The Battle For Gloria concludes. The Jeff Skinner extension is analyzed. What to do with Corey Perry? As well as everyone’s favorite game returns.
For the first time since 1967, the Boston Bruins have an overtime win against the Dallas Stars/Minnesota North Stars franchise in the regular season. As a result of Brad Marchand‘s game-winning goal on the 5-on-3 power play in overtime, the Bruins are now 1-3-8 overall against the Stars when the game goes past 60-minutes in the regular season.
Rask (4-3-0, 2.78 goals against average, .909 save percentage in 7 games played this season) made 24 saves on 25 shots against for a .960 SV% in 64:29 time on ice in the win for Boston, while Khudobin made (2-1-1, 2.21 GAA, .929 SV% in 4 GP) 33 saves on 35 shots faced for a .943 SV% in the loss.
The Bruins improved to 8-4-2 (18 points) on the season and remained in 3rd place in the Atlantic Division, while the Stars fell to 8-5-1 (17 points) and moved into 3rd place in the Central Division.
Bruce Cassidy made a few minor adjustments to his lineup Monday night, sliding Danton Heinen down to the third line with David Backes and Anders Bjork to start the night, while Joakim Nordstrom kicked things off with David Krejci and Jake DeBrusk on the second line.
Early in the first period Roman Polak interfered with Bruins forward, Brad Marchand, and was sent to the box with a minor penalty at 3:25.
Less than 30 seconds later, Boston’s power play unit was more than power less as Radek Faksa (3) entered the zone without any deterrent for an unassisted short handed goal, firing a shot past Rask and giving Dallas the 1-0 lead at 3:51 of the first period.
Though they could’ve gotten behind the eight-ball, the Bruins trudged on and capitalized on the same special teams advantage moments later.
Patrice Bergeron found David Pastrnak (12) in the open to the left of Khudobin acting as the bumper on the power play and sent a crisp pass for the one-timer power play goal at 5:11, tying the game, 1-1.
Bergeron (13) and DeBrusk (1) were tabbed with the assists on Pastrnak’s goal and the Bruins not only leveled the scoreboard, 1-1, but the momentum swing game too. Boston had scored 1:20 after Dallas opened the game’s scoring.
After their power play goal, Boston didn’t let up on the gas pedal, pressuring the Stars in every inch of the ice and supplying Khudobin with a tremendous workload.
Through one period of play the game was tied, 1-1, on the scoreboard while the B’s led in shots on goal, 13-4. Dallas held onto the advantage in blocked shots (3-0), takeaways (5-4), giveaways (2-0) and face-off win percentage (53-47) after 20 minutes of play, while both teams notched nine hits aside.
The Stars had yet to see any time on the power play, while the Bruins were 1/1 on the skater advantage.
Despite allowing more shots on goal than putting pucks on net in the second period, Boston maintained a, 21-13, advantage in shots on goal entering the second period as the game remained tied, 1-1, through two periods.
Dallas continued to lead in blocked shots (9-0), giveaways (7-6) and hits (24-19) heading into the dressing room for the second intermission, while the Bruins led in face-off win% (53-47). Both teams recorded nine takeaways through 40 minutes of play.
Neither club added any penalty minutes to the scoresheet heading into the third period.
Krug took the only penalty for Boston in the game past the midpoint of the third period as he collided with Gemel Smith and received a boarding minor at 11:15.
The Stars failed to convert on their only power play opportunity of the game, while the Bruins successfully killed off Krug’s infraction.
After 60 minutes, the game was still tied, 1-1, and the Bruins were outshooting Dallas, 32-23 (11-10 in the third period). The Stars maintained a stronghold in blocked shots (13-3) and led in hits (30-26) after regulation, while Boston led takeaways (14-12) and face-off win% (52-48).
Both teams had nine giveaways aside heading into overtime, while Dallas was 0/1 on the power play and the B’s were 1/1.
Entering overtime, Boston had yet to win past 60 minutes this season, dropping a game in Edmonton, 3-2, and a game in Vancouver, 2-1, last month– both in overtime, while the Stars were 1-0 in overtime this season.
After a bungled line change resulted in a too many men bench minor for Dallas, Mattias Janmark was sent to the both to serve the infraction and Stars head coach, Jim Montgomery rallied his remaining skaters on the ice, despite facing an uphill 4-on-3 penalty kill to climb with 1:44 remaining in overtime.
That’s right, regardless of the outcome, Boston would have a power play until the end of the game– win or lose.
Things got worse for Dallas when Esa Lindell cross-checked Marchand 11 seconds later along the boards and the Stars went from being down one skater to facing a two-skater disadvantage to finish the night.
While on the 5-on-3 power play, Boston worked the puck around the goal firing a quality shot on Khudobin that the Stars netminder denied before finally cracking the code.
After working the puck around the zone, Krejci found Marchand working the low slot– point blank– on the left side of the Dallas goaltender. Marchand (5) promptly elevated a snap shot past Khudobin’s blocker and into the goal for the game-winning overtime power play goal at 4:29 of the overtime period.
