Robert Tiffin from DefendingBigD.com was kind enough to answer some questions before the series starts tonight. Some interesting points from behind enemy lines.
What a crazy opening round we have had so far. It seems as if the field is wide open. How excited is Big D?
It’s been a great vibe in Dallas. In a way, the energy is even stronger than three years ago when they came in as the top seed in the West. Maybe it’s the underdog mentality a bit (though Dallas isn’t much of one compared to the field), but it also has a lot to do with the situation. With the team struggling earlier in the season, they’ve built a lot of positive momentum in the second half and now, through the first round. Combine that with a couple of impressive wins at home against a rival like Nashville, and you have a lot of smiles in Dallas.
The first line carried you through the first round. Is this something that has to happen for you to get past the Blues?
I think this is true for every team, to a point. If you’re not getting production from your top guys, you’re probably not advancing, period. But Dallas also got half of their goals from names like Blake Comeau, Jason Dickinson, Roope Hintz, Mats Zuccarello, and Miro Heiskanen. This team isn’t the one-line threat they used to be, but they still do have one of the best top lines in the game. If St. Louis can shut down Dallas’s top line, odds are they’ll have found out a way to shut down most of the lineup as well.
The Blues are a different beast since January, but the Stars have been a difficult team for the Blues to handle. Do you expect that to continue and for this to be a more manageable series than Nashville?
I expect this series to be much tougher for Dallas than Nashville. The Blues are a deeper team than the Predators, they have a similar mentality as Dallas after struggling even more for the first half of the season, and they’ve got all the underlying numbers that say they can drive play and win battles consistently. The two teams in the West I was nervous about Dallas facing were Vegas and St. Louis, so here we are. This is what it’s all about, right?
Any under-the-radar players for Blues fans to look out for?
Miro Heiskanen is an obvious answer, but he’s pretty well-known by this point in the season, as you’d expect by someone playing top minutes in the playoffs at 19 years old. Roope Hintz is another sneaky-good rookie, a second-round pick whose speed and size can surprise even elite players. If the Stars can get contributions from players like Hintz, Jason Dickinson, and veterans like Andrew Cogliano and Jason Spezza, Dallas should be able to claw four wins out of this series.
In the past, the goaltending let the Stars down in the playoffs. That seems instead solved with Bishop in the net. What didn’t come together throughout the year that led to the Stars being a Wildcard team?
By many accounts from Jim Montgomery, the Stars changed their identity to that of a defensive, checking squad around the All-Star break. It’s debatable how much improved, but the reality is that the team got otherworldly goaltending from Ben Bishop down the stretch, and that helped cover up for the scoring issues that plagued the team all season. As the Blues know all too well, it’s incredible how much belief shows up in the room when the goaltending is saving your bacon.
That confidence can have a ripple effect throughout the lineup, which leads to players buying into the coaches’ system and having a more structured game up and down the lineup. Dallas still allows a bit more shots than you’d like, but they defend the slot exceedingly well, and that can help you draw even at 5v5 when your goaltending is outstanding. It’s cliché, but things really might come down to special teams in this one. At least, that’s probably what the Stars hope.
It’s going to be a fun series. How many games will it take the Blues to win this in?
I think the Blues can easily win this series in eight or nine games. So long as it goes that far, they’ve got this in the bag, easy.
Well, we will see. Blues-Dallas Tonight
Follow along to see what the other side is saying at DefendingBigD’s website
Their twitter handle is @DefendingBigD