Badly out-chanced and out-shot in the lion's share of their first four games, the Dallas Stars are looking for a signature performance upon which to build moving forward. The 5-0-0 Colorado Avalanche and their +14 goal differential present an opportunity to do just that tonight.
Stars head coach Lindy Ruff feels Minnesota's fast start Saturday night knocked his team off its game-plan.
"I thought forechecking-wise with routes and responsibilities, we started playing a little bit of pond hockey," Ruff opined of Saturday night. "It got away from us, and we didn't create a lot, and we ended up giving up too much."
The Avalanche, predicted by many to be among the division and conference worst, have collected 10 points already in the opening days where only slightly over 90 may be needed to qualify for the post-season. It's a luxury few earn, and one that will have the Stars chasing from the onset.
Colorado's goal total is impressive and many speak of their speed and attack, but it's the defensive end and goaltending that have been truly remarkable, surrendering 1, 1, 1, 0, and 1 goals through the five games. More impressively still- The shutout was in Boston.
They also boast a 2.50 5-on-5 GF/GA ratio, compared to just 0.83 for Dallas.
This one is the second in a string of 12 of 17 games on the road for the Stars, and will be seen on Fox Sports Southwest at 8:00pm tonight.
Dallas is expected to go with the exact same lineup:
"I think I want to show some patience," Ruff told media yesterday. "It's easy to want to blow it up after one or two games, but we're sitting there at 2-2 and to a man everyone knows we didn't play well, and to a man, everyone wants an opportunity to make amends for what happened."
So there's an element of trust there. He won't change anything. It's up to them to change what happened - And without Kari Lehtonen.
Though placed on injured reserve, the net-minder worked out on-ice today and said he felt better than after similar incidents earlier in his career. He figures to be back for the Stars' Saturday night tilt against the Kings, but Dallas will have to deal with the hottest clubs in the league in San Jose and Colorado in the mean time.
From Stars PR: "The Stars face off against the Colorado Avalanche on Tuesday in Denver in the first of five meetings scheduled between the two clubs this season. Captain JAMIE BENN shared the club lead last season with six points (2-4=6) in three contests against the Avalanche. The Stars enter Tuesday's contest having won two of the last three games at Pepsi Center."
Special teams have been a big part of what the Avalanche have accomplished in the early going. They're +5 on special teams goals including a short-handed tally and zero power play goals against. They put themselves on the kill just 2.4 times a game while converting on over 20% of their power play opportunities.
At home the Avs have been on the man advantage six more minutes than on the penalty kill - One of the league's better numbers in the young season. Staying out of the box is a must.
From the Denver Post, suggesting that their 5-0 start might not be as infallible as it seems...
For one thing: shots against. The Avs are allowing an average of 34.2 shots per game, ranking 26th in the NHL. They are averaging 31.2 shots of their own. That statistic is probably deceiving because the Avs have led most of the time and usually the team with a lead tends to play cautiously.
Faceoffs could be better too, with the Avs ranked 17th in the league at 49.4 percent. Those two statistics point to one thing: The Avs need to have the puck more, instead of the other guys.
The good news? The Avs are still winning and feel like they will improve in the problem areas. [Denver Post]
The Avs' speed is causing problems for the the opposition but it does leave them open to counter-attack. Their 34.2 shots against per game is among the league's worst. Their perfect penalty kill perfection will come to an end, as well as their .985 team save percentage.
So there are some opportunities to be had and some unsustainable trends that must end, but the Stars must do the work and earn those bounces and chances.