Perhaps a bit overlooked in the relief that was the Dallas Stars victory over the Ottawa Senators on Monday evening was the fact that this was a team that the Stars should beat. And they went out and did just that. Not that it showed on the scoresheet, but they did it in a dominant way, from first puck drop to a pulled netminder.
Perhaps the shock of a season on the brink of unforeseen collapse put them on their toes, hiding past issues, but Stars teams of the past have been known for losing games just like the one on Monday.
After a 3-7-1 start, Dallas is in no position to take any opponent lightly. The Anaheim Ducks come into American Airlines Center on a two-game losing streak, which has come on the tail end of a 6-2 start. Regression to the mean happens both ways, and moving downward towards .500 isn’t that surprising for a team that has embraced a pretty comprehensive rebuild.
Scattered throughout the Ducks lineup are players who spent time last year both with the NHL franchise and with their AHL affiliate, the San Diego Gulls. That Gulls team had talent, losing in the Western Conference of the Calder Cup finals. Coaching this squad is Dallas Eakins, the man who led the Gulls for four years until he was brought in on June 17, 2019 to man the bench for the Ducks.
This is a Ducks team that the Stars should be able to beat, but there is talent scattered through the lineup. The standings don’t leave much margin for error for the Stars. Dallas needs to hit the ice ready to play.
With a new coach and a significant number of newly minted NHL players, the Ducks are also implementing a different playing style. Gone are the days of Randy Carlyle and consolidated breakouts from the defensive zone. These Ducks play fast and look to stretch the ice.
A handful of players remain from the Ducks’ days as a perennial playoff team. The most recognizable, Ryan Getzlaf, still nominally centers Anaheim’s top line, with Ondrej Kase on his right wing. Left wing on the top line has been a revolving door, most recently with 20-year-old rookie Max Comtois filling the spot.
The Ducks’ true top line might actually be their second, where Adam Henrique centers Rickard Rakell and Jakob Silfverberg. This line is responsible for over 50% of the Ducks’ scoring and most of their dangerous chances. This is a veteran group, and to date, they have performed like a line made up of professionals who know that they need to drive play.
The third and fourth lines are a mixture of prospects and borderline AHL/NHL veterans. Ex-Star Devin Shore has been up and down the lineup, as has Brett Ritchie’s brother, Nick. Both have settled into a role where they fill in as needed.
On defense, the Ducks have slowly lost their depth. Hampus Lindholm is their best two-way defender and has settled into a pairing with Josh Manson. Depending on who you ask, Cam Fowler is either a reliable first pairing guy or an overpaid bust who is signed through 2026. Brendan Guhle was getting time with Fowler until a lower body injury put him on injured reserve. Guhle is back with the team, which could push Michael Del Zotto back to a more reasonable spot down the lineup.
Backstopping all of this are John Gibson and Ryan Miller, both of whom are reliable to spectacular.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jamie Benn (14) - Roope Hintz (24) - Corey Perry (10)
Jason Dickinson (18) - Tyler Seguin (91) - Joe Pavelski (16)
Mattias Janmark (13) - Radek Faksa (12) - Alexander Radulov (47)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Justin Dowling (37) - Denis Gurianov (34)
Esa Lindell (23) - John Klingberg (3)
Miro Heiskanen (4) - Andrej Sekera (5)
Jamie Oleksiak (2) - Taylor Fedun (42)
Ben Bishop (30)
Anaheim Ducks Lineup
Maxime Comtois (53) - Ryan Getzlaf (15) - Ondrej Kase (25)
Rickard Rakell (67) - Adam Henrique (14) - Jakob Silfverberg (33)
Devin Shore (29) - Sam Steel (34) - Troy Terry (61)
Nick Ritchie (37) - Derek Grant (38) - Carter Rowney (24)
Hampus Lindholm (47) - Josh Manson (42)
Michael Del Zotto (44) - Cam Fowler (4)
Jacob Larsson (32) - Korbinian Holzer (5)
John Gibson (36)
Keys to the Game
Defensive structure. The Ducks will try to push the pace, but if the Stars maintain their structure, this will lead to solid counter-attack opportunities.
Finishing. Last year, Seguin spent the first month hitting pipes and crossbars. This year, the entire team has embraced the trend. Dallas will get their chances, but the Ducks are too solid in net for the Stars to win despite continuing to hit metal.
Against Ottawa, Dallas took a lead and continued to push the puck towards the Senators’ net. Playing against another team not expected to contend this year, the Stars should capitalize early and press their advantage.
Did you know?
This is the first game against the Anaheim Ducks in Victory Green for both Corey Perry and Andrew Cogliano.