Can Blues' Tarasenko bust out vs. Stars?
On the heels of their first victory in second-round action since 2002, the Blues hope to keep the momentum going in tonight’s pivotal Game 3 against the Stars.
Host St. Louis and Dallas drop the puck at 9:30 p.m. ET in a series that feels as evenly matched as any semifinal matchup. Handicappers at online sports book Bovada.lv seem to be on the same page, even though Ken Hitchcock’s club receives odds of -145 to assume the driver’s seat this evening. The Stars represent +125 underdogs entering the festivities at Scottrade Center.
The Note prevailed on Sunday afternoon, 4-3, behind David Backes’ goal with 9:02 left in overtime. It marked the captain’s eighth career playoff tally. While Backes’ contributions remain unwavering, however, Hitchcock needs more out of Vladimir Tarasenko. Despite receiving additional shifts, the All-Star hardly resembles the individual who potted 40 goals during the regular season.
Dallas could use a little extra punch from its premier offensive performer, too. Jamie Benn continues to be blanketed by St. Louis defensemen Alex Pietrangelo and Jay Bouwmeester on a consistent basis. With no Tyler Seguin (Achilles) to whom to turn, the Stars are still searching for secondary scoring options up front.
We’re interested to see how coach Lindy Ruff handles his situation in net in a few hours. Kari Lehtonen was benched after a horrendous start to Game 2, and Antti Niemi filled in capably. Expect another largely conservative bout – unless the Blues’ main line of Tarasenko, Jaden Schwartz and Jori Lehtera suddenly finds that patented rhythm.
TUESDAY NHL FREE PICK: STARS/BLUES UNDER 5 GOALS