NHL Western Conference semifinal preview


DALLAS STARS: 50-23-9, 109 points
ST LOUIS BLUES: 49-24-9, 107 points

How they got here: Dallas defeated Minnesota, 4-2. St. Louis defeated Chicago, 4-3;
Power play: Season — Stars 22.1% (5th); Blues 21.5% (6th). Playoffs —Stars 31.1% (9th); Blues 27.8% (4th).
Penalty killing: Season — Stars 82.3% (10th); Blues 85.1% (3rd). Playoffs — Stars 75% (12th); Blues 68.4% (15th).
Top scorers: Season — Stars, Jamie Benn 41-48—89; Blues, Vladimir Tarasenko 40-34—74. Playoffs — Stars, Benn 4-6—10; Blues, Jaden Schwartz 3-4—7.

Outlook: Wobbly defensive play prolonged the Stars’ first-round series but they can score, even without injured Tyler Seguin. Benn and Jason Spezza (four goals, nine points) lead the offense. Winger Patrick Sharp and defenseman Johnny Oduya, acquired for their championship pedigrees, have been good influences. The big, grinding Blues will try to wear down the Stars. Rookie defenseman Colton Parayko had a big impact in the Blues’ elimination of defending champion Chicago, and forward Robby Fabbri (one goal, five points) was a standout. Goalie Brian Elliott (2.40 goals-against average, .928 save percentage) was their backbone.

Helene Elliott’s pick: Blues’ defense, goaltending are more reliable. St. Louis in six.


SAN JOSE SHARKS: 46-30-6, 98 points
NASHVILLE PREDATORS: 41-27-14, 96 points
How they got here: San Jose defeated the Kings, 4-1; Nashville defeated the Ducks, 4-3.

Power play: Season — Sharks 22.6% (3rd); Predators 19.7% (10th). Playoffs — Sharks 23.8% (7th); Predators 3.8% (16th).
Penalty killing: Season — Sharks 80.5% (21st); Predators 81.2% (16th). Playoffs — Sharks 78.6% (9th); Predators 84% (6th).
Top scorers: Season — Sharks, Joe Thornton 19-63—82; Predators, Filip Forsberg 33-31—64. Playoffs — Sharks, Brent Burns 2-6—8; Predators, Shea Weber and Colin Wilson 2-3—5.

Outlook: The Sharks’ speed and depth carried them past the Kings and will be assets again. Forward Joe Pavelski (five goals, six points) was dominant and right wing Joonas Donskoi (two goals, three points) was a factor. Goalie Martin Jones (2.18, .912) faced a playoff-low average of 25 shots per game because his teammates blocked so many. The Predators grew up while beating the Ducks, winning three times on the road. Defensemen Weber and Roman Josi were exceptional. Goalie Pekka Rinne (2.45, .915) was cool under pressure.

Helene Elliott’s pick: The Sharks are well-rested but the Predators’ goaltending and defense are better. Nashville in seven.

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