Krejci (8) and Krug (2) picked up the primary and secondary assists on the Bruins franchise leading overtime game-winning goal scorer’s goal and Boston secured the 2-1 victory Monday night at home.
Boston finished the night leading in shots on goal (35-25) and face-off win% (55-45), while Dallas led in blocked shots (13-4), giveaways (10-9) and hits (32-26). The Stars were 0/1 on the power play, while the Bruins went 2/3 on the skater advantage.
With Monday night’s win, the Bruins look to build the momentum against the Vancouver Canucks this Thursday at TD Garden as Boston continues their four-game home stand.
The Toronto Maple Leafs are in town Saturday and the Vegas Golden Knights swing through on Sunday before Boston hits the road for a four-game road trip starting in Colorado.
42-32-8, 92 points, 6th in the Central Division
Subtractions: Head Coach Ken Hitchcock (retired), D Andrew Bodnarchuk (signed, DEL), F Brian Flynn (signed with STL), D Dan Hamhuis (signed with NSH), G Mike McKenna (signed with OTT), F Curtis McKenzie (signed with VGK), D Greg Pateryn (signed with MIN), D Brent Regner (signed, Austria), F Antoine Roussel (signed with VAN)
Still Unsigned: G Kari Lehtonen, D Andrew O’Brien, F Cole Ully
Offseason Analysis: After missing the 2018 Stanley Cup Playoffs by a few points, Ken Hitchcock finally hung up the pen and paper(?) behind the bench. Hitchcock’s one-year reunion with the Dallas Stars proved two things– that the Stars weren’t a playoff caliber roster in the long run and that Hitchcock’s coaching style had run its course in the contemporary NHL.
Outside of John Klingberg and Marc Methot, Dallas’s defense didn’t scream high-caliber. Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin alone couldn’t generate enough offense to ease the barrage of pucks Ben Bishop faced in net.
Whatever the reasoning, the fact of the matter is the Stars didn’t have a complete team in 2017-18, so General Manager Jim Nill had some cracks to fix.
First, Dallas brought in 49-year-old head coach, Jim Montgomery, out of the University of Denver and into the National Hockey League. Montgomery expects to bring a new-age pace to the Stars, but there’s always a catch– rookie NHL coaches rarely exceed expectations in their first season, especially if they’re coming from college hockey straight to the NHL level of the professional game.
Second, Nill didn’t make any trades. Instead he opted to let Antoine Roussel and his 17 points in 73 games last season walk in free agency, along with Curtis McKenzie and other bottom-six role forwards. Also gone are Dan Hamhuis– once thought to be a steal from free agency not so long ago– and Greg Pateryn, who, after all things considered, played a durable bottom-pair worthy role on the Dallas blueline.
Nill signed 32-year-old Roman Polak to a one-year, $1.300 million contract to appease veteran presence on the backend with a friendly short-term deal while the Stars look to implement Miro Heiskanen in the North American game.
Blake Comeau, Erik Condra and Michael Mersch will all file down the line of bottom-six “glue guy” roles on the depth chart all the way to being a healthy scratch most nights– let alone emergency call-up go-tos.
The fact of the matter is the Stars need to get younger and it could start with Heiskanen, but it should also include Jason Robertson among the forwards. Past that, there’s not much going on in the Big D.
After Kari Lehtonen, 35, couldn’t hold his weight as a starter, Dallas brought in Ben Bishop– a surefire number one goalie– to lead them back to glory. Bishop’s year didn’t fully go as planned, but Lehtonen actually improved from 2016-17 to 2017-18 in his more limited role.
Lehtonen’s 2.85 goals against average and .902 save percentage in 59 games played in 2016-17 dropped to a 2.56 GAA and rose to a .912 SV% in 37 appearances last season. The Atlanta Thrashers 2nd overall pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft rebounded quite nicely and is still unsigned.
Meanwhile, Nill brought in Anton Khudobin, 32, most recently from the Boston Bruins on a two-year contract to become become Bishop’s backup. Khudobin’s can be streaky at times, but when he’s good, he’s
great good. Just good.
Case in point, Khudobin bounced back from a 2.64 GAA and .904 SV% in 16 appearances with the Bruins in 2016-17 while bouncing back-and-forth between Boston and Providence (AHL) to a 2.56 GAA and .913 SV% in 31 games last season with the Bruins.
Khudobin’s GAA last season was the same as Lehtonen’s in six fewer games. He faced almost 100 fewer shots than Lehtonen and allowed seven fewer goals. His save percentage was .001% better than Lehtonen.
If Nill’s getting really technical, he “improved” Dallas’s backup option. Sure he’s not paying a guy $5.900 million to play fewer than 40 games, but Khudobin’s making $2.500 million for… pretty much the same results if he’s playing well.
If Lehtonen was going to re-sign, he surely was going to have to sign for much less than what he was making ($5.900 million) and wouldn’t have been able to capitalize as much as Khudobin did on his comeback (Khudobin more than doubled his salary from his last contract with Boston to his current one with Dallas).
