The eye test certainly didn’t match up with the advanced metrics in Thursday nights Dallas Stars loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs, at least at even strength. Both Moneypuck and Natural Stat Trick had Dallas winning the expected goal battle, which given the shot discrepancies might make you question the models.
Special teams, it seems, was the big problem - and even though the Dallas power play looked better than their recent Keystone Cops adventures, it was the Toronto power play that scored. And in doing so, it looked inevitable that they would score.
If there was ever a game where you’d want Esa Lindell in the lineup, this was it. The Leafs cycled at will, generally pushing the Stars around in their own zone. Lindell was at the optional skate on Friday - as were Denis Gurianov and Jacob Peterson - so expect the lineup to be different against the New Jersey Devils.
Given the recent success of Marian Studenic with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, it wouldn’t be all that surprising to see Gurianov and Peterson swap out for Joel Kiviranta and Alexander Radulov. The trio haven’t spent any real game time together, but if you’re going to put Gurianov and Peterson out there together, you probably want the defense that Vladislav Namestnikov brings on that line.
Dallas Stars Lineup
Jason Robertson (21) - Roope Hintz (24) - Joe Pavelski (16)
Jamie Benn (14) - Tyler Seguin (91) - Marian Studenic (43)
Michael Raffl (18) - Radek Faksa (12) - Luke Glendening (11)
Jacob Peterson (40) - Vladislav Namestnikov (92) - Denis Gurianov (34)
Esa Lindell (23) - John Klingberg (3)
Ryan Suter (20) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Thomas Harley (55) - Jani Hakanpaa (2)
Jake Oettinger (29)
Scott Wedgewood (41)
With the early start time, final lineups won’t be available until pre-game rushes. The above is an educated guess, based on player availability and history (and some of my wishes).
New Jersey Devils LIneup
Yegor Sharangovich (17) - Nico Hischier (13) - Jesper Bratt (63)
Tomas Tatar (90) - Pavel Zacha (37) - Dawson Mercer (18)
Janne Kuokkanen (59) - Jesper Boqvist (70) - Fabian Zetterlund (49)
AJ Greer (42) - Michael Mcleod (20) - Andreas Johnsson (11)
Ryan Graves (33) - Damon Severson (28)
Colton White (2) - Dougie Hamilton (7)
Ty Smith (24) - P.K. Subban (76)
Nico Daws (50)
Andrew Hammond (35)
2019 first overall draft pick Jack Hughes is out for the season, but 2017 first overall Hischier is centering the top line. Don’t be fooled by the Devils record - they have young talent scattered throughout the lineup and expect them to put speed and skill on display coming up the ice. There are two players over 30 in that lineup, so this certainly looks like a rebuild.
Head Coach Lindy Ruff knows how to manufacture scoring out of his teams, but once again he finds himself behind the bench of a team that has been betrayed by sub-par netminding.
Keys to the Game
Lock the Game Down. It would be fun to watch a bit of early weekend pond hockey, but with the Devils high level offense, the Stars will be better served by plodding along at their own pace, frustrating New Jersey (and a number of DefendingBig D readers).
Power Play. At some point, this needs to start to pay off. New Jersey isn’t bad on the penalty kill, but this is the type of game where things could shake out.
Goaltending. New Jersey has the worst save percentage in the NHL. Of course, the Seattle Kraken are next to last, so this being Dallas, scoring isn’t a given.