Stars Take On Oilers with Playoff Spot in Sight

There are a bunch of reasons why the Stars could lose this game, but you can always just watch Connor McDavid do amazing things.

The Dallas Stars took advantage of the opportunities they were presented with on Wednesday night, beating the Calgary Flames 2-1. Once again, goaltending was strong. A power play that potted two goals was, for the most part, ineffective at everything except scoring, which they somehow did twice. The first unit squandered a solid minute before Alexander Radulov bull-rushed the Flames while his teammates went for a change, leading to the first goal.

The second goal was scored by the second unit after a the top unit spent a minute in a reorganization cycle, periodically venturing across the blue line only to have the puck cleared back out. At this year’s Seattle Hockey Analytics Conference, Ryan Stimson demonstrated that a drop pass to the center of the ice was the most effective method of power play zone entry. Apparently that works better if Jason Spezza is on the receiving end of the pass.

Hard work after a clean entry, a great bump pass by Radek Faksa, and Miro Heiskanen buried it past a swimming David Rittich for the second goal.

The game was a bit disjointed, but that may be more systemic than it is symptomatic. End result: Stars eke out a win in both goals and expected goals.

Other than pulling two points closer to a playoff spot, the major news was Ben Bishop going down with another (or, more likely, a recurring) lower body injury. Time will tell. Anton Khudobin was already slated for the start in Edmonton, but having Bishop around is vital come playoff time. Dallas recalled Landon Bow from the Texas Stars this morning and he will serve as backup to Khudobin until further notice.

For this game with Edmonton, the stakes are a bit lower than they were against Winnipeg and Calgary. In some ways, this game is what’s known as a “scheduled loss” — a lesser opponent following several playoff caliber teams, plus the second game of a back-to-back. Throw in a six-game winning streak on the road, and you can almost see the reversion to the mean.

This is a character game. A bunch of reasons to not win, unless you just hate to lose.

The Oilers have a few guys out, specifically Jesse Puljujarvi and likely Jujhar Khaira. Other than that, this game features Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. The top five scoring forwards on Edmonton all shoot over 14 percent.

This should be a fun night for watching hockey. I’d recommend starting off watching Montreal take on Columbus, with huge playoff implications for both teams. Follow that up with this Stars-Oilers game. Enjoy the spectacle of such a talented team, while contemplating how they continue to miss the playoffs (hint: it might have something to do with their recently fired GM).

Dallas Stars Lineup

Lineup has been updated.

Mattias Janmark - Tyler Seguin - Alexander Radulov
Jamie Benn - Roope Hintz - Jason Dickinson
Andrew Cogliano - Radek Faksa - Blake Comeau
Valeri Nichushkin - Joel L’Esperance - Brett Ritchie

Esa Lindell - John Klingberg
Miro Heiskanen - Roman Polak
Taylor Fedun - Ben Lovejoy

Anton Khudobin

Edmonton Oilers Lineup

Leon Draisaitl - Connor McDavid - Zack Kassian
Joseph Gambardella - Ryan Nugent-Hopkins - Alex Chiasson
Tobias Rieder - Colby Cave - Sam Gagner
Milan Lucic - Kyle Brodziak - Josh Currie

Oscar Klefbom - Adam Larsson
Darnell Nurse - Kris Russell
Andrej Sekera - Matt Benning

Mikko Koskinen

Keys to the Game

  • Focus. There are no easy games in the NHL, and the Stars have been playing solid hockey against great teams. A letdown would be understandable, but a playoff team finishes off games like this one.
  • Fresh legs. The top players for the Stars have been logging serious minutes. The difference between winning and losing here could be somebody down the lineup.
  • The Anton Khudobin curse. Isn’t it about time that Khudobin gets some goal support?/

Did you know?

Okay, this isn’t a standard “did you know” — and I’m not going to do all of the math to get the exact mileage numbers, but... With Ben Bishop going down, Stars netminders have been logging some serious frequent flyer miles. The NHL guys are on the standard Dallas flight through western Canada trip. Beyond that:

Within the last week, Jake Oettinger ended his college career and flew from Boston to Texas, and now is off to Iowa with the Texas Stars. Philippe Desrosiers did the standard trip to Iowa.

Colton Point was assigned to the Idaho Steelheads, which meant a trip from Texas to Boise. There, he joins a team that just got back from a road trip that took them to Orlando, Florida.

Final note. If you want to see some solid regular season goaltender numbers, check out the Steelhead’s Tomas Sholl.