I mean, Lehtonen improved much like his former teammate with the Stars, Antti Niemi did, but without the immense failures in Pittsburgh and Florida before being picked up off waivers by the Montreal Canadiens.
But enough about subprime goaltending, lack of offense and not enough drive from a mediocre defense outside of John Klingberg.
The Stars aren’t on the rise and that should concern fans deeply.
You see, there’s another guy wearing No. 91 in the NHL that’s a pending-UFA in July 2019 and nearly every armchair GM has already set their sights on him. His name is Tyler Seguin and he’s Dallas’s biggest star.
After talking about an extension before the 2018 NHL Draft– conveniently held in Dallas– Seguin’s heard nothing from the Stars front office. Another season without a postseason might just be enough to push the 26-year-old center over the edge and into the waters of free agency next summer.
Offseason Grade: D+
There’s areas of concern that go further than just shaking things up behind the bench in Dallas. It’s not that Montgomery won’t be a great coach, but rather that Nill hasn’t pulled off the necessary moves with the roster to really set them over the bar and into the playoffs.
Betting on other teams regressing to the mean, while counting on your stars to perform better than they did last season isn’t safe if you’re not actually improving. Plus there’s the whole “they might lose Tyler Seguin for nothing next offseason a la the New York Islanders and John Tavares“. First impressions for the future are everything, and Nill and the Stars aren’t sending the right one(s).
Our offseason previews for all 31 National Hockey League teams continues with the Dallas Stars and their outlook for the summer.
Ken Hitchcock reunited with the Dallas Stars for one last ride in 2017-18, amassing 92 points on the season, finishing 6th in the Central Divsion with a 42-32-8 record. Despite missing out on a wild card spot by three points, Hitchcock announced his retirement from the NHL as a head coach.
General Manager Jim Nill brought in Jim Montgomery from the University of Denver Pioneers as the next head coach and the Stars are looking to make the playoffs for the first time since 2016 next season.
With names like Ben Bishop, Tyler Seguin, Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov, John Klingberg and Marc Methot on the roster, Dallas is looking for more than just another exit in the Second Round like in 2016, but they’ve got some work to do this offseason to make the jump from playoff bubble team to Cup contender.
2018 NHL Entry Draft
Nill and the Stars have the 13th overall pick at this year’s draft and won’t have far to travel, thanks to American Airlines Center playing host to the 2018 NHL Entry Draft in a week.
Dallas will have plenty of talent to choose from in any of the best available players with a mid-first round pick in Isac Lundestrom, Joel Farabee, Ty Smith, Bode Wilde, Barrett Hayton, Jesperi Kotkaniemi, Joseph Veleno or Serron Noel.
Similar to 2017 3rd overall pick Miro Heiskanen, the Stars won’t expect their 2018 first round pick to make the roster coming out of training camp this fall.
Pending free agents
The Stars have about $17.700 million to spend this summer, keeping in mind the salary cap ceiling is expected to rise.
By how much? That’s to be determined, so at least account for a little extra money to work with in all of these offseason previews, if you haven’t already figured that out on your own by now.
Nill has one pending-unrestricted free agent forward to consider re-signing in 28-year-old Antoine Roussel. His production was down 10 points from 2016-17 to 2017-18, notching 5-12–17 totals in 73 games with Dallas this season.
The Stars should likely pass on another year of Roussel, unless they view him as a fourth line winger with the potential to snag a third line spot from time-to-time.
Smith, 24, had six goals and five assists (11 points) in 46 games. That’s good enough over the course of a season as a fourth liner, but also might not be enough to stick around at the NHL level, depending on the team and how serious of a playoff contending run they intend on pursuing.
One good thing for Smith’s future with the organization is that he’s still young enough to sign on a small, bridge deal and give one more chance at NHL success (or scratch every night/send down the Texas Stars (AHL) if necessary).
Shore, 23, had 11-21–32 totals in 82 games played this season, falling short of last season’s offensive outcome by one point. If Dallas’s front office comes down to deciding between Shore and Roussel the choice is clear this offseason. Keep Shore for his consistency alone, let alone his five additional years of youth.
Janmark, 25, scored five points more this season than his 29-point rookie season. He had a career-high 19 goals and 15 assists for 34 points in 81 games played. It should be a no-brainer to keep Janmark around.
Hamhuis had his best season since 2014-15 with the Vancouver Canucks, scoring three goals and 21 assists (24 points) in 80 games with the Stars this season. At 35, he isn’t getting any younger, but he’s worth having as a veteran presence on the blueline.
Pateryn, in his first legitimate full-season, had one goal and 12 assists for 13 points in 73 games. If Nill is content with Pateryn as a top-six defender, then he should be back. Otherwise, there might be other options within the organization or outside of Dallas for the bottom-pair defense.
