What's the perfect test for a Dallas Stars team that played flat and uninspired at home against the Bruins last night? How about having to fly to Chicago to face the team that beat them worse than any other opponent last year. After last night's debacle at American Airlines Center, the Stars must take on the Chicago Blackhawks less than 24 hours later on the road.
To say this will be a tough test is an understatement. Everything that Boston did well last night, Chicago has does better. They're fast, disciplined and don't allow a ton of shots. Their goaltending has been a bit suspect but lately it's started to come together.
So if there is one team for the Stars to come out and dominate, it's the Blackhawks right?
The Dallas Stars:
Not much else to say a day after last night, other than there's no where else to go but up.
The Stars have a tough, tough test tonight and all I'm looking for is effort. If the Stars lose after playing their asses off, then I can forgive a close loss. But any more low energy, 'let's just let them skate over us' games and things will start to get ugly.
The lauded Marc Crawford offense sputtered against the Bruins and failed to get any pressure up the middle or near the net. The Stars were never able to get any good chances near the net, instead settling for easy perimeter shots that were easily turned aside by Tim Thomas. With the Blackhawks allowing just 20 shots per game (best in the NHL), the Stars will need to make the most of any opportunity.
Alex Auld will be in net tonight for the Stars, and it will be interesting to see how the Stars respond to having a different goaltender behind them. Turco was far from bad last night, but he did not have his greatest games last season against Chicago. If Auld can keep the game close, I like the Stars to at least have a chance at the upset.
Dallas Stars Current Lines
James Neal - Brad Richards - Loui Eriksson
Brenden Morrow - Mike Ribeiro - Jamie Benn
Brian Sutherby - Aaron Gagnon- Toby Petersen
Krys Barch - Tom Wandell - Fabian Brunnstrom
Nicklas Grossman - Stephane Robidas
Karlis Skrastins - Trevor Daley
Jeff Woywitka - Matt Niskanen
Who knows how different the lines will be tonight, but this is what I would go for.
The Chicago Blackhawks:
From McClure at Second City Hockey:
The Hawks come into tonight's game in the midst of quite literally their best start of my lifetime, off to a 5-1-1 record for the first time since the 82-83 season. There are very few qualms with the way the skaters are playing at this point, though Cam Barker does need to shore up his defense quite a bit. Not only has he been careless with the puck, but he looks quite lead footed. Maybe the theory we had about him going through a pack of cowboy killers (Marlboro Reds to the uninformed) a day to give him his gravelly voice wasn't that far off base. Aside from that, as long as everyone else keeps up their game the way they have been outside of the first 10 minutes against Calgary, the Hawks should be able to dictate the pace to the Stars tonight.
The Stars come in tonight after a piss-poor effort against Boston in their own building last night. The 3-0 result in favor of the Bruins is not indicative of the play I observed, the Stars were lucky to have only given up three, and they barely got a sniff around Tim Thomas, even with Dennis Wideman sitting for the B's. One player who stood out for Dallas was rookie Jamie Benn. The youngster has gotten off to a good start with a goal and 4 helpers, playing at a +2 rate. He's got a lot of 2-way ability, displaying a willingness to back check consistently, and a quick release on his shot. Keep an eye out for him when watching tonight's tilt.
This is another eminently winnable game for the Hawks, who need to be taking advantage of the home-heavy schedule early on. If Dallas skates the way they did last night in their first loss tonight, the Hawks will skate them out of the building. But any team with Brenden Morrow and even an aging Mike Modano on it is fully capable of turning it around the next night.