The way that the Dallas Stars played in the third period on Tuesday night against the Minnesota Wild is the way that Stars fans expected and hoped that the team would play from the beginning of the year. Not to beat a dead horse, but what makes the last 21 minutes stand out is how utterly different it was from everything that preceded it.
This is what makes today’s game in Denver such a must-see game. The Stars were at rock bottom, being shut out by an inferior team, and seemingly unconcerned. A mildly psychotic Alexander Radulov pulled the team out of its lethargy, but was this a temporary awakening or does it portend a new beginning?
That question stands on its own.
Drop the puck already.
The Colorado Avalanche have their own question marks coming into the game. Nathan MacKinnon is all that remains of their lethal top line, creating a “next line up” situation. This leaves the team that has been icing two formidable scoring lines instead with a makeshift top line and a completely untested fourth line.
The offense is going to have to come from somewhere. The Avalanche have won one game where they have scored less than four goals, and with Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog on injured reserve, there isn’t the depth of scoring available for a team that has come to depend on it.
A potent offensive team is suddenly vulnerable, and an energetic Stars team could be in position to take advantage of the situation.
Defensively, Colorado has puck handlers and defensive defenders, and they situationally mix and match. Cale Makar is the new bright thing to watch, and with nine assists on the season, a significant part of the offense runs through him.
In goal, both Philipp Grubauer and Pavel Francouz have been good, but not spectacular.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jamie Benn (14) - Tyler Seguin (91) - Alexander Radulov (47)
Denis Gurianov (34) - Roope Hintz (24) - Joe Pavelski (16)
Mattias Janmark (13) - Jason Dickinson (18) - Corey Perry (10)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Radek Faksa (12) - Nicholas Caamano (17)
Esa Lindell (23) - John Klingberg (3)
Jamie Oleksiak (2) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Joel Hanley (39) - Taylor Fedun (42)
Anton Khudobin (35)
Colorado Avalanche Lineup
Nazem Kadri (91) - Nathan MacKinnon (29) - Joonas Donskoi (72)
Andre Burakovsky (95) - J.T. Compher (37) - Tyson Jost (17)
Matt Nieto (83) - Pierre-Edouard Bellemare (41) - Matt Calvert (11)
Valeri Nichushkin (13) - Vladislav Kamenev (81) - Jayson Megna (12)
Samuel Girard (49) - Erik Johnson (6)
Ian Cole (28) - Cale Makar (8)
Mark Barberio (44) - Ryan Graves (27)
Philipp Grubauer (31)
Keys to the Game
The Stars need to show that they can maintain the intensity and focus from Tuesday’s third period into the next game.
If adversity hits, don’t revert to form.
John Klingberg didn’t hit the scoresheet against Minnesota, but he looked like the Klingberg of old with the puck on his stick. When the Stars are playing well, the offense goes through Klingberg and his feeds open up lanes.
Don’t curse the team by mentioning Valeri Nichushkin and his no-goal streak.... Doh!
Did you know?
After 14 games last year, the Stars were 8-5-1 and lost three of their next four games, leaving them 9-7-2 with 20 points after 18 games. This year’s team is 5-8-1, and if they flip last year’s results for the next four games, they will be 8-9-1, with 17 points after the same number of games.
Dallas is in a hole, but it isn’t that deep a hole. Fourteen points in the next 11 games puts this team on the same pace as last year’s team.