At the least, tonight’s game will be an intriguing preview of the 2020 Stanley Cup playoffs in the guise of boring yet effective grind-me-a-pound, defense-first hockey. At best, it represents an opportunity for the Stars to impose their will on one of their most bitter rivals.
If the Stars want the latter, they can start by staying out of the penalty box. The Blues boast the third-best road power play in the NHL with a 25.3% conversion rate. The home team will do well to keep those special-teams minutes to a minimum.
They’re lucky to be walking into the game with their captain. Jamie Benn avoided supplemental discipline after a hit on Oliver Ekman-Larsson that had even Beast Mode Benn fans shaking their heads. Meanwhile, Benn has 21 points in his past 15 games against the Blues, and the Stars will look for him to keep his streak going.
Speaking of things you love to see, Roope Hintz put two goals in the net during the Stars’ February 8 victory over the Blues. On the blue line, John Klingberg has 15 points in his 16 career games against St. Louis, while Miro Heiskanen has four points in seven career games against St. Louis (and has earned a point per game in his last seven games overall).
With all of this, Ben Bishop is still the real sheriff in town. Bish has a 5-3-0 record – with a jaw-dropping .942 save percentage and 1.89 goals-against average – in his eight games in net against the Blues as a Star. If he can lay down the law tonight, he can keep the squad in the game if they need more than a period to get their offense going.
This team seems to rally around symbols of adversity transcended. Last year their focus was “Gloria” and young Laila Anderson, who lives with a rare immune disease. This year, they have to continue playing after star blueliner Jay Bouwmeester collapsed during a cardiac episode on the bench that has left his future in limbo – not unlike what the Dallas Stars experienced when Rich Peverley had a similar cardiac event in 2014.
The Blues traded for defender Marco Scandella to help fill the void left by Bouwmeester’s absence. The former Montreal Canadiens left-hander may not be the first choice to replace a top-four defender, but he’s having a career year and registered three hits, one block, and nearly 20 minutes of ice time in his first game wearing a Blue Note sweater.
Keep your eyes on a handful of players who have significant priors against the Victory Green Gang. Forward David Perron has three goals and five assists in his last six games against the Stars, while defender Colton Parayko has three goals and one assist in the past three outings. In addition, Ryan O’Reilly has scored at the rate of a point per game in his last five games against Dallas, and Jaden Schwartz has 10 points in 14 games.
Jordan Binnington has posted two shutouts this week, including a 3-0 decision against the New Jersey Devils that gave the Blues their first victory since the loss of Bouwmeester and a relatively easy night last night in a 1-0 win against the Arizona Coyotes where he faced just 14 shots. The Stars will need to solve him early and often to
make him blow his stack secure the two points they want.
For many Stars fans, this will always be the first thing that leaps to mind when Binnington enters the chat. Just saying.
some context: Binnington goes out of his way to slash Joel L'Esperance after goal against. He was ejected pic.twitter.com/2aZR6kplTu— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) November 25, 2018
Meanwhile, don’t forget that the first 10,000 fans in American Airlines Center get a bobblehead of Benn dressed in his Winter Classic finest. (Leave work early. It’s Friday.)
The Stars rolled these lines in practice today, as reported by Sean Shapiro:
Roope Hintz - Tyler Seguin - Corey Perry
Jamie Benn - Jason Dickinson - Denis Gurianov
Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Mattias Janmark - Joe Pavelski - Alexander Radulov
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Stephen Johns
Jamie Oleksiak - Roman Polak
Ben Bishop is in net for the Stars.
St. Louis Blues
The Blues’ lineup, courtesy of Daily Faceoff:
Jaden Schwartz - Ryan O’Reilly - Brayden Schenn
Zach Sanford - Robert Thomas - David Perron
Alexander Steen - Tyler Bozak - Jordan Kyrou
Sammy Blais - Oskar Sundqvist - Ivan Barbashev
Carl Gunnarsson - Alex Pietrangelo
Marco Scandella - Colton Parayko
Vince Dunn - Justin Faulk
Puck drop: 7:30 p.m. CST (American Airlines Center, Dallas, TX)
TV: ESPN+, FS-SW+
Radio: KTCK 1310 AM / 96.7 FM The Ticket
Online: FOX Sports Go app / theticket.com