Dallas Stars (9-3-0) vs. Carolina Hurricanes (5-5-3)
RBC Center, 1:30 p.m.
TV: NHL Network, FS-Southwest
Since the Panthers have a bye week, here's hoping that most of the Carolinas tune into the Hurricanes Sunday afternoon showdown with the Dallas Stars. This is the final game of Carolina's brief home stand and I said at the beginning of the week that Carolina needed to get a point in all three of these games to help them in the standings (mainly looking towards the future). The game against Tampa Bay was exactly what I wanted to see from this team. They came out strong, converted on the powerplay, the first line had a good game and they killed penalties while the game on Friday against the Caps was exactly the opposite of what I wanted to see from this team. There were numerous defensive breakdowns, the powerplay failed and it was just an ugly game overall. I am hoping for a much better effort in today's game against Dallas and pray that it is nothing like the last time we played the Stars. I have wiped most of that game from my memory and you should have too.
Either way, it's looking like the Canes are going to have a hard time without Jussi Jokinen judging from how the powerplay looked against Washington but let's hope things can turn around here. Maybe introduce some new blood into the powerplay in the form of some fourth liners who should be getting more ice time. Cough.
Lines, analysis & more after the jump
Lines & Defense pairings
Getting to know the Stars
The Stars are having a similar to beginning to last season where they came running out of the gate, but were relying on a lot of intangables to carry the team. The team was getting outshot at even strength nightly, they were relying on goaltender Kari Lehtonen to steal too many games and there were a few players who had some very high shooting percentages. This year, they aren't getting outshot as badly (yet) but Lehtonen's .945 even strength save percentage is playing a huge role in their success. Their top-six is pretty legit when healthy, though. Loui Eriksson and Jaime Benn are their top scorers and not coincidentally, they are also two of their better top-six players when it comes to driving the play this year. That second line tends to get a lot of defensive zone starts and they are creating offense with them. Aside from that, nothing blows me away about Dallas and Lehtonen's superb goaltending is what appears to be what is playing the biggest role in their 9-3-0 start.
Their corsi percentage with the score tied is slightly lower than Carolina's and their entire top line are posting below average corsi numbers so far this year. The biggest story out of the Big D is the re-emergence of Sheldon Souray as an offensive force on the blue-line. Him, Goligoski and Robidas provide some pretty scary optoins for the Stars on the powerplay and all three are putting up respectiable boxcar stats for defensemen. Goligoski's underlying numbers look more impressive than Souray and Robidas, but that becomes clear when you look at their zone starts. Goli is getting easier minutes while Souray and Robidas have to start over 40% of their shifts in their own zone. That's an interesting way to use Souray.
This team is beatable and I think the wheels will come off sooner or later because you can only ride a hot goalie for so long while not being able to break even when playing five-on-five.
- There's a few things Dallas hasn't done this year. One thing is they have yet to have a 5-on-3 powerplay. Another is they have yet to give up a shorthanded goal. I guess we can hope for the second one to happen.
- Staal's line could have a favorable matchup depending on who which defense pairing they see the most. Souray and Robidas have been good so far but I don't trust Souray in his own zone just yet.
- Carolina is slowly developing into a team that uses a "top 9" instead of using a top-six for scoring and the bottom-six for defense. There's been a lot of nights where Brandon Sutter and Patrick Dwyer have been among the team leaders in ice time. If they could score a little more then I would classify them as a "top-9." Dallas is kind of the opposite of that with Steve Ott out of the lineup.
- Look for Staal to see a lot of Vernon Fiddler and that third line. He's a very underrated defensive center and is very good at face-offs. He hasn't been terribly impressive this year yet, but he was a staple of the Coyotes bottom-six and PK unit for the last couple years.
- Anthony Stewart did exactly what I wanted him to do on his goal Friday night. He got to the net, screened the goalie and tipped the shot in. If he can do one of those three things on a nightly basis, then I'll be fine with him on this line until Jokinen comes back.
- I know people are frustrated with the powerplay but the results don't show how much improved this unit is compared to last year. They are creating chances, getting some good shots on net and it's only a matter of time before it pays off. Unfortunately, Jokinen's injury might set that back a little.
- I know I said this on Twitter, but it is almost getting to the point where I have to use the #freeBoychuk hashtag. The team has been struggling to score goals all year, they just loss one of their top offensive players and have someone with a lot of offensive potential sitting right on their fourth line. This should not be so difficult to figure out.
Enjoy the game.