How big was that one last night?
We've talked a lot lately about the Dallas Stars' preferred game plan. A speed game. A sprint. It's worked well against the Leafs and Penguins and been stymied by the Predators and the Devils of the world.
So when they set out last night to play a Phoenix team that is not as "shut-down" in style as it's been in the past, but still coached by Dave Tippett, you had to wonder if they'd be able to adapt and shut things down for a second game in a row after a shutout of Anaheim.
Kari Lehtonen said it best last night.
"We came out to play and put a lot of pucks on Smitty but he played really well and kind of kept them in it," he opined. "I felt that we were a lot better team the first two periods, but they are low scoring games usually against Phoenix."
It was classic Coyotes last night. Survive on the merits of their goaltending and defense, wait for the other team to make a mistake, and pounce. And did Valeri Nichushkin ever make a mistake last night that should horrify in the film room.
The Stars stayed hungry, earned a power play, and struck quickly enough to prevent Phoenix from putting up their wall. Smith's ever-wagging glove hand wasn't able to catch up to Antoine Roussel's bid in the third, and the script was flipped.
It was then Dallas' lead to protect- Something they have not done particularly well this year.
"I felt like the last 10 minutes we locked them down," Antoine Roussel said afterward. "We didn't give them much. We gave a couple chances still, but we tried to limit their chances and that worked well for us."
How big are these games?
With the win last night Dallas' chances of qualifying for the post-season, according to Sports Club Stats, combined with yet another Vancouver loss, went up 10.1% in a single night. If they find a way to beat the Sharks tonight it goes up nearly another 9%.
Those are big numbers. Of course it still puts them around a 50/50 shot, so we have to tap the brakes a little bit.
Consider this, however: Dallas needs to play .634 hockey the rest of the way to have a shot at a playoff spot or tie-breaker at the current point-percentage pace in the West of 92. Dallas is 6-3-2 since their six-game losing streak. Or, .636. So they know what they need to do. They're doing it right now.
Their ability to change and adapt will be tested tonight.The Stars and Coyotes barely squeezed out 60 shot attempts last night as Dave Tippett's finger prints were placed on the proceedings. The Sharks will do more. Much more. They attempted 100 (100!) shots against Ben Scrivens last week in his historic shutout, and if Dallas wants to get out and run, they'll be happy to oblige.
The Sharks were rolling in January, ripping off six straight to cap a 13-4-0 extended run, but have stumbled in a big way since losing four of five, all in regulation.
They've scored less than three in regulation in 10 of their last 14 games. For reasons why that doesn't seem to make any sense, let's look at their lineup:
Salty, but it looks as though Dallas will avoid Logan Couture (upper body) and Tomas Hertl (knee) tonight. Antti Niemi should be in the Sharks' net.
Puck drops on this one at... ugh, 9:30pm CST on Fox Sports Southwest PLUS.
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