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Dallas Stars Face St. Louis Blues in Final Round Robin Game

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Don’t get hurt, have some fun, and get ready for the real thing.

NHL: St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

The team is saying all of the right things. There is a need to up the intensity, the effort needs to be there. You can’t just flip a switch.

But what if that’s just not true?

On Sunday, the Dallas Stars take on the St. Louis Blues in a battle for the third seed from the Western Conference. In many ways, this is a game between the two teams who are using the round robin games as preparation for something bigger.

Neither team has gone all in for these pseudo-playoff games. The results show it. The Blues shot over 20 percent in their loss on Thursday night against the Vegas Golden Knights. They still lost by two.

These are the Stanley Cup champions. Why should they put out the effort when the end result is a veritable dart board pick for a first round opponent. And no matter how you draw it up, there isn’t that much that separates the Chicago Blackhawks, Arizona Coyotes, Vancouver Canucks, or the Calgary Flames.

The round robin is as much about setting the team up for the first round of action as it is about winning. It’s about getting bodies ready and focused on the coming high stakes action. Winning would be nice, but it really doesn’t cost a team anything if they lose.

Reviewing the results, it turns out that teams that win with speed can do that out of the gate better than teams that play a bruising, grinding style.

The lower left “bad” quadrant shows two types of teams: eliminated, bad play-in round teams and grind it out round robin teams. The Boston Bruins and the Blues are in the same general round robin boat: under-performing, and headed for a seeding well below their regular season expectation.

Like the Stars, they both play a heavier game than their exhibition opponents. Bringing that level of physicality to these games just doesn’t make much sense. For Dallas, the concern is that the team hasn’t won a game since February - and maybe that they haven’t made it past the second round of the playoffs in recent memory.

The last two games have been painful to watch, but when Jamie Benn lays his first big hit in the first round of the “real” playoffs, then we’ll start to see this team’s capabilities. Don’t discount the ability of a team of veterans to just flip the switch.

Dallas Stars Lineup

Jamie Benn (14) - Tyler Seguin (91) - Alexander Radulov (47)
Mattias Janmark (13) - Joe Pavelski (16) - Denis Gurianov (34)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Radek Faksa (12) - Blake Comeau (15)
Roope Hintz (24) - Jason Dickinson (18) - Corey Perry (10)

Esa Lindell (23) - John Klingberg (3)
Jamie Oleksiak (2) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Andrej Sekera (5) - Stephen Johns (28)

Anton Khudobin (35) between the pipes until warmups prove us wrong.

St. Louis Blues Lineup

The Blues had a team meeting on Friday, and have upped the intensity of practice headed into Sunday’s game.

Jaden Schwartz (17) - Brayden Schenn (10) - Vladimir Tarasenko (91)
Zach Sanford (12) - Ryan O’Reilly (90) - David Perron (57)
Sammy Blais (9) - Tyler Bozak (21) - Robert Thomas (18)
Mackenzie MacEachern (28) - Oskar Sundqvist (70) - Alexander Steen (20)

Marco Scandella (6) - Alex Pietrangelo (27)
Justin Faulk (72) - Colton Parayko (55)
Vince Dunn (29) - Robert Bortuzzo (41)

Jake Allen (34)

Tarasenko and Thomas are both returning to the lineup after missing the team’s round robin game against the Vegas Golden Knights.

Keys to the Game

Intensity. Both teams have been catching heat for a lack of commitment to round robin games. Colton Parayko went so far as to say it.

The Stars probably have more to gain by upping the intensity, especially given their scoring woes and lineup ruffling. This may be the game where both teams start their playoff push.

No early deficits. Early goals have been problematic for Dallas all year. In both games in the round robin, the Stars have gone down early. Playing some time while ahead or even would be good for the team psyche, which could use a bit of a boost going into meaningful games.

Esa Lindell. Lindell has had a tough start to the playoffs. St. Louis runs a tough cycle game, and without Lindell at the top of his game, Dallas could get trapped in the defensive zone for extended minutes.