No matter what happens on New Years Eve, the Dallas Stars are going to enter 2023 as the top team in the Central Division. The team is coming off a dominating performance against the Minnesota Wild. The game featured a playoff quality first period, after which Dallas started to tilt the ice. Ultimately, the third period proved the Stars the better team.
The line of Jamie Benn, Mason Marchment and Wyatt Johnston dominated with a 79.41 expected goal percentage. The Stars top line of Jason Robertson, Roope Hintz and Joe Pavelski were, uncharacteristically below 50% expected goals.
Without doing a deep dive, this demonstrates what can show up as anomalies in individual game statistics. The Wild have one outstanding defender - Jared Spurgeon. As the home team, Minnesota was able to put Spurgeon (and his partner, the less successful Jake Middleton) up against the Hintz line. Basically, the strategy worked and the Stars top line was played to a draw.
That left the Johnston line to go up against the pair of Jonas Brodin and and Matt Dumba. That is where they ran up their game statistics (and in the minutes where Hintz was up against the Brodin/Dumba pair, they dominated - and Spurgeon shut down Johnston/Benn/Marchment).
Two lessons I take from that. First - on the surface, individual game numbers can be deceptive. Second - having a second line that can pick up and perform against lesser competition is vital.
Probably worth a deeper dive, but even at a surface level, its worth thinking about in game analysis.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jason Robertson (21) – Roope Hintz (24) – Joe Pavelski (16)
Jamie Benn (14) – Wyatt Johnston (53) – Mason Marchment (27)
Joel Kiviranta (25) – Ty Dellandrea (10) – Tyler Seguin (91)
Fredrik Olofsson (42) – Luke Glendening (11) - Radek Faksa (12)
Miro Heiskanen (4) – Nils Lundkvist (5)
Ryan Suter (20) – Colin Miller (6)
Esa Lindell (23) – Jani Hakanpää (2)
Jake Oettinger (29)
Scott Wedgewood (41)
After a solid swing through Nashville and Minnesota, there is now reason to juggle anything.
San Jose Sharks Lineup
Timo Meier (28) - Logan Couture (39) - Alexander Barabanov (94)
Matt Nieto (83) - Tomas Hertl (48) - Kevin Labanc (62)
Nick Bonino (13) - Nico Sturm (7) - Evgeny Svechnikov (10)
Oskar Lindblom (23) - Steven Lorentz (16) - Jonah Gadjovich (42)
Jaycob Megna (24) - Erik Karlsson (65)
Marc-Edouard Vlasic (44) - Radim Simek (51)
Scott Harrington (4) - Mario Ferraro (38)
James Reimer (47)
Kaapo Kahkonen (36)
The Sharks forward group is down Luke Kunin, who is out for the season after ACL surgery. Otherwise, offense hasn’t been a particular problem for San Jose. Keeping the puck out of the net has been their downfall. The team has tried four goalies so far this season, but for now, Reimer is getting 60% of the starts. Everybody with more than two starts has a save percentage below .900.
Erik Karlsson continues to be the story. He’s sitting at 50 points for the year, which is better than any full season since he joined the Sharks. He’s playing more than 25 minutes a game. If the Sharks make a game of it, Karlsson is likely to be in the middle of it.
Keys to the Game
Depth Scoring/Top Line. There are two ways to beat San Jose, both of which require putting the puck in the net. The Sharks don’t have a true shut down pair - so the Stars top line could just go off. Alternatively, Dallas depth could make the difference as they roll four lines and grind down San Jose by the third period.
Single Home Games. This is the first of three single game home stands for the new year. After the pressure of a short Divisional road trip, this is a prototypical trap game (as will be the subsequent games against Florida and Calgary).
Happy New Year. Enjoy yourself, but stay safe while you enjoy the New Years festivities.