After taking a commanding 3-1 series lead, the Dallas Stars dropped one of their worst games in the playoffs to the Colorado Avalanche in Game 5. Now, the series stands at 3-2 and the Stars will take their second crack at eliminating their opponent and advancing to the Western Conference Finals.
“We obviously got off to a really slow start last game. So, that’s something we’ve addressed. We’ve got to do better to take away their time and space,” Dallas Stars forward Blake Comeau said at media availability this morning. ‘Attention to detail’ was another common refrain from the Stars as they look to Game 6, which is in primetime tonight (7 pm CDT on NBCSN).
The biggest question facing the Stars, though, is which goaltender will be manning the pipes tonight. Ben Bishop, who had been “unfit to play” for nearly three weeks before making a surprising start in Game 5, is usually in the Vezina conversation. He has a history of bouncing back from bad games with sparkling numbers: after allowing four or more goals in a playoff game, he’s got a 5-1 record .949 save percentage and a 1.40 goals against average.
But this isn’t a normal playoff scenario. Under those prior circumstances, Bishop had been playing all season long before going down with injuries. This year is different. There was a several month long pause before the playoffs started, and then Bishop only saw two games of action before getting injured. “Rust” is relative, and it’s more than reasonable for fans to wonder if Bishop is rustier than normal.
Could that force the coaching staff to decide to go with Anton Khudobin, the warmer goaltender and who has been instrumental in getting them to this point, in tonight’s game? Winning a second round series would be huge for this team in terms of morale, and allow them to kind of get over that barrier from previous playoff rounds of the Jamie Benn era.
Interim head coach Rick Bowness has stoutly denied any attempts by the media to answer who will be in his net tonight, leaving everyone to learn it together once warmups are underway in Edmonton. “Good try, though,” Bowness told The Athletic’s Sean Shapiro when asked this morning. (We’ve got to try, after all.)
On the Avalanche side, it’s expected that the lineup will look the same as Game 5 which was very effective for them. Splitting up the top trio of Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog at times during the game allowed Colorado to unlock some scoring depth down their lineup, an issue that’s been common in each of the Stars’ wins this series.
The commitment by the Avalanche to not allow Dallas anywhere near Michael Hutchinson will need to be in full effect again tonight. Dallas proved later in the game that he’s more than penetrable once tested in high-danger areas. That’s a silver lining they can take into Game 6.
DALLAS STARS LINEUP
Dallas rolled this lineup last game:
Jamie Benn – Tyler Seguin – Alexander Radulov
Mattias Janmark – Joe Pavelski – Denis Gurianov
Jason Dickinson – Roope Hintz – Corey Perry
Andrew Cogliano – Radek Faksa – Blake Comeau
Esa Lindell – John Klingberg
Jamie Oleksiak – Miro Heiskanen
Andrej Sekera – Taylor Fedun
Goaltender to be determined tonight. Gut feeling amongst most Dallas media seems to lean towards Bishop.
COLORADO AVALANCHE LINEUP
Colorado countered the Stars with this last game:
Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – Mikko Rantanen
Andre Burakovsky – Nazem Kadri – Valeri Nichushkin
Tyson Jost – J.T. Compher – Vladislav Namestnikov
Matt Nieto – Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Logan O’Connor
Ryan Graves – Cale Makar
Samuel Girard – Conor Timmins
Ian Cole – Nikita Zadorov
Michael Hutchinson is the likely starter with Pavel Francouz deemed “unfit to play” last game.