This Week in Dallas Stars Hockey: Thanksgiving Week
The Stars and their fans have a lot to be thankful for this year. How much longer will Dallas continue their dominance over the NHL?
I am going to start by saying I was on team "trade Oleksiak." Jamie Oleksiak has spent his career with the Dallas Stars trying to figure out how to be huge, how to use his reach, and how to catch up to the speed of the game.
I understand it was one game. I understand that he still has a long way to go. But Saturday night, Oleksiak looked ready to fight for his job with the Stars. The player that showed up on Saturday against the Buffalo Sabres looked like a bully. Not just for his fight, which was awesome, but the way he played the game.
At times this season, it looked like Oleksiak was trying too hard to be the famed crease clearer. He was sacrificing position to push people. Saturday night he was calm in possession, physical at the right times, and used his reach the way it was meant to be used. Also, the beat down he issued on Nicolaus Deslauriers was epic. Here's to hoping he can use that game as a springboard for the rest of the season.
Last week was another great week for the Stars. They beat the Sabres twice and went to the house Ovechkin built and handled the Washington Capitals 3-2. Dallas has an active streak of four games allowing two or fewer goals.
This week, the week of Thanksgiving, the Stars will face the Ottawa Senators, the Vancouver Canucks, and MDK Division rivals the Minnesota Wild. Let's dive in.
Tuesday 11/24/15 - Ottawa Senators @ Dallas Stars
Surprising to some, the Senators sit in second place in the Atlantic Division. Erik Karlsson paces the team with 22 points (5 goals,17 assists), and Kyle Turris leads the team in goals with 10.
The goalie situation in Ottawa has been a point of interest for the team since last year. Craig Anderson has played 15 games this year and has stopped 92.1 percent of the shots he has faced. Meanwhile, the backup and hero of last season Andrew Hammond has only played in four games. Hammond suffered a concussion and as been declared out indefinitely, but his limited time before the injury is strange considering his 0.930 save percentage.
Anderson has been a calming and steady presence in net and has shown no interest in conceding the net to the upstart Hammond. It will be interesting to watch this situation continue to develop when Hammond returns from his injury.
Player to Watch: Bobby Ryan, No. 6. Just go watch his highlight reel. Ryan can be electric with the puck. Also, Erik Karlsson isn't too bad.
Friday 11/27/15 - Vancouver Canuck @ Dallas Stars
Vancouver has the honor of being the first 3-on-3 overtime victory for the Dallas Stars this season. The game, also played at the American Airlines Center, was won when Jamie Benn sniped Ryan Miller. It was a competitive contest with the Canucks outshooting the Stars 32-29.
Vancouver is an interesting team to watch. They don't play particularly stingy defense and rank fourth in goals. If this sounds familiar, it is because they are nearly a carbon copy of what the Stars were last year. Dominant offense, optional defense.
Not many people will be writing "Ryan Miller" on their Vezina ballot, but considering the blueline in front of him, his above league average save percentage (0.911) is impressive. The Canucks play an exciting game. This should be another fun contest coming off of a two-day sabbatical for the Thanksgiving holiday. Who's down for some Black Friday hockey?
Players to Watch: Daniel and Henrik Sedin, Nos. 22 and 23 respectively. The 35 year-old twins are still great.
Saturday 11/28/15 - Dallas Stars @ Minnesota Wild
One of a few this season, a division opponent on the back end of a back-to-back. The Stars will travel Friday night and face the Wild in hostile territory Saturday night.
Dallas hosted the Wild and dispatched them 3-2 earlier this season. The Stars were able to inflict their style of play on the Wild, generating 36 shots. The impressive part of the game was the fact that the suffocating defense of Minnesota was unable to slow down the possession of Dallas.
All of that could change in Minnesota. Wild coach Mike Yeo was not pleased with the performance last time. Look for the Wild to come out physical. This figures to be a low-scoring affair.
Dallas will be coming off of a home game against the Canucks, so holding the fort early will be a huge factor. People tend to think of the latter stages of a back-to-back game are when legs wear out, but the sluggish start caused by tight muscles can be more devastating. Shoot early and often, block shots, and find the groove while the score tied. Playing with a lead is easier than chasing the game while tired, though I am not sure who to credit for this thesis.
Player to Watch: Ryan Suter, No. 20. Suter is playing nearly a million minutes per game (source needed). Oddly for him, he also leads the team in scoring (3 goals, 16 assists). Zach Parise hasn't played since November 5th. When he comes back, he figures to positively influence the offense.