Thursday’s exhibition matchup against the Nashville Predators left a number of questions and a number of unresolved issues for the Dallas Stars. First off, if the team was hoping for a preview of tonight’s round robin matchup, those dreams were dashed when Tyler Seguin turned into an “unable to perform” scratch.
Throw in an early departure in the first period for Andrew Cogliano, and any hope for a glimpse of the presumed playoff lineup were out the window. There were some pleasant surprises: Ty Dellandrea looked reliable and composed against NHL competition and the defense kept things mostly locked down.
Seguin and Cogliano are likely back for tonight’s matchup against the Vegas Golden Knights, but they’ve hardly had a chance to get their game legs back. The second line of Mattias Janmark, Joe Pavelski, and Alexander Radulov were held together, as were the fourth line of Roope Hintz, Jason Dickinson, and Corey Perry. Both lines were good, but for a team that was playing from behind, neither looked particularly dangerous.
At this point, the Stars have a few things to work out. It isn’t completely clear that there is a substantial difference in opportunity between the team that grabs the first seed and the team that ends up as the fourth seed.
Dallas is playing with house money at this point, having gained their salvation from a play-in series through a win percentage advantage over the Edmonton Oilers. Having dodged a matchup against the Chicago Blackhawks, the goal for Dallas needs to be a rediscovery of their strengths. Grabbing a fourth seed out of this round would be concerning not because of a higher quality opponent, but because it would reflect on a continued slump in play.
The Stars had only two leads in their last six regular season games, and those leads lasted a total of six minutes. This is not a team built for comebacks, although during the middle of the season, they did pull off a decent number of wins after being down. There is no point in locking down a one-goal loss.
After watching a weekend worth of hockey, it’s clear that getting a jump in the first 10 minutes of the game goes a long way toward a win. It also looks like the referees haven’t swallowed their whistles as in years past during the playoffs. Vegas special teams were in mid-season form in their exhibition matchup against the Arizona Coyotes and it allowed them to cruise in during a third period turtle.
Dallas Stars Lineup
After a few experiments during training camp, the Stars appear to have settled on the following:
Jamie Benn (14) - Tyler Seguin (91) - Denis Gurianov (34)
Mattias Janmark (13) - Joe Pavelski (16) - Alexander Radulov (47)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Radek Faksa (12) - Blake Comeau (15)
Roope Hintz (24) - Jason Dickinson (18) - Corey Perry (10)
Esa Lindell (23) - John Klingberg (3)
Jamie Oleksiak (2) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Andrej Sekera (5) - Stephen Johns (28)
Ben Bishop (30)
Vegas Golden Knights Lineup
Max Pacioretty is recovering outside the bubble from a minor injury sustained during training camp. Pacioretty stayed in Las Vegas instead of traveling with the team and will rejoin them once he’s ready to play.
Vegas acquired Robin Lehner as a backup to Marc-Andre Fleury in February. They also picked up third-line center Nick Cousins and middle-pair defender Alec Martinez for picks, while losing Cody Eakin.
The Golden Knights’ top two lines can both score, while their third line has been effective as a shutdown line, and their fourth line brings a major physical presence. The Stars have yet to face Fleury in net this season, and Lehner could get the call today.
Chandler Stephenson (20) - William Karlsson (71) - Mark Stone (61)
Jonathan Marchessault (81) - Paul Stastny (26) - Reilly Smith (19)
Alex Tuch (89) - Nick Cousins (21) - Nicolas Roy (10)
William Carrier (28) - Tomas Nosek (92) - Ryan Reaves (75)
Brayden McNabb (3) - Nate Schmidt (88)
Alec Martinez (23) - Shea Theodore (27)
Nick Holden (22) - Zach Whitecloud (2)
Robin Lehner (90)
Keys to the Game
Strong Start. Dallas last had a lead in a game in February, and Vegas jumped the Coyotes last time out. After sleepwalking out of the gate against the Predators, the Stars can’t afford to get down early. Playing catch up won’t win them this game, and it won’t prepare them for the next round.
Tyler Seguin. After missing the Predators game, Seguin needs to make an impact. If he’s a threat in the offensive zone, it opens things up for the supporting cast.
Zone Exits. Vegas plays a heavy forecheck, and Dallas need to be prepared to take some body blows. Fortunately, the Stars have puck-moving defenders in each pairing, and if they can get the Golden Knights chasing the puck, it will set up the Stars’ transition offense.