Pending-RFA Stephen Johns is the only pending free agent of the restricted variety on Dallas’s blueline. Johns set career highs in goals, assists and points with 8-7–15 totals in 75 games.
The problem with the Stars is they have a lot of lower pair defenders, meaning while Johns deserves a new contract, how new head coach Jim Montgomery envisions utilizing his defensive corps may play a hand in who gets renewed and who doesn’t.
In net, the Stars are looking at Ben Bishop as their presumptive starter through the end of his contract after the 2022-23 season with a cap hit of $4.917 million.
Bishop, 31, posted a 2.49 goals against average and .916 save percentage in 53 games played in his first season in the Big D, compiling a 26-17-5 record.
Backup netminder, Kari Lehtonen, 34, is a pending-UFA this July and secured a 2.56 GAA and .912 SV% in 37 games this season– his first as a full-time backup in Dallas. Lehtonen had a 15-14-3 record and improved in GAA and SV% as a result of the decrease in workload.
In fact, over his last few seasons as a starting goaltender, Lehtonen’s goals against average and save percentage were all over the place (2.94 and .903 in 2014-15, 2.76 and .906 in 2015-16 and 2.85 and .902 in 2016-17).
The main purpose of a backup goaltender is to stop pucks and give your starter a rest, while hopefully stealing more wins than losses in the meantime.
If Dallas can tighten up their defense, then Lehtonen can easily surpass the .500 mark as a winning backup goaltender next season– if he gets an extension, that is.
Considering how the Stars don’t have someone readily available in the system and the potentially weak market for goaltenders this summer (ignoring the hot commodity that is Stanley Cup champion Philipp Grubauer), Lehtonen should be back.
Other pending free agents throughout the organization include:
Curtis McKenzie (UFA), Andrew Bodnarchuk (UFA), Andrew O’Brien (UFA), Mike McKenna (UFA), Brian Flynn (UFA), Dillon Heatherington (RFA), Cole Ully (RFA), Jason Dickinson (RFA), Remi Elie (RFA), Philippe Desrosiers (RFA), Reece Scarlett (UFA), Brent Regner (UFA)
Buyouts on the books: Antti Niemi— $1.500 million through the end of 2018-19
It’s the last games of 2017! Everybody panic!
For those intending to cram as much hockey as they can into their remaining time this year, the NHL has you covered with eight games being played throughout the day. The action begins at 3:30 p.m. when Toronto visits Vegas (SN/TVAS), followed half an hour later by Arizona at Anaheim. The final matinee of the day involves Tampa Bay at Columbus at 6 p.m., while a pair of contests (Winnipeg at Edmonton [SN] and Pittsburgh at Detroit) will drop the puck at the usual 7 p.m. starting time. Two more games (the New York Islanders at Colorado and San Jose at Dallas) get underway at 8 p.m., and tonight’s nightcap – Chicago at Calgary (SN360) – cleans up the year’s matchups at 9 p.m. All times Eastern.
As you might expect, there’s a few of those games that have stuck out to me for quite a while.
- Winnipeg at Edmonton: The return of a rivalry of days gone by should be even better tonight since these clubs just met up last week.
- Pittsburgh at Detroit: The rivalry of the late 2000s is renewed and C Riley Sheahan makes his first return to Motown after spending the first seven years of his career there.
- Chicago at Calgary: Southern Albertans welcome back F Lance Bouma this evening, who played his first six seasons with the Flames.
However, no matter how fun those games might be, I’m not comfortable with them being the final we feature in the year 2017. Instead, I want to make a trip to Texas for what could prove to be a very important game come April.
For those questioning my claim to the potential importance of this game, allow me to explain. While the 20-11-4 Sharks are currently holding on to third place in the Pacific Division, it is increasingly looking like C Ryan Getzlaf‘s return to the Ducks is enough to pull the team together.
If we follow that strain of thought far enough, I’m led to believe Anaheim can surpass San Jose for the final division qualifier. If that happens, it puts the Sharks in contention with the 21-15-3 Stars for the two wild card positions. If we continue to play out this hypothetical situation, the fact that this is the lone matchup between these clubs in Dallas means the result of this contest could be a potential tiebreaker if the Sharks and Stars end the season with the same point total.
Of the two, the Sharks certainly enter tonight’s matchup on a better hot streak. They’ve won their last three games and have a 6-2-2 record over their last 10.
What has really stuck out over this three-game winning streak is the Sharks’ dominance on the power play. Since December 21, San Jose has converted 38.5 percent of its man-advantages, far and away the best effort in the league in that time.
This success is entirely due to the dominance by the Sharks’ top unit, which consists of D Brent Burns, F Tomas Hertl, RW Kevin Labanc, F Joe Pavelski and C Joe Thornton. All five have earned at least two power play points, and both Hertl and Thornton have scored two power play goals.
Meanwhile, Dallas has earned points in seven of its last nine games, including victories over the Blues, Islanders, Predators and Rangers – all current playoff teams. What makes this game fun is the Stars have also found their success of late on the power play, as their 22.2 percent conversion rate since December 11 is (t)seventh-best in the NHL.
