For a situation to improve, one of two things need to happen. Option one, stick with what you’re doing, but do it better. Alternatively, take a look at the system, and make structural improvements.
Of course, you can select door number three — do nothing and hope for the best.
Stars fans seem to be expecting door number three, hope being the easiest option. Stephen Johns is still officially listed as “unable to perform,” so Taylor Fedun should be back in the lineup.
That’s a bit like weeding the garden before the levee breaks. Given the disaster that was the third pair, some change is in order — although placing any of that on Johns’ back seems uncharitable.
Offensively, the Stars played directly into the Calgary Flames’ game plan. During their play-in round matchup against the Winnipeg Jets, Calgary kept shots to the edges, limiting anything in the crease. The Dallas shot chart for Tuesday reflects Calgary’s continued success with the plan.
If the strategy for the Stars is firing from the point, hoping for a misplay or a fortunate bounce, they pulled it off. The plan did lead to two goals, so one could argue that it’s been more successful than many of the team’s moves in these playoffs.
Thankfully, there were a few positives coming out of Game 1. The Radek Faksa line held the Flames’ top line to a standstill, limiting chances on both sides of the ice. Likewise, Calgary’s second line was stiffled by a combination of Dallas lines. As expected, the Flames’ fourth line saw limited action.
What killed Dallas was Calgary’s third line. A combination of Milan Lucic’s size, Sam Bennett’s physicality, and Dillon Dube’s speed proved to be unstoppable. Drilling down, this success came almost exclusively against Dallas’ third pair, Andrej Sekera in particular.
Three round robin contests and more standard playoff games in, Dallas is facing a realistic end to the season on Sunday. Rolling with the same plan, hoping for different results, seems a good way to punch their ticket out of the bubble.
Change is needed. The question is whether cosmetic surgery will suffice. Management has placed a decently sized wager on veteran leadership pulling this team through these playoff battles. Decisions based on the sunk costs associated with that wager could have this team facing questions of a full rebuild headed into an early offseason.
Defensively for the Stars, much depends on the status of Stephen Johns. Regardless of his availability, Taylor Fedun should draw in for Game 2. If further changes are in order, it’s time for Jamie Oleksiak to lead the third pair where he has shown the ability to succeed with both Johns and Fedun. Oleksiak’s added size and reach give vital protections against Lucic, Bennett, and Dube. Likewise, Miro Heiskanen has demonstrated the ability to play well with either Johns or Sekera.
Offensively, Dallas needs to get back to how it scored goals all season; the transition game. That means reuniting Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov, preferably with Jason Dickinson to supply a bit of defensive responsibility. Mattias Janmark, Joe Pavelski and Alexander Radulov as a second line matches up well with the Flames’ second line.
That would leave Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Corey Perry against the Flames’ third line that took over Game 1. The veteran trio had success when put together during the regular season, and would bring a serious and entertaining edge to the proceedings.
Calgary has depth issues in both zones. During Game 1, Dallas didn’t come close to probing those weaknesses. On the other hand, Calgary found one chink in Dallas’ armor, and were able exploit the flaw and turned it into a win. The loss of one game isn’t a disaster, but this Stars team down two with 24 hours until Game 3 would be close to rock bottom.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jamie Benn (14) - Roope Hintz (24) - Alexander Radulov (47)
Mattias Janmark (13) - Joe Pavelski (16) - Denis Gurianov (34)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Radek Faksa (12) - Blake Comeau (15)
Tyler Seguin (91) - Jason Dickinson (18) - Corey Perry (10)
Esa Lindell (23) - John Klingberg (3)
Jamie Oleksiak (2) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Andrej Sekera (5) - Taylor Fedun (42)
Ben Bishop (30)
Calgary Flames Lineup
Johnny Gaudreau (13) - Sean Monahan (23) - Elias Lindholm (28)
Matthew Tkachuk (19) - Mikael Backlund (11) - Andrew Mangiapane (88)
Milan Lucic (17) - Sam Bennett (93) - Dillon Dube (29)
Mark Jankowski (77) - Derek Ryan (10) - Tobias Rieder (16)
Mark Giordano (5) - T J Brodie (7)
Noah Hanifin (55) - Rasmus Andersson (4)
Derek Forbort (20) - Erik Gustafsson (56)
Cam Talbot (39)
Keys to the Game
Speed and the Crease. Dallas needs to get back to playing Stars hockey. That doesn’t mean defense only, it means attacking with pace and getting big bodies in front of the net.
Reckless (somewhat) Abandon. Do you remember the last time a Dallas Stars player flew around the ice, taking the body? Neither do I.
Gustafsson - Forbort. In Game 1, Calgary’s third pair were their best players. In what alternate universe is that possible? Don’t let the Flames turn liabilities into assets.