Stars Get Another Chance Against Jets

Every team gets one mulligan for the season. The Stars use theirs on Thursday night.

Sometimes hockey teams play well and win. Sometimes they play well and lose. Then there is Tuesday night in Winnipeg.

It’s not altogether clear that the Dallas Stars would have won, even if the team showed up at Bell MTS Place with the intention of playing hockey. Kelly Forbes just delayed the inevitable when he spotted the Winnipeg Jets offside early in the game.

From there, it was a litany of missteps and unfortunate bounces. If there was ever the need for a running clock in the NHL, this game could be used as a prime example.

Dallas was slow on Tuesday night. The Jets got to loose pucks, they won board battles, and when the had the puck, they skated. By the time that the Stars could attack the puck, it had already moved.

Before this all happens again, a few observations. On the defensive end, Jamie Oleksiak has had a rough couple games. He moved up to second pair with Miro Heiskanen, but in doing so, the opposition that he is facing has also improved. Oleksiak was not on the ice for a single high danger scoring chance, per NaturalStatTrick. He hasn’t played his way out of the top six, but getting him a few games back on the third pair might be a good reset.

In addition, with a third pair of Andrej Sekera and Roman Polak, the Stars have issues with zone exits. The Jets used this to their advantage early in the game, and it led to multiple shifts that were, at best, extended. Ultimately, many of these shifts ended with puck dump line changes.

Polak, in particular, had a rough game. On several occasions, Polak’s skating was exposed, leading to chances on Anton Khudobin. Taylor Fedun has been a healthy scratch for the last few games, and he would be a good match with Oleksiak as part of a third pair.

Offensively, the Stars forecheck has not been able to close space to the point where defenders are rushing their outlet passes and making mistakes. Since the Chicago Blackhawks game, teams have been able to exploit both sides of the ice on breakouts from the defensive zone. This has put the first two Stars forwards above the puck and has led to easy exits and sometimes odd man rushes.

With the offensive zone forecheck not working, it’s negated neutral zone pressure. It’s that neutral zone pressure that drove much of the Stars offense during their winning streak. If Dallas can’t successfully forecheck in the offensive zone, then they need to at least clog things up in the neutral zone.

Of course, without effort, none of this will make a difference. Tuesday night was undoubtedly embarrassing to the players, so there should be a good amount of fightback on Thursday night when they’re back in front of their home fans — that aren’t afraid to let the team know when the effort is displeasing to them. That said, some flaws have worked their way into the Stars’ game, and cleaning those up would be useful in putting the current losing streak to rest.

Dallas Stars Lineup

The big news for the day is the healthy scratch for Alexander Radulov. Radulov leads the team in penalty minutes by a healthy margin — 30 minutes in 29 games played, which is an average of one penalty every other game. The issue isn’t so much the number, though. It’s where he’s taking them. Radulov’s penalties tend to come in the offensive zone, effectively killing any kind of momentum his team may be getting in the game. Hopefully taking a game to be able to see how much space you have to work with as other guys that have spent time in the box (whether healthy or due to injury) have remarked upon in the last few weeks.

With Radulov’s absence, the Stars lines are expected to be like this:

Jamie Benn (14) - Justin Dowling (37) - Tyler Seguin (91)
Mattias Janmark (13) - Roope Hintz (24) - Joe Pavelski (16)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Radek Faksa (12) - Blake Comeau (15)
Denis Gurianov (34) - Jason Dickinson (18) - Corey Perry (10)

Esa Lindell (23) - Miro Heiskanen (4)
Andrej Sekera (5) - John Klingberg (3)
Jamie Oleksiak (2) - Roman Polak (45)

Ben Bishop (30)

Winnipeg Jets Lineup

Since Tuesday, the Jets picked up center Nick Shore off of waivers from the Toronto Maple Leafs. In addition, defender Nathan Beaulieu has been skating with the team and is likely to be a game-time decision tonight.

Kyle Connor (81) - Mark Scheifele (55) - Patrik Laine (29)
Nikolaj Ehlers (27) - Blake Wheeler (26) - Jack Roslovic (28)
Andrew Copp (9) - Adam Lowry (17) - Mathieu Perreault (85)
Joona Luoto (46) - Nick Shore (21) - Logan Shaw (38)

Josh Morrissey (44) - Tucker Poolman (3)
Luca Sbisa (5) - Neal Pionk (4)
Anthony Bitetto (2) - Carl Dahlstrom (23)

Connor Hellebuyck (37)

Keys to the Game

Play Hockey (but don’t let the energy destroy the structure). Dallas will likely start the game with energy. They can’t let that energy get in the way of doing their individual jobs.

Shoot the Puck. This may be the anthem of the casual fan, but right now, Dallas is looking for the perfect pass at the expense of the good shot.

Special Teams. The Stars don’t get on the power play much, and when they do, it still needs some work. What’s been hurting has been the penalty kill, where they have gotten away from the positional discipline.