori Lehtera 5 0 0 0 4 3 61.5 50.2 20 21 1
Patrik Berglund 2 0 0 0 4 2 59.4 35.2 6 6 0
Dmitrij Jaskin 4 0 0 0 5 1 58.5 49.6 11 19 2
Magnus Paajarvi 3 0 0 0 2 1 59.8 51.3 24 12 0
Robert Bortuzzo 0 0 0 0 1 0 53.9 44.6 10 12 1
Joel Edmundson 2 0 0 0 0 0 53.2 46.3 8 5 0
Paul Stastny 5 0 0 1 6 3 57.7 56.8 31 21 1
Kevin Shattenkirk 5 1 0 0 7 1 58.2 58.2 28 17 0
Carl Gunnarsson 5 0 0 1 3 0 48.0 52.3 21 27 2
Scottie Upshall 5 0 1 0 5 2 42.8 52.4 11 16 2
David Backes 5 0 1 1 6 3 53.6 58.9 20 28 0
Colton Parayko 5 0 1 0 3 0 52.7 57.9 33 29 2
Alex Pietrangelo 4 0 0 0 0 0 50.4 57.0 25 27 0
Jay Bouwmeester 5 0 1 0 6 0 55.9 61.3 30 31 0
Kyle Brodziak 3 0 0 0 0 0 17.8 44.6 4 11 0
Robby Fabbri 5 1 1 0 3 1 49.3 60.6 14 18 2
Alexander Steen 4 0 0 0 2 0 47.4 62.5 20 18 0
Ryan Reaves 5 1 0 0 1 1 32.4 55.5 11 9 0
Troy Brouwer 5 1 0 0 3 1 41.1 65.2 18 23 0

Ah, Terrorsenko. He was by far the biggest individual weapon against the Stars this year (though notably, he didn't have a huge rate of high-danger chances to regular ones). He is the head of their dragon on offense, and slowing him down is easier said than done.