Similar to San Jose, it’s been the Stars’ top power play unit that provided most of the firepower. That unit, which consists of LW Jamie Benn, F Mattias Janmark, D John Klingberg, RW Brett Ritchie and F Tyler Seguin, has scored four of Dallas’ last six power play goals. Klingberg and Seguin in particular have been noteworthy, as they both have four power play points in their last nine games played, and half of Seguin’s have been goals.
In a game featuring two red-hot power plays, this contest is going to boil down to which penalty kill can provide more stops. If that proves to be the case, the Sharks are a lock for two points, because their 86 percent kill rate on the season is second-best in the league.
The Washington Capitals took it to the New Jersey Devils in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, as they beat them 5-2 at Capital One Arena.
Washington wasted no time in taking a lead in this contest, as RW Tom Wilson (Second Star of the Game D Christian Djoos and First Star D John Carlson) scored a snap shot only 2:26 into the contest. That advantage doubled to 2-0 8:43 later courtesy of a Djoos (C Nicklas Backstrom and Third Star W Alex Ovechkin) wrist shot. The period didn’t totally belong to the Caps though, as D John Moore (C Travis Zajac and F Marcus Johansson) was able to bury a snapper with 2:25 remaining in the frame to pull Jersey back within a tally.
The goal that proved to be the game-winner was struck at the 7:01 mark of the second period by Carlson (Backstrom and Ovechkin). With C Pavel Zacha in the penalty box for holding Djoos at the 5:34 mark, the Capitals went to work on their first power play opportunity of the night. With half a minute remaining before he was released, Backstrom centered a pass to Carlson from behind G Cory Schneider‘s cage. The blueliner took the pass above the right face-off circle and fired a screaming slap shot into the back of the net.
But the Capitals weren’t done yet. 4:25 into the third period, they set the score at 4-1 on a D Matt Niskanen (W Devante Smith-Pelly and Ovechkin) wrister. The Devils’ comeback effort reached a peak 4:35 later when Zajac (Johansson and D Sami Vatanen) scored a tip-in, but they couldn’t sneak another shot past G Braden Holtby. Jersey was definitely put to bed when Backstrom (Carlson) scored on an empty net with 41 seconds remaining in regulation to set the 5-2 final score.
Holtby earned the victory after saving 25-of-27 shots faced (.926 save percentage), leaving the loss to Schneider, who saved 30-of-34 (.882).
Another DtFR Game of the Day, another home victory. The 48-27-10 hosts have now won two-straight in the series to expand their lead over visitors to 22 points.
Welcome to another Saturday in the NHL. With everybody else watching the college football conference championships, that leaves more hockey for you and me.
Oh, that’s not how television works?
While I get that figured out, the first Saturday of December brings with it a big bag of presents from the NHL, as there’s a dozen games on today’s schedule. The action starts at 1 p.m. with Boston at Philadelphia (SN), followed by the only other matinee of the day: St. Louis at Minnesota at 6 p.m. The usual 7 p.m. starting time is chock-full of action with six games (Toronto at Vancouver [CBC/CITY], Detroit at Montréal [SN/TVAS], San Jose at Tampa Bay, Buffalo at Pittsburgh [NHLN], Columbus at Washington and Florida at Carolina) slated to drop the puck, with two more (New Jersey at Arizona and Anaheim at Nashville) in tow an hour later. 9 p.m. marks the start of Chicago at Dallas, while tonight’s nightcap – Edmonton at Calgary – will get underway 60 minutes after. All times Eastern.
What a collection of games! All but two matchups are between teams separated by eight points or less in the standings. As for our Game of the Day, I had a few picked out at the start of season…
- Boston at Philadelphia: Ever since the Flyers beat the Bruins in the Stanley Cup Finals to become the first expansion team to win a title, these clubs have not gotten along.
- St. Louis at Minnesota: Speaking of playoff rematches, this one was far more recent – as in, last year’s Western Conference Quarterfinals, recent.
- Detroit at Montréal: To keep the Stanley Cup theme going, no clubs have hoisted the trophy more than these two Original Six teams.
- Anaheim at Nashville: The Ducks and Predators squared off in a gritty, nasty seven-game series for the right to represent the Western Conference in last year’s Stanley Cup Finals.
- Chicago at Dallas: F Patrick Sharp‘s two tenures with the Blackhawks was divided by two seasons spent with the Stars. Tonight marks his first trip back to Texas since moving back to the Windy City.
- Edmonton at Calgary: In this rivalry, the teams don’t only represent only themselves, but also a stark feud between two Albertan cities.
Let me say it again for everybody in the back: What. A slate. Of games.
This is a tough pick today, because I don’t like featuring the same teams all the time (*cough* take a hint NBC and NHL *cough*). That being said, the contest that attracts my attention the most is taking place in the Lone Star State.
For those concerned, I’m not drawn to this game simply because of the Sharp story, though I suppose it is one worth noting.
