There's no doubting the game against Colorado on Friday night was a fun one. For the fans in the stands and at home it was a crazy, nerve-wracking game that featured some of the most insane hockey I've ever seen in a single Stars game.
One thing that was discouraging, however, is that despite all of the talk leading up to the game about the Stars not getting caught up in the run and gun aspect of the Avalanche, that's exactly what happened. Luckily, the Stars were facing a goaltender equally as putrid as Kari Lehtonen was that game and were able to come out on top. That's not always going to be the case, especially against fast and skilled opponents.
The Stars, once again, are going to be challenged to stick within their system while facing an insanely talented team. The Washington Capitals lead the NHL in scoring and goal differential and feature two of the most dynamic forwards int he NHL in Nicklas Backstrom and Alex Ovechkin. They also have great goaltending and team defense and will instantly make a team pay if mistakes are made.
Which is why the Stars must stay disciplined, in more than one way. Stay within the system and the game plan drawn up by Gulutzan and stay out of that durned penalty box.
The Stars currently rank 27th in the NHL, averaging 15.6 PIM per game. Conversely, the Capitals are leading the NHL with just 9.0 PIM per game. The Capitals also have one of the most dangerous power plays, while the Stars have steadily been improving in that regard over the past few games.
The point, however, isn't to point out that putting a team like the Capitals on the power play is a bad thing. Obviously, it's not a smart decision to make.
Instead, the point is to try to keep out of the penalty box because doing so takes away the biggest strength of this team: 5-on-5 scoring opportunities and goal differential. The Stars are 5th in the NHL is even strength goals-for and against ratio (the Capitals, of course, are 1st) and have proven that when they can roll out four lines throughout the game they are a very dangerous team.
It's when that momentum is halted because of penalties or even worse, taking a penalty during a power play, that the Stars begin to struggle. Luckily the Stars have found a penalty kill that has found a groove so far this season to cover up some of those warts, but continuing to take 15 minutes worth of penalties each game is going to be a recipe for disaster against such a talented team like the Capitals.