The most worrying part of Tuesday night’s Dallas Stars game probably wasn’t their 3-2 loss to the Calgary Flames. It was Stephen Johns leaving the ice early and being declared “unfit to play.”
If Johns is absent from the defensive corps for any length of time, it means a shake-up on the Stars’ blueline. The Athletic’s Saad Yousuf has devoted his latest article to an examination of what that might look like, starting with veteran presence Andrej Sekera:
On Tuesday, Sekera was visibly exposed. The eye test showed he was struggling. The stats, including a team-worst 30.56 CorsiFor at even strength, backed it up. This was part of a larger trend: Sekera hasn’t played particularly well throughout the Stars’ stay in Edmonton thus far....
In addition to Sekera’s struggling performance and Johns’ questionable availability, the Stars are about to enter a daunting stretch in the schedule. Game 2 and Game 3 come in a Thursday-Friday back-to-back, and Game 4 is an afternoon start on Sunday. That’s three playoff hockey games in a span of 63 hours. All of these factors combined to create a situation where depth among the blueliners will be tested. While Game 2 already feels like a must-win for the Stars, [interim head coach Rick] Bowness will be tasked with balancing that alongside how to deploy his defensemen over the weekend as well.
So who can realistically step up? Yousuf looks at options ranging from veteran to rookie:
Taylor Fedun will be ready to go if Johns can’t. Perhaps that’s the simple one-for-one tradeoff that happens for Game 2. But if Sekera continues to struggle the way he did in Game 1, Bowness may need to dig deeper in trying to pull at out all the stops. How long Johns’ injury lingers — if it does at all — is unknown, but if Fedun is already in the lineup for Johns, what are the remaining options on the depth chart to potentially spell Sekera?
The loudest answer among Stars fans might be Thomas Harley, but the Stars’ top prospect might be the last resort, for a multitude of reasons. Harley made his NHL debut in the round-robin and he was fine — not great, but not awful. The Stars coaching staff was careful not to over-expose him: Harley was replacing Klingberg in the lineup and still couldn’t earn a spot on the power play. So using him as a third-pair defenseman while Klingberg and Heiskanen are both available to quarterback the power play units would be limiting his impact. Factor in his defensive skills still being raw, and it’s not Dallas’ most productive option at this moment in time. But the biggest thing with Harley is the risk-reward factor. He celebrates his 19th birthday next week and is a key part of Dallas’ future. Could exposing him to playoff intensity against a team like Calgary before he’s ready shake his confidence and result in negative long-term ramifications? His potential makes him an enticing option, but perhaps not the smartest one for the current predicament.
There’s much more behind the paywall. [The Athletic DFW]
There was no update on Johns this morning – but based on what Owen Newkirk reported yesterday, we may see Ben Bishop again sooner rather than later.
Updates from #GoStars HC Rick Bowness:— Owen Newkirk (@OwenNewkirk) August 12, 2020
• Stephen Johns is currently "unfit to play." If Johns remains "unfit" tomorrow, Taylor Fedun will take his place in the lineup.
• Ben Bishop had a good practice again today and is an option to play in Game 2.
Tyler Seguin is battling an injury – but he says he’s ready to battle the Flames, too.
Seggy: "This is elimination hockey here, so I'm in the lineup and doing the best I can. I'm going to continue to get better." https://t.co/IJWjAx4HKM— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) August 13, 2020
Sean Shapiro gets down to cases in his latest piece.
After losing to faster, younger Flames, Stars need to trust youth in Game 2 https://t.co/uC1XNpUUsi— Sean Shapiro (@seanshapiro) August 12, 2020
And Razor and Heika break down Game 1 in the latest episode of Rinky Dinking.
Podcast: Is 'chasing the game' biggest issue for Stars right now? https://t.co/EJNgRFELJZ via @NHLdotcom— Mike Heika (@MikeHeika) August 13, 2020
Around The League(s)
- The Colorado Avalanche started Round 1 with a win, with Darcy Kuemper earning a 3-0 shutout of the Arizona Coyotes. [Mile High Hockey]
- And the St. Louis Blues are down 0-1 after the Vancouver Canucks’ potent power play handed them a 5-2 loss. [St. Louis Game Time]
Nazem Kadri is hitting full stride at the perfect time for the Avs.
With five points in four games this postseason, Nazem Kadri has been what the @Avalanche hoped he would be when they acquired him in a trade with the Toronto Maple Leafs on July 1, 2019, writes @cotsonika. https://t.co/pcsk7Axug1— NHL.com (@NHLdotcom) August 13, 2020
One of the Eastern Conference’s most interesting battles could come down to a cage match between Carey Price and Carter Hart. Put your money up.
The Detroit Red Wings show up early and often in Rob Pizzo’s list of great teams who blew big advantages in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
Has your team been knocked out of the playoffs?— Hockey Night in Canada (@hockeynight) August 13, 2020
We look back in history at the BIGGEST playoff upsets to turn your frown upside down https://t.co/RZPkWNPyQX
The Tampa Bay Lightning made that list with their performance in 2019. Here’s how they stepped up in that five-overtime death march on Tuesday.
After suffering one of the most humiliating defeats in NHL history in 2019, the Lightning showed the kind of maturity that winning teams do in the most important games, writes @THNKenCampbell https://t.co/WT7fo5LvOk— Sports Illustrated (@SInow) August 12, 2020
Greetings From Beautiful Boise
The Idaho Steelheads are knees-deep in a different kind of postseason battle, and you – yeah, you – can help.
Get your votes in for BLUE! https://t.co/TwnZHDIYjh— Idaho Steelheads (@Steelheads) August 12, 2020
It’s going to be a late night. Anton Khudobin is ready. Enjoy.
Hope y'all have your coffee ready for some #StarsAfterDark ☕ pic.twitter.com/lmF0Fsn25R— Dallas Stars (@DallasStars) August 13, 2020