After being a third-round pick by Philadelphia in the 2001 NHL Entry Draft, Sharp was traded to the Blackhawks during the 2005-’06. He would proceed to play 10 seasons in Chicago, scoring 511 points – including 239 goals – over 679 games en route to three Stanley Cup championships.
As seems to be the case following many championship seasons nowadays, Chicago faced some serious salary cap issues after the 2014-’15 season, which led to Sharp and D Stephen Johns getting shipped to Dallas in exchange for D Trevor Daley and C Ryan Garbutt.
Sharp spent the last two seasons with the Stars, but they only really got one good season out of him. During the 2015-’16 campaign, the forward provided 20-35-55 totals to help get Dallas back to the playoffs for only the second time since the 2007-’08 season when the Stars were Western Conference finalists.
Unfortunately, Sharp’s second season with the club was nowhere near as good as his first. Limited to a measly 48 games, he provided Dallas only 18 points and a -22 rating as the Stars failed to earn a postseason berth. Though I’m not going to argue that Sharp is the reason the Stars struggled last year (*cough* G Kari Lehtonen and G Antti Niemi *cough*), he was not renewed for this season, allowing him to return to his beloved Blackhawks on a one-year contract.
So far, Sharp has been rather uninspiring from Chicago’s third line, as he’s managed only 3-4-7 totals playing alongside young studs F Alex DeBrincat (11-8-19) and F Ryan Hartman (4-9-13). Considering he’ll turn 36-years-old before you hang up your 2018 calendar, his recent bodies of work might force him to consider the dreaded “R” word once this campaign is through.
In the meantime, he’ll try to help his 12-9-4 Hawks get back into the Western Conference playoff picture.
Figuring out why Chicago is on the outside looking in is a difficult task. After all, they back up a ninth-ranked offense (3.16 goals-per-game) with an even better defense (2.68 goals against-per-game) that’s ranked fifth-best in the NHL.
One of my biggest complaints with the Blackhawks is their incredibly unsuccessful power play. Converting only 17.1 percent of their man-advantage opportunities, the Hawks are tied with San Jose for the eighth-worst extra-man attack in the NHL.
This struggle has led Head Coach Joel Quenneville to try some crazy units to resolve his club’s problem. As of Friday’s practice, DeBrincat, D Gustav Forsling, D Duncan Keith, RW Richard Panik and C Jonathan Toews made up Chicago’s top power play team, with F Artem Anisimov, D Cody Franson, F Patrick Kane, W Brandon Saad and F Nick Schmaltz taking second-team duties.
Let’s see, what’s weird about Chicago’s first unit? Oh, maybe that there’s a rookie earning solid power play minutes alongside two defensemen… or maybe that Kane isn’t on the unit…
Like I said, crazy things.
One thing I really like about putting Anisimov, Kane and Schmaltz on the same unit is that it puts Kane in what I’m considering the “joker” position. Take into account that all seven of Anisimov’s power play points are goals (the most on the team), while all five of Schmaltz’ are assists – that makes them a logical pair.
Meanwhile, Showtime has earned a team-leading nine points this season with the man-advantage, but only two of them have been goals. Of course, with 295 career regular season goals to his name, Kane is far from a “pass first” player. Putting Kane with Anisimov and Schmaltz, he’s able to take on the role of goal-scorer or join Schmaltz as another play-maker.
If I’m an opposing goaltender, in this case G Ben Bishop, that versatility is a very scary threat.
Meanwhile, things seem like they’re going 14-10-1 Dallas’ way. They’re currently riding a three-game winning streak, including a 4-3 overtime victory over these Blackhawks Thursday night (more on that later).
We came into the season celebrating what the Stars’ offense could be capable of with LW Jamie Benn, RW Alexander Radulov and F Tyler Seguin combining to form an ultimate super-line. Instead, the story of late has been Dallas’ defense, which has allowed only seven goals since November 24, the (t)second-fewest in that time span.
12-7-0 Bishop has been solid over this run – he’s managed a .925 save percentage in these last three games – but I’ve been much more impressed with the defensive corps playing in front of him.
Behind the unexpected leadership of D Greg Pateryn – who’s thrown eight hits and blocked seven shots during this run – from the second defensive pair, Dallas’ D- corps has allowed only 94 shots to reach Bishop in the past week, the third-fewest in the NHL.
What makes this game especially fun – you know, beyond the Blackhawks trying to get past Dallas for fourth place in the Central Division – is that it’s a rematch of Thursday’s matchup. In that game, F Mattias Janmark scored two goals – including the game-winner – to earn the Stars a 4-3 overtime victory against the Hawks at the United Center. Something tells me Chicago would like to return the favor of sending the home fans at the American Airlines Center away unhappy.
That being said, I’m leaning towards the Stars taking this contest with their excellent defense.
The Los Angeles Kings showed no mercy in yesterday’s DtFR Game of the Day, as they beat the St. Louis Blues 4-1 at Scottrade Center.
