In a normal year, somewhere toward the middle of the schedule, Wednesday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Vegas Golden Knights could be written off as bad luck. There were missed chances and a few more pings off the iron, but the team played well and in most scenarios, would have come away with a regulation win.
It doesn’t really feel that way, though. Dallas only scored two goals and found a way to lose - a continuation of early season trends that have given the glass half empty crowd plenty to brood about.
The “system” has taken the significant hits, as has the customary third period turtle (even if the team out chanced Vegas by a sizable margin). Fight for your narrative, but it all could easily have changed if Luke Glendening would have buried his chance from the slot as the clock wound down.
Outplaying your opponent just doesn’t carry much weight when the team hasn’t put up a regulation win seven games into the season. I’ve read all of the comments, and many of you have posted charts supporting your positions; frankly, the ground has been covered by all sides. I’ll add one chart - I don’t think I’ve ever seen an xG chart that has every player from each team on the same side.
Instead of rehashing the past, let’s take a look at the return of Jason Robertson, the general state of left wings for the Stars, and ultimately, the assignment of Jacob Peterson to the AHL.
In addition to his goal scoring, Robertson brings much needed playmaking to the Stars lineup. More than that, he does it from the left wing - a position that is a weakness within the organization. The Robertson, Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski line sure looked dangerous on Wednesday.
Jamie Benn, when he isn’t playing center, plays left wing, as do Michael Raffl and Joel Kiviranta. Denis Gurianov and Blake Comeau can move from the right to the left in a pinch, but it isn’t their normal position for this team. Robertson, Benn and Raffl are going to see most of the time at left wing on the top three lines, and without a catastrophic event, that’s just not going to change. That means that the fourth line left wing position is the only one that is open with the current lineup.
Peterson slots in as a left wing as can Tanner Kero, but the position is really Joel Kiviranta’s to lose. So lets look at both players to see who best fits.
Kiviranta’s two most common playing partners this year are Luke Glendening and Tyler Seguin. More than 2⁄3 of his time is with Glendening, and as a pair, they have been xG positive. In fact, Glendening has a 55% expected goals for with Kiviranta and 37% expected goals for without him.
Peterson, on the other hand, has played most of his time with Roope Hintz and Alexander Radulov. Looking at the same expected goal numbers for Peterson, he’s between 70% and 80% expected goals for with both players. Pretty impressive.
If you break it down further, however, the numbers change:
When playing with Hintz or Radulov, Peterson does great. If he’s with both, the numbers are exceptional. The problem comes when Peterson is playing with anyone else - the xG% moves to the mid-twenties.
Peterson’s impact seems to be greatest when he’s paired with skilled partners. This makes sense for a high IQ player. With Robertson’s return, however, the slot available is on the fourth line. Based on an admittedly limited data set, fourth line winger is not a position that’s going to let Peterson play to his strengths.
Given the light NHL schedule over the next two weeks in combination with Cap savings and a relatively busy AHL schedule, the Stars have quite a few valid reasons for sending Peterson down to the Texas Stars. A pairing with Riley Damiani could be dynamic.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jason Robertson (21) — Roope Hintz (24) — Joe Pavelski (16)
Denis Gurianov (34) — Jamie Benn (14) — Alexander Radulov (47)
Joel Kiviranta (25) — Tyler Seguin (91) — Luke Glendening (11)
Michael Raffl (18) — Radek Faksa (12) — Blake Comeau (15)
Esa Lindell (23) — Miro Heiskanen (4)
Ryan Suter (20) — John Klingberg (3)
Andrej Sekera (5) — Jani Hakanpaa (2)
Braden Holtby (70)
Ottawa Senators Lineup
There are a few changes to the Ottawa lineup since the Stars played the Senators on October 17. First, 2018 fourth overall draft pick Brady Tkachuk is back in the lineup on the top line. He’s played three games since returning, registering two assists. Second, Shane Pinto, who centered the Senators second line, is out with a upper body injury. This leaves Ottawa pretty weak down the center, which should play to the Stars advantage.
Brady Tkachuk (7) - Joshua Norris (9) - Drake Batherson (19)
Tim Stutzle (18) - Nicholas Paul (21) - Connor Brown (28)
Alex Formenton (10) - Chris Tierney (71) - Tyler Ennius (63)
Zachary Sanford (13) - Logan Shaw (20) - Scott Sabourin (49)
Thomas Chabot (72) - Arterm Zub (2)
Michael Del Zotto (15) - Nikita Zaitsev (22)
Nick Holden (5) - Joshua Brown (3)
Anton Forsberg (31)
Keys to the Game
Trust. During the first period agaist the Golden Knights, the Stars defenders pinched from the point. Forwards rotated back to cover, and Dallas dominated the period. Those type of aggressive reads can’t be made if a player is thinking about whether his backup is going to be in place. Wednesday’s first period is evidence that the team can drive offense from their defense.
Hintz. Roope Hintz has one assist on the year. That’s not a reflection on his play; his expected goals just need to translate into goals on the scoresheet.
Power Play. Dallas is blessed with two top units, but to this point, they’ve underperformed. Time to resolve their issues in entering the zone, get set up, and put up some points.