After a game in which the San Jose Sharks looked very much like a team that had just finished a seven game slug fest and the Colorado Avalanche looked very much like a team that had just sat on their collective butts for a week, it may behoove us to glance over to the Central division, and hope they take as long as possible. The Sharks look like they could really use a few days off, but with no such respite on the horizon, our next best bet is to watch the Blues and Stars just beat the tar out of each other.
With only one game scheduled for tonight, you may even have time to ... uh ... spend with your family, I guess? Do people even do that in April?
What’s on tap
St. Louis Blues at Dallas Stars Game 3 (Series tied 1-1)
5 p.m. PT/8 p.m. ET on NBCSN, SN, TVAS
The Blues have yet to lose a game on the road this postseason, a trend they’d be eager to continue tonight, but the Stars seem to have other plans. Blues head coach Craig Berube did some last minute mixing and matching this morning to try to coax some extra offense out of his top six, moving the red-hot Jaden Schwartz up to the top line with Ryan O’Reilly and Vladimir Tarasenko, moving David Perron to the second line, where he’s swapped Oskar Sundqvist and Brayden Schenn, and subbing Robert Bortuzzo into the blue line in place of Joel Edmundson.
As for the Stars, they’ll need to focus more on keeping the game at even strength, and less on Ben Bishop’s league-leading (among playoff goalies with more than one start) .966 penalty kill save percentage. Dallas has taken 12 minor penalties in the first two games of this series, not an ideal recipe for long term success. If they can keep the game at evens at home (and if the top line of Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov, and Jamie Benn can manage more than zero shots on goal in the first 40 minutes), they may be able to pull ahead in the series, and give the year of the wild card a welcome dash of victory green.
Roope Hintz: Pronounced ROO-pay. Every deep playoff run has its share of depth players getting hot at the right time, and for Dallas, that’s Hintz. With two more goals and an assist in Game 2, Hintz leads all rookies in the playoffs with seven points and has established some dangerous chemistry with linemates Jason Dickinson and Mats Zuccarello.
Jordan Binnington: St. Louis’ brand new, shiny, temporary Jake Allen replacement has had a heck of a season, and while his playoff numbers aren’t as sparkly as his regular season figures, Binnington’s Calder nomination this week sets him above the crowd. Against as stifling a defensive team as Dallas, the Blues will go as far as Binnington can take them, and he’ll have to be at his best on the road tonight.
The Blues may be the best team left in the West on paper, after the cruel apparent randomness of the first round’s exits, and the Stars’ success may lead future owners to swear more, which is something we could all use in our lives. Blues-Stars it is, because otherwise we’d just stare at the wall trying to avoid Endgame spoilers until bedtime.