In fact, the Kings were so on top of their game that they registered their game-winning goal before a full seven minutes had ticked off the clock. First Star of the Game F Tyler Toffoli (C Nick Shore and LW Tanner Pearson) opened the scoring with a wrist shot 1:43 after the opening puck drop, followed 4:29 later by Third Star C Anze Kopitar‘s (F Alex Iafallo and D Jake Muzzin) fourth game-clincher of the year.
The play that led to Kopitar’s goal stretched the entire length of the rink. Muzzin started with the puck in his own defensive zone and fed a quick pass to Kopitar at the red line. Once he established the offensive zone, Kopitar dished to Iafallo along the right boards, who fired a snap shot towards G Carter Hutton. Hutts made the save with his pads, but the rebound bounced right to the Slovenian, who deftly pocketed his wrister in the back of the net.
St. Louis finally got on its shiny new scoreboard with 4:43 remaining in the second period courtesy of a power play deflection from F Patrik Berglund (D Colton Parayko and D Vince Dunn), his first goal of the season. Unfortunately for the Notes, that positive momentum was erased 3:39 later when F Adrian Kempe (D Alec Martinez and D Drew Doughty) set the score at 3-1 going into the second intermission.
Only one goal was struck in the third period, but it was enough to signal defeat to the home fans. Toffoli (Pearson and Muzzin) scored his second goal of the game with a deflection 9:06 before the end of regulation, setting the 4-1 final score.
Second Star G Darcy Kuemper earned the victory after saving 39-of-40 shots faced (.975 save percentage), leaving the loss to Hutton, who saved 18-of-21 (.857) before being pulled in favor of G Jake Allen for the third period. Allen saved six-of-seven (857) for no decision.
Los Angeles’ road victory snaps a six-game winning streak by home teams in the DtFR Game of the Day series, but the visitors still trail the 33-20-6 hosts by 15 points.
The Stars‘ three first period goals were all they needed to force a Game 7 in Dallas, as they won in St. Louis 3-2.
The Blues didn’t get a shot on goal until almost five minutes into the game, but it was Dallas‘ second shot that stole the show when Mattias Janmark connected on a wrist shot at the 4:53 mark (his second tally of the postseason), assisted by Valeri Nichushkin. It was a breakaway goal caused by Colton Parayko when his pass from the blue line to the center of the offensive zone was intercepted by Nichushkin, who immediately found a steaking Janmark who had already cleared both St. Louis defensemen to set up a one-on-one with Brian Elliott. After advancing to approximately the far face-off dot before firing over Elliott’s stick shoulder.
The Stars doubled their lead 20 seconds later, courtesy of Vernon Fiddler, who was assisted by Third Star of the Game Colton Sceviour and Kris Russell (his fourth helper of the playoffs), caused by yet another Blues turnover. Elliott was attempting to clear the puck, but his dump was intercepted by Russell, who immediately sent the puck back behind goal for Sceviour. Sceviour had intentions of a wrap-around attempt, but Robert Bortuzzo, playing in his first game of the Western Semis, forced him into a backhanded centering pass that Fiddler redirected past Elliott’s stick shoulder.
The Blues had a great opportunity to get a goal back just past the 10 minute mark, as they fired three different shots that First Star Kari Lehtonen only blocked but did not freeze, but the important thing for the Stars is that none found the back of the net.
Jason Demers committed the first penalty of the night for a hi-stick on Jori Lehtera with 7:59 remaining in the frame. The Blues certainly applied some pressure, but the Dallas penalty kill stood strong to keep the Notes scoreless.
Troy Brouwer returned the favor with 3:46 remaining with a blatant cross check against Radek Faksa. Unlike the first power play, this one counted as Jason Spezza connected on a wrister, assisted by Jamie Benn and John Klingberg. Klingberg made a kick steal on an attempted pass from Dmitrij Jaskin, collected and dumped back towards his offensive zone for Benn. Benn completed the advance along the near boards under pressure from Jay Bouwmeester… until he fell down, allowing Benn to center the puck for Spezza, who advanced towards Elliott’s crease and scored through traffic over the netminder’s glove.
It was the needle that broke the camel’s back, as Ken Hitchcock pulled Elliott in favor of Jake Allen, earning his first minutes of the 2016 playoffs. He completed the frame without giving up any goals, leaving the score at 3-0.
Although they trailed on the scoreboard, the Blues actually played a decent period beyond their mistimed mistakes, leading the Stars in shots (nine to seven), face-off wins (57%), takeaways (four to two), giveaways (one to three) and hits (11 to nine).
St. Louis finally got on the board at the 7:29 mark of the second period with a Second Star Alexander Steen wrister, assisted by Bortuzzo and Vladimir Tarasenko. The left wing’s initial shot was blocked by Demers and eventually sent towards the near boards by Tarasenko where it was collected by Bortuzzo, who immediately fired a slap shot on Lehtonen’s net. With Lehtonen still collecting himself, Steen collected the rebound and scored on the basically empty net.
