The St. Louis Blues had the worst record in the league and going nowhere on Jan. 1.
They fired head coach Mike Yeo after a 7-9-3 start on Nov. 20 and were treading water at 15-18-4 by New Year’s Day.
The team was 8-9-1 under interim coach Craig Berube before something clicked in the new year. They finished the regular season 30-10-5 before beating the Winnipeg Jets in the first round in six games.
Through the first 37 games, the Blues had 102 goals and had allowed 123. In the final 45 games? They’ve scored 145 and allowed 100.
The Stars went 3-1 against them and all four games came since the turnaround. Dallas coach Jim Montgomery sees a lot of similarities between the two teams.
“We have to fight for every inch of ice against them. They defend really well,” Montgomery said before the team left for St. Louis Wednesday afternoon. “They’re almost mirror images of how we play.”
Both teams guard the net exceedingly well. The only goalie during the regular season with a better goals against average than the Stars’ Ben Bishop (1.98) is the Blues’ rookie Jordan Binnington (1.89). Bishop led the league with a .934 save percentage but Binnington wasn’t far behind at .927.
“Getting to their net front is not an easy task. Binnington has been superb for them but the people in front of him make his job real easy,” he said. “We can’t let allow those guys to break our net front, the offensive forwards especially.”
Alex Pietrangelo leads the Blues with six points in the playoffs. Jaden Schwartz has five points, including a team-high four goals. Center Ryan O’Reilly led St. Louis with 77 points and Vladimir Tarasenko led with 33 goals in the regular season.
“They’ve got a lot of good guys who can score goals, they’re very good defensively,” Tyler Seguin said. “They’ve been the hottest team in the NHL since January. Lots of challenges, they’re really good.”
Montgomery said his team got a wake-up call the second time the teams met on Jan. 12 at American Airlines Center. The Blues came out and scored two goals in the first period, including Tarasenko’s goal 34 seconds into the game. St. Louis won 3-1 and they had Dallas’ attention.
“That was the first time we were like ‘wow, they’re at another level,’” he said, “They were at another level and we were lucky to be hanging on because of their goal-tending in that game. “And then we caught up to that speed. I thought that helped us get better significantly that game as far as the intensity and work ethic we needed to compete against a high-end playoff team.”