Gameday Preview: National Spotlight for Stars vs Bruins Game

Dallas returns to the beginning, facing Boston before a trip to St. Louis. Thursday’s NHL premier game gets the full national TV treatment.

Tuesday night’s 4-1 victory over the Carolina Hurricanes gave Dallas Stars fans an opportunity to do something that has been mostly lacking during the season: relax with a lead during the third period.

Not that there weren’t things to complain about. Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov are still low on the ice time spectrum, and turtling to a 10 percent shot share in the third period is always cause for a raised eyebrow. Truth be told, however, as the last 20 minutes wound down, it never felt like anything other than a Stars win.

The recent move to Jason Dickinson centering a line with Hintz and Gurianov paid dividends, with each potting a goal. The line was particularly good at taking advantage of the Hurricanes’ bottom pair.

For all of the discussion of minutes (or lack thereof) and shift counts, the way that the Stars deploy continues to give opponents matchup problems.

Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin, and Corey Perry still draw top line status, and usually get top pair defenders and a shutdown forward group. Whether you call it a fourth line or not, Mattias Janmark, Joe Pavelski, and Alexander Radulov also draw attention. If the Stars play an opponent without solid depth, that leaves the Dickinson line with an advantageous matchup.

Goalshare is spread throughout the Dallas lineup, and who scores when and why is sometimes based on the quality of the opponents. The weaknesses of a third defensive pairing can be exploited, and efficient use of those matchups may be more important, especially for Hintz and Gurianov, than just counting shifts or minutes on the ice.

Inexplicably, the Boston Bruins are on a two-game losing streak, having given up 14 goals in those games. That said, Boston is a team built on defense, goaltending, and the league’s best top line.

Being Boston, they are happy with themselves. And there are reasons; the numbers don’t lie.

This team leads the league in points, with a top-five power play and penalty kill, and the best in the league for goals against average. They fully expect to be back in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Bruins’ top line is considered the best trio in the league, and their second and third lines bring combinations of skill and physicality that need to be matched by their opponent’s depth lines. Their fourth line has not driven play as expected, and is the one noticeable weakness in the forward group.

Defensively, the Bruins still rely on Zdeno Chara and Torey Krug, in spite of declining contributions. Charlie McAvoy and Brandon Carlo are both excellent, and create coverage for their older partners. Matt Grzelcyk has blossomed this year on the third pair.

In net, Tuukka Rask and Jaroslav Halak have both been great, with Rask getting 60 percent of the starts. Rask was in net for both recent losses, so Halak may be due for a start.

Dallas Stars Lineup

Jamie Benn (14) - Tyler Seguin (91) - Corey Perry (10)
Roope Hintz (24) - Jason Dickinson (18) - Denis Gurianov (34)
Andrew Cogliano (11) - Radek Faksa (12) - Blake Comeau (15)
Mattias Janmark (13) - Joe Pavelski (16) - Alexander Radulov (47)

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

Ben Bishop (30)

Boston Bruins Lineup

Boston is expected to bring Ondrej Kase off of injured reserve before the game. Reports indicate that Kase will join the David Krejci line along with former Anaheim Duck trade deadline pickup (and Brett Ritchie’s younger brother) Nick Ritchie.

Brad Marchand (63) - Patrice Bergeron (37) - David Pastrnak (88)
Nick Ritchie (21) - David Krejci (46) - Ondrej Kase (28)
Jake DeBrusk (74) - Charlie Coyle (13) - Anders Bjork (10)
Sean Kuraly (52) - Par Lindholm (26) - Chris Wagner (14)

Zdeno Chara (33) - Charlie McAvoy (73)
Torey Krug (47) - Brandon Carlo (25)
Matt Grzelcyk (48) - John Moore (27)

Jaroslav Halak (41)

Keys to the Game

Special Teams. The Stars have been taking penalties, and Boston is dangerous with the man-advantage. An game played at even strength will work better for Dallas.

Gamesmanship. Whether it is Marchand as a pest or Coyle and Ritchie taking the body, the Bruins will try to get the Stars to focus on something other than the game. Don’t get distracted by Boston’s antics.

Overtime. Neither team gives up many goals. Boston’s Achilles heel is their overtime record, which plays to a Stars’ strength.