March 12 – Day 149 – Keep it in the Central

Dallas used a three-goal second period in yesterday’s Game of the Day to beat the Blackhawks 5-2.

Only one goal was scored in the first period, and it belonged to the Stars.  First Star of the Game Jason Spezza’s power play wrister found the back of the net after 11:08 of play, assisted by Jamie Benn (his 42nd helper of the season) to give the Stars the beginning of a lead they would not yield.

Only 1:09 into the second, Dallas doubled their lead on a Second Star Antoine Roussel wrister, assisted by Alex Goligoski (his 27th helper of the season) and Ales Hemsky.  3:57 later, a Tyler Seguin wrister, which ended up being the game winner, crossed the goal line to set the score at 3-0 (his 33rd tally of the season), assisted by Spezza.  Forty-two seconds after the midway point of the game, Benn tipped a power play shot into goal, assisted by Patrick Eaves and Seguin (his 37th helper of the season).  The Hawks got one goal back only 2:19 later with a snap shot from Teuvo Teravainen, who was assisted by Tomas Fleischmann and Erik Gustafsson (his 12th helper of the season), setting the score at 4-1 going into the second intermission.

Hemsky improved the Stars‘ advantage to 5-1 with 4:31 remaining in regulation, assisted by Johnny Oduya (his 15th helper of the season) to the empty netter, but Fleischmann’s scored with 59 seconds remaining on the clock, returning the spread to three goals.  He was assisted by Dale Weise and Niklas Hjalmarsson (his 18th helper of the season).

Kari Lehtonen earns the win after saving 21 of 23 shots faced (91.3%), while Corey Crawford takes the loss, saving 16 of 20 (80%).  He was replaced after Benn’s tip-in goal in the second period by Scott Darling, who saved all 10 shots he faced.

Dallas‘ win sets the DtFR Game of the Day series at 66-38-15, favoring the home teams by 29 points over the roadies.

As usual, there’s a ton of games occurring this Saturday, with the action starting at 1 p.m. eastern with two games (the New York Islanders at Boston and Carolina at Buffalo), followed an hour later by the New York Rangers at Detroit (NHLN).  Four games drop the puck at the usual starting time of 7 p.m. eastern (Colorado at Winnipeg, Minnesota at Montréal, Toronto at Ottawa and Philadelphia at Florida).  St. Louis visits Dallas at 9 p.m. eastern (NHLN), and two games trailing an hour later (Nashville at Vancouver and Arizona at Edmonton).  Finally, this evening’s co-nightcaps get going at 10:30 p.m. eastern (New Jersey at Los Angeles and Washington at San Jose).

Four of today’s games are divisional rivalries (Colorado at Winnipeg, Toronto at Ottawa, St. Louis at Dallas and Arizona at Edmonton), and another set of four are between teams currently qualifying for the playoffs (New York at Boston, New York at Detroit, St. Louis at Dallas and Washington at San Jose).

Although today marks the first return of Colin Greening and Milan Michálek to the Canadian Tire Centre since being traded on February 9, the game that most attracts my attention is St. Louis at Dallas, as the winner takes the lead in both the Central Division and the Western Conference!

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Tonight’s game will be St. Louis‘ 16th in the DtFR Game of the Day series, where they own a 8-6-1 record.  Their most recent appearance in the series was Sunday, a 4-2 victory in Minnesota.  Dallas‘ win last night set their series record at 6-0-4 in 10 contests under our observation.

The 40-20-9 St. Louis Blues are currently second best in both the Central Division and the Western Conference.  It has been their defense that has gotten them there, as the Notes allow the eighth fewest goals in the league, which has been necessary to cover up for scoring only the 11th fewest goals in the NHL.  A more in-depth analysis of the Blues‘ game can be found within Sunday’s article.

St. Louis is riding a five game winning streak, with their most recent being yesterday’s 5-2 win over the Ducks.  With a regulation win this evening, they would move a point ahead of the Stars for the division and conference lead.

Based on record alone, the 41-20-8 Dallas Stars are the class of the Central Division and Western Conference.  They’ve gotten there by scoring the most goals in the league, but some games have stayed tighter due to giving up the eighth most scores in the NHL.  A more in-depth analysis of Dallas‘ game can be found within yesterday’s article.

Yesterday’s win over the Blackhawks was important, as it propelled the Stars into the top position in the division and conference, but the Blues are challenging for that exact spot this evening.  Dallas will retain the lead even with an overtime/shootout loss, but they would certainly prefer to have a three point lead in the standings.

St. Louis has already won the season series 3-1-0, but their lone loss to the Stars this season did occur at the American Airlines Center.  These squads most recently met February 16 and played to a 2-1 overtime winner for the Blues in St. Louis.

Some players to keep an eye on include Dallas‘ Jamie Benn (75 points [second most in the league], 33 goals [tied for fourth most in the league] and 42 assists [tied for eighth most in the league]), John Klingberg (43 assists [seventh most in the league]) and Tyler Seguin (70 points [tied for third most in the league] and 33 goals [tied for fourth most in the league]) & St. Louis‘ Jake Allen (five shutouts [tied for second most in the league], 2.24 GAA [eighth best in the league] and .923 save percentage [tied for eighth best in the league]), Colton Parayko (+22 [tied for eighth best in the league]) and Vladimir Tarasenko (32 goals [sixth most in the league]).

I think that the Blues are fully capable of earning two points in Dallas this evening, as even their offense should be able to find success against the Stars‘ defense.

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