Saturday, October 22nd, 2011, 9:30 PM CDT
Opponent Blog: Jewels From The Crown
After proving they can be successful on home ice (4-0-0 to start the year at American Airlines Center) the Dallas Stars have taken to the road to show their hot start is not a fluke, and have not disappointed in winning their first two games of a four game trip out west.
Last night the Anaheim Ducks fell prey to timely goal scoring by Loui Eriksson and more brilliant net-minding by Kari Lehtonen as the Stars ran their record to a stellar 6-1-0 on the year, despite being out-shot 36-19. As the Stars ran their win streak to five, their new head coach was understated, as he's been throughout, about the win.
"I thought today was a little bit of a step forward as far as the way we want to play and what we need to do to put ourselves in position to have success," said Gulutzan. "It's a process and we're getting better and better, but we've still got a ways to go."
If winning the first of two on a big four game road swing is only a little step forward, then Stars fans are eager to see what they have planned coming up as the season really gets going in November and December.
The big question for Stars fans today is who will start in net tonight at Staples Center? Gulutzan hinted that Andrew Raycroft would see time in net on this trip and a back to back situation seems like the best opportunity to make that happen, but there's also Kari Lehtonen's 6-0 record and glimmering stats to consider? Will two days off after this one justify starting him yet again, or should his work load (a big topic of conversation this last summer) be kept within reason?
Either way, the Stars face the best team in the division right now and maybe in the conference in the Los Angeles Kings. Back to back, the Stars have a herculean task ahead of them tonight without (presumably) their MVP in net.
More after the jump...
Dallas will play it's second back to back contest of the young season tonight, hoping for a better effort than the 5-2 drubbing the Chicago Blackhawks gave them on opening weekend at the United Center.
Last night brought many of the matchup problems we expected and some we didn't see coming. Randy Carlyle, in an effort to kill his top line, ran them out there for over 25 minutes of ice time, and did against several Dallas Stars' combinations. The Ribeiro line saw many even strength faceoffs against them and the 4th line saw significant time defending them as well. The Ducks were desperate for any advantage the chess match could give them but ultimately failed to cash in when it mattered.
Glen Gulutzan moved Adam Burish to the "fourth line" with Jake Dowell and Krys Barch and as much as Carlyle tested them, it proved to be a master stroke. Burish helped keep that line clean when the Ducks got that mistmatch they wanted. Dallas rolled four lines all night long while Carlyle tried to get his top trio going and it paid off not only in the end of this one game, but could also pay dividends tomorrow on the second half of a back to back.
Components of the fourth line played as many as eleven minutes, and that's a luxury in this league if you can get away with it. Toby Petersen and Tom Wandell have fresh legs and are possibilities tonight.
On defense Mark Fistric availed himself magnificently, but will likely sit in favor of the fresh legs of Adam Pardy as Gulutzan tries to satisfy all parties and their need for ice time. Will Nystrom stay with Fiddler and Dvorak tonight?
However much praise one had for the Anaheim Ducks and their four game winning streak entering last night's contest, it goes double for the Los Angeles Kings. The Sharks have shown themselves to be inconsistent in the early going and the Kings must probably be considered the favorites at this point early in the game. Their defensive numbers and absurd goaltending stats back that up.
Consider the following: The Kings have gone 126:31 without surrendering a goal of any kind. The Kings have not surrendered an even strength goal in 11+ periods. 227 minutes, to be nearly exact. That is a staggering statistic that you'll not come across for seasons and seasons if you pay attention to this game long enough.
Consider also: In his last four games Quick has stopped 28, 27, 32, and 36 shots en route to a 0.976 save percentage. (123/126). For the entire year he's collected a 0.96 GAA and a .967 save percentage. He has shutouts in his last two starts and they've both come without Drew Doughty prowling
(and tripping over) the blue line.
To put it mildly, the Kings are stingy. Very, very stingy, and they've been sitting at home resting, waiting for the Stars.
Los Angeles has one of the best beat writers in the entirety of sports with Rich Hammond of LA Kings Insider. Here he tells us how great their PP is...
Don't look now, but the Kings have one of the top five power plays in the NHL right now. Entering tonight's games, the Kings are tied for fourth with a 26.1-percent success rate on the power play (Colorado leads at 29.2 percent). It's still very early, and it's worth noting that two of the Kings' six power-play goals have come via the unconventional 4-on-3 advantage, but Terry Murray said he's pleased with what he's seeing on the 5-on-4 attack as well...
For further reading on the kings, please consult this guide on their habits at home.