The Dallas Stars were shutout for the third time this season on Tuesday night. That was at the end of a stretch of seven goals in the last 360 minutes of regulation time. Somehow, after the showing against the Tampa Bay Lightning, it doesn’t feel quite as bad as it should.
Turns out that the Stars still have a little kick in them. The Lightning are running away with the Presidents’ Trophy race, but Dallas had them on their heels for much of the game. Even-strength shot charts looked decent, especially compared to what they gave up.
It may be a moral victory, but a moral victory is worth the same in the standings as the two previous bad losses. No points.
Over the holiday season, the Stars created some distance between themselves and the rest of the teams in the playoff race. With the recent 1-4-0 stretch, that buffer is now gone.
Playoff chances, West and East.— Micah Blake McCurdy (@IneffectiveMath) January 16, 2019
East is already suitably messy and if the Penguins wanted to lose a handful of games and drop into the mix that'd be grand, thanks. pic.twitter.com/bLHJa1SF6k
Colorado, Minnesota, and Dallas are all fighting for two Central Division slots, with St. Louis potentially returning to relevancy.
In spite of blue line injuries, scoring droughts, “horsesh*t” players, and a regular sh*t power play, the Stars still find themselves in a playoff position.
Enter the Los Angeles Kings for their second and final visit to American Airlines Center of the year. The 4-2 win on October 23 went to form for the Stars. Ben Bishop stood on his head net. A dominant three-goal second period was followed by some unimpressive turtling in the third.
Five years ago, the Kings lifted the Stanley Cup. This year’s team has quite a few holdovers from that roster, but that team’s defensive style of being hard on the puck has not aged well, not on the ice and not against the salary cap. The Kings are bad this year, and a quick look at CapFriendly shows few options for making things better.
The Kings are last in the league in scoring and bottom three in both power play and penalty kill. Their top scorer, Anze Kopitar, has 13 goals. Of their three other double digit scorers, only one is under 30 years of age.
Defensively, Los Angeles has some size and some skill. Drew Doughty is on the ice for more than 26 minutes per game and still plays a solid two-way game. Jake Muzzin can drive some offense off of the second pair, but expect the rest of the blue line to be better at clearing creases than they are at zone exits.
Jonathan Quick may not be in the Vezina Trophy discussion anymore, but he he still puts up solid professional numbers. Former Star Jack Campbell has solidified himself as a backup goaltender, with a solid 2.21 goals against average and a .930 save percentage over 15 games.
Los Angeles Kings Lineup
Dustin Brown - Anze Kopitar - Carl Hagelin
Alex Iafallo - Jeff Carter - Brendan Leipsic
Ilya Kovalchuk - Adrian Kempe - Tyler Toffoli
Kyle Clifford - Nate Thompson - Matt Luff
Derek Forbort - Drew Doughty
Jake Muzzin - Alec Martinez
Oscar Fantenberg - Dion Phaneuf
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Andrew Cogliano - Jason Dickinson - Jason Spezza
Blake Comeau - Radek Faksa - Tyler Pitlick
Mattias Janmark - Roope Hintz - Brett Ritchie
Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Connor Carrick - Taylor Fedun
Keys to the Game
- Keep skating. The Stars have a speed and skill advantage against the Kings. For once, a slow-down game is not to their advantage.
- The neutral zone. Look for the Kings to trap the center of the ice. A sloppy passing game will feed the counterattack. Exit with pace, but don’t force passes.
- A little puck luck. Remember the last time that the Stars got a good break at an important time in a game? Neither do I. Time for a centering pass to catch a defenders skate.
Did you know? The Kings will be paying Mike Richards, whose contract was terminated in 2015, through the 2031-2032 season. That includes a combined cap hit of over 1.5 million dollars for the current year and although it diminishes over the years, a cap hit remains until most of the current Stars roster, except perhaps Miro Heiskanen, has retired.