The Blues vs Stars series has been tightly contested so far, with only Game 2 decided by more than a goal (asterisk, empty-netter). Despite their efforts, it’s the Stars who now stare down a 2-1 series deficit. Head coach, Jim Montgomery, praised his team after Game 3, despite the loss. “It was a great playoff game,” said Montgomery. “It was back and forth, both teams were giving what they had.” The Stars coach was also quick to point out what has been his team’s weakness so far in this series: puck possession.
Looking back at the first three games, Montgomery is spot on. Not only have the Stars never had more offensive zone possession time than the Blues in a game, it hasn’t even been close.
This isn’t just a bunch skating around by St. Louis. The Blues have turned up the pressure on the Stars and have scored seven of their nine goals after cycling the puck and/or putting on a heavy forecheck. Only twice did they score off the rush, spending less than five seconds in the offensive zone before beating Ben Bishop. They’ve also done a good job of getting traffic in front of Bishop with 30 screened shot attempts in 3 games compared to19 by the Stars. The Blues scored on 3 of those attempts and have also scored twice on deflections.
All of this isn’t surprising, as the Blues averaged the second-highest offensive zone possession time in the NHL this season while also finishing top 10 in both cycle and forechecking scoring chances. Montgomery has made it clear he’s very much aware of the problem, so it will be interesting to see what adjustments he has up his sleeve for Game 4.