If nothing else, the last two games from the Dallas Stars are indicative of the tightrope that the team is walking and the slim margin for error that it faces each night.
Against the Minnesota Wild, Dallas received goaltending that was just slightly less than the excellence that fans have come to expect. Ben Bishop gave up a few goals that are usually saves, and what looked like a victory early on turned into a gut-wrenching defeat.
Twenty-four hours later, with a missing Alexander Radulov, that same team fought back against the reigning Stanley Cup champions — the St. Louis Blues — to pull out the full two points after going down two goals early thanks to Colton Parayko.
I suppose if you’re going to split games and points, that’s not too bad an outcome.
Along the way, fans learned that Roope Hintz won’t give up the team scoring lead without a fight. We’ve also seen that Corey Perry can get the puck to scoring positions, regardless of whether it’s via the pass or a fumble.
John Klingberg is back running the first power play. The reports of the demise of Joe Pavelski may be a bit premature, and Jamie Benn continues to lead by example. Stephen Johns is looking more and more like the trade deadline pickup that Dallas needs, and hopefully keeps the team from further mortgaging their future for a costly, but mediocre offensive savior.
Finally, if both teams are settling in for five minutes of low event hockey so that they can each pull in at least one point, it might make sense to do that in the offensive zone. Fluke goals happen, and they mostly happen to the team that turtles.
The Carolina Hurricanes come into Dallas tonight for their final game of a four-game western road trip. For the last few years, this team has developed a reputation as a quality advance statistics darling. They shoot in bunches and control the game from their offensive zone.
Along the way, the results haven’t quite lived up to the hype — if you look at this year’s standings, they are a borderline playoff team, though admittedly in a stacked Metropolitan Division. If nothing else, they play a fun brand of hockey and have created a unique atmosphere as a small market, southern team.
A few things stand out in looking at the Hurricane’s play to date. First off, the team is pretty reliant on their top offensive producers. They aren’t necessarily dependent on a top line, but head coach Rod Brind’Amour has put the offense through a bit of a line blender of late to try to coax out a more consistent threat.
Andrei Svechnikov, the 2018 second overall draft pick, has improved in his sophomore season, even after a superb first year. Recently, he’s getting time as left wing on the top line alongside Sebastian Aho. The Hurricanes’ second line has been disappointing, which is likely a primary cause for their position on the playoff bubble.
Justin Williams is back for the push to the postseason, having signed a 35-plus contract in January.
Carolina has been extremely healthy throughout the year, but lost key defender Dougie Hamilton to a broken left leg in mid-January. Since that time, the team hasn’t been settled in the defensive zone. The Hurricanes can still outscore their problems, but having Hamilton out exposes Jake Gardiner’s defensive flaws and leaves Carolina with depth issues on the blue line.
Petr Mrazek and James Reimer have been solid, but not spectacular in net. Mrazek is getting slightly more starts, but Reimer’s numbers have been slightly better with less usage.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Joe Pavelski is a game time decision, but Alexander Radulov is expected to draw back in.
Jamie Benn (14) - Jason Dickinson (18) - Denis Gurianov (34)
Roope Hintz (24) - Tyler Seguin (91) - Corey Perry (10)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Radek Faksa (12) - Blake Comeau (15)
Mattias Janmark (13) - Joe Pavelski (16) - Alexander Radulov (47)
Esa Lindell (23) - John Klingberg (3)
Jamie Oleksiak (2) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Andrej Sekera (5) - Stephen Johns (28)
Anton Khudobin (35)
Carolina Hurricanes Lineup
Andrei Svechnikov (37) - Sebastian Aho (20) - Warren Foegele (13)
Nino Niederreiter (21) - Jordan Staal (11) - Teuvo Teravainen (86)
Brock McGinn (23) - Erik Haula (56) - Martin Necas (88)
Ryan Dzingel (18) - Lucas Wallmark (71) - Justin Williams (14)
Jaccob Slavin (74) - Trevor van Riemsdyk (57)
Jake Gardner (51) - Brett Pesce (22)
Haydn Fleury (4) - Joel Edmundson (6)
Petr Mrazek (34)
Keys to the Game
Scoring: This may be obvious, but last year, the Stars put up two goose eggs against Carolina. A 4-3 game favors the Hurricanes, but a standard first to three goals is the winner should favor the Stars.
Faksa line versus Aho line: The Stars’ primary checking line gets a tough assignment, but if they can keep the ice balanced, the remaining lines have a distinct advantage.
Tyler Seguin: The scoreless streak gets the press coverage, but through it all, Seguin has been a contributor. If he gets a goal, great — but if the Stars win, expect that Seguin will have done something to make that victory happen.