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Scoring Key as Stars Take On Canucks

The Vancouver Canucks have been out of the playoff race for quite some time. The team was never really bad enough to jump into the “tank for Bedard” pool, but there was never any doubt that the team would be sellers at the trade deadline.

Surprisingly, the Canucks have had a competitive March. For a team that is 28th in the NHL is scoring defense, Vancouver has only given up four goals once this month (contrast that to the playoff bound Stars, who have given up four goals six times in March).

For this year, at least, it seems like the Canucks just have the Stars number. If so – and given all of the talk about resting Jake Oettinger – maybe this is the game to throw Matt Murray back into the crease. Just let the team know that they can’t hang him out to dry like they did in his last start against this very same team.

Dallas Stars Lineup

Jason Robertson (21) – Roope Hintz (24) – Joe Pavelski (16)
Max Domi (18) – Tyler Seguin (91) – Ty Dellandrea (10)
Jamie Benn (14) – Wyatt Johnston (53) – Evgeni Dadonov (63)
Joel Kiviranta (25) – Radek Faksa (12) – Luke Glendening (11)

Miro Heiskanen (4) – Colin Miller (6)
Esa Lindell (23) – Jani Hakanpää (2)
Ryan Suter (20) – Nils Lundkvist (5)

Jake Oettinger (29)
Matt Murray (32)

Nils Lundqvist’s return to the lineup against the Pittsburgh Penguins was mostly unremarkable. Playing against bottom six competition and with middle six Stars, he and Ryan Suter were involved in one goal for and one goal against, with the shot share similarly even.

The fourth line somewhat over-performed, while the Domi – Seguin second line under-performed. Its a bit disconcerting that the only player who has played any significant time with Domi and maintained a positive shot shared and expected goal percentage is Radek Faksa. There is enough data out there to indicate that Ty Dellandrea might not be the answer (and Dellandrea on the fourth line has been, predictably, good).

If the team is going to go all in with a scoring line featuring Seguin and Domi, now might be the time to look at giving them a shooter as a third linemate. Given the team’s insistence on allowing odd man rushes, maybe its time to send Fredrik Olofsson back to Texas and throw Matej Blumel back in. Double down on the offense.

Vancouver Canucks Lineup

Andrei Kuzmenko (96) – Elias Pettersson (40) – Anthony Beauvillier (72)
Phillip Di Giuseppe (34) – J. T. Miller (9) – Brock Boeser (6)
Dakota Joshua (81) – Nils Aman (88)  – Conor Garland (8)
Vitali Kravtsov (91) – Sheldon Dries (15) – Vasily Podkolzin (92)

Quinn Hughes (43) – Tyler Myers (57)
Ethan Bear (74) – Filip Hronek (17)
Christian Wolanin (86) – Kyle Burroughs (44)

Thatcher Demko (35)
Collin Delia (60)

The Canucks have been riding Demko about as hard as Dallas has been riding Oettinger. Why not – he’s been good. Saturdays game is the first of a back to back, with the team headed to Chicago for a Sunday matchup. It would be nice to see Delia in the crease, but that privilege likely goes to the Blackhawks, the team where he played 32 of his 48 NHL games.

Hronek has been cleared to play, so this will be his first game for the Canucks since being acquired from Detroit at the trade deadline. Wolanin may be out with a lower body injury, which would bring Guillaume Brisebois back in as LD on the third pair. Ethan Bear missed both Stars games with an injury, but has been back in the lineup for the last week.

Up front, Vancouver relies heavily on their top six, with their top line being especially dangerous.

Keys to the Game

Special Teams. The Canucks have the leagues bottom penalty kill. Dallas is still top 10 on the power play, but have been struggling of late.

Odd Man Rushes. For a team that prides itself on its structured defense, these have been happening with shocking regularity. Its not really a defender problem (although a bit of foot speed at the edge couldn’t hurt), but if the defense activates or pinches, a forward needs to rotate out to the point.

Win one for Tom. Jim Lites doesn’t need any more WTF texts.