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Stars Continue Western Canada Trip in Calgary Tonight

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The Stars hope their winning road trend continues. Points, any points, would be huge in last test against a consensus playoff team (at least before the playoffs).

NHL: Dallas Stars at Calgary Flames
David Rittich gives up the OT gamewinner, pre-stick break. Rittich looks centered, and f he’s not in frame, how could Jamie Benn have interfered?
Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports

If there was a sudden gust of wind over the Metroplex on Monday night, it was likely caused by the collective sigh of relief from Dallas Stars fans as they realized that this is the 2019 version of the team and not the 2018 version. The Stars didn’t fold against Winnipeg. Instead, they came out with an inspired first period that culminated in a five-goal outburst in the game’s final 30 minutes.

After a disappointing 1-3-1 homestand, this win was huge.

Overlooked, perhaps because of that record, is a significant improvement in play by the Stars. Based on multiple models of expected goals, the Dallas easily could have won all five games during the homestand. In fact, according to Moneypuck.com, the Stars have only lost the xG battle twice in the month of March.

Quality Scoring Chances have also been heavily slanted toward Dallas.

Head coach Jim Montgomery has been adamant that he likes how the team is playing, sometimes in the face of results, and there is significant data to back him up. In a chaotic sport like hockey, sometimes it’s not just the players that need to trust the system.

That is the glass half full story.

The glass half empty story looks at the number of quality chances that the Jets had against Ben Bishop. Sure, the Stars dominated in the flow of play. Without a few key saves during the first half of the game, however, the narrative for this one could easily have been more of the same. The Stars give up first goal, play catchup, and lose because of Miro Heiskanen’s uncanny ability to find the shaft of Mark Scheifele’s stick. Thank goodness that wasn’t the case.

Sometimes the simple story is the best. Great win. On to the next one.

A regulation loss against the Flames is the only thing that hurts the Stars playoff possibilities.

The Stars continue their trip through western Canada tonight against the Calgary Flames. So far this season, the Stars have had success against the Flames, winning a 4-3 overtime thriller in November, followed by a 2-0 whitewash in December. In both games, Dallas was able to get on the board first — in the first period in fact.

David Rittich has been in net for both losses, although he has been option 1B of late in favor of Mike Smith. Rittich’s numbers have been slightly better over the year, and with the first seed in the Pacific Division all but wrapped up, Smith’s starts likely are meant to keep Rittich healthy and not a reflection on who will be the ultimate playoff starter.

Offense is where the Flames make their living. The team sports three young 30-plus goal scorers. Johnny Gaudreau is the elder statesman at 25 years of age. Calgary spreads the wealth through its top three lines, with Matthew Tkachuk at left wing on the second line and Sean Monahan centering the third line.

In many ways, the Flames are a mirror image of the Stars. Calgary relies on shot volume (53.8 shots for percentage) and a high shooting percentage (8.1 at 5x5) to outscore their opponents. Dallas relies on limiting high-danger scoring changes, combined with goaltending that suppresses high-danger conversion percentages. This leads to a league leading, minuscule, 41 high-danger goals against.

On the injury front, there is nothing new for the Stars. Fourth line winger Sam Bennett, the team’s penalty minute leader, is day-to-day for the Flames.

Both teams are playing well. Dallas is looking to reel in a playoff spot and Calgary want to avoid a season sweep, while locking in a number one seed.

Dallas and Calgary are both sitting near season highs with their expected goals rolling averages. Should make for some high quality hockey.

Dallas Stars Lineup

Lineup has been updated after morning skate.

Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Jason Dickinson
Mattias Janmark - Roope Hintz - Alexander Radulov
Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Valeri Nichushkin - Justin Dowling - Jason Spezza

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Jamie Oleksiak - Ben Lovejoy

Ben Bishop

Calgary Flames Lineup

Johnny Gaudreau - Derek Ryan - Michael Frolik
Matthew Tkachuk - Mikael Backlund - Elias Lindholm
James Neal - Sean Monahan - Austin Czarnik
Andrew Mangiapane - Mark Jankowski - Garnet Hathaway

Mark Giordano - T.J. Brodie
Noah Hanifin - Travis Hamonic
Oscar Fantenberg - Rasmus Andersson

David Rittich

Keys to the Game

  • The game showcases contrasting styles. The Stars hope to speed up the game for the Flames defenders with a relentless forecheck. If that defense can stay ahead of the forecheck, that will lead to clean zone exits, playing into Calgary’s speed game and odd man rushes by the forward group. If the Stars have to chase the puck, it will be a long night.
  • Dallas has been generating high-danger scoring chances. Against Winnipeg, they finished. During the 1-3-1 homestand, they did not. Sometimes it just comes down to taking advantage of your opportunities.
  • Goaltending. Dallas has been riding Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin all year. The Stars’ pair of netminders are better than the Flames’, and if that stays constant, Dallas has a good chance to win.

Did you know?

Stars point leader Tyler Seguin (31 goals, 42 assists, 73 points) would be fifth in scoring on the Flames.