It was the lone tally of the back and forth period, leaving the Stars with a 3-1 lead going into the final period.
After 40 minutes, the Blues had a commanding lead in shots on goal (23 to 12) in addition to leading face-off wins (51%), takeaways (nine to six), giveaways (four to five) and hits (19 to 15).
2:41 into the third period, Russell earned a seat in the sin bin for a delay of game penalty, giving the Blues their second power play opportunity of the contest, but just like the first it yielded no goal.
The Notes pulled within a goal at the 8:59 mark when Patrik Berglund scored his third goal of the postseason, assisted by Lehtera and David Backes (his fifth helper of the playoffs). Backes received a pass from Alex Pietrangelo and then found Lehtera hanging around near Lehtonen’s crease. Lehtera turned with the puck and passed between his legs to Berglund, who tipped-in his score past the goalie’s right skate.
St. Louis was unable to level in the remaining 11:01, which means these teams will meet one more time in North Texas on Wednesday.
In summary, after a poor first period for the Blues, this was an incredible game by St. Louis, as they fired 37 shots on goal to Dallas‘ 14 (the most they ever had in one period was seven), earned 17 takeaways and threw 21 hits. Given how well they handled the Stars in the final 40 minutes, it is difficult to tell who carries the momentum into the deciding game.
Lehtonen earns the win after saving 35 of 37 shots faced (94.6%), while Elliott takes the loss, saving four of seven (57.1%). After coming into the game as relief, Allen saved all seven shots he faced for no decision.
Wednesday’s game at the American Airlines Center will drop the puck at 8 p.m. eastern, and may be viewed on NBCSN, SN or TVAS.
By: Nick Lanciani
Ken Hitchcock made one lineup change heading into Game 5 on Saturday afternoon and it paid off for the St. Louis Blues as Dmitrij Jaskin’s second period goal proved to be the game winner en route to the Blues’ 4-1 victory over the Dallas Stars at American Airlines Center.
Brian Elliott made 27 saves on 28 shots faced (with a .964 SV%) for St. Louis in the win, while Kari Lehtonen made 18 saves on 21 shots against for a .857 SV% in the loss.
Dallas forwards, Tyler Seguin and Patrick Eaves were doubtful for Game 5 and remained scratched prior to puck drop. Ryan Reaves and Steve Ott were healthy scratches for St. Louis as Jaskin was inserted into the lineup. The winner of Game 5 has an all-time series record of 190-53 (78.2%) among teams entering Game 5 tied 2-2 in a best-of-seven game series. With the win on Saturday, the Blues now have a 3-2 series lead heading into Game 6 on Monday night at Scottrade Center.
Robby Fabbri opened up the scoring six minutes into the first period with his 2nd goal of the 2016 Stanley Cup Playoffs. Kevin Shattenkirk (7) assisted on the goal that gave St. Louis a 1-0 lead. A little after halfway through the first period the Stars had answered with a goal of their own from Alex Goligoski. Goligoski scored his 4th goal of the postseason with a wrist shot that beat Elliott at 10:58 of the first period and tied the game at 1. Vernon Fiddler (2) and Jason Spezza (8) picked up the primary and secondary assists.
After twenty minutes of play the score was tied 1-1 and Dallas was leading in shots on goal (10-8), faceoff wins (6-4), giveaways (3-1) and takeaways (3-2). The Blues led in hits (12-8) and blocked shots (5-1) after the first period.
Jaskin scored his 1st goal of the playoffs a little over ten minutes into the 2nd period and gave the Blues a 2-1 lead. Jay Bouwmeester (4) and Scottie Upshall (2) assisted on the goal and St. Louis never looked back the rest of the game. Troy Brouwer picked up his 4th of the postseason on a wrist shot that beat Lehtonen and was assisted by Paul Stastny (4) and Fabbri (8) at 17:42 of the period. Brouwer’s goal put the Blues up by two and gave them a 3-1 lead heading into the second intermission.
Leading by two after two, St. Louis also led in shots on goal (19-16), hits (24-23) and blocked shots (12-9). Meanwhile the Stars had an advantage in faceoff wins (17-13), giveaways (7-2) and takeaways (5-2). Through forty minutes of play, there were no penalties called.
A string of penalties were called in the third period in what seemed to be pent up penalty calling anger from the refs as David Backes, Brouwer, Mattias Janmark, Fiddler and Shattenkrik were all penalized within ten minutes of one another for minor infractions ranging from holding to slashing to roughing.
Neither team was able to capitalize on any power play that occurred.
With about four minutes left in the third period, Stars head coach, Lindy Ruff signaled for Kari Lehtonen to skate to the bench for an extra attacker. Despite their efforts with an extra skater, Dallas was unable to convert on their last ditch chances. Stastny ruined the fun for Dallas and their fans with an empty net goal at 18:20 of the third period. His 2nd goal of the playoffs gave the Blues a 4-1 lead and was assisted by Jaden Schwartz (7) and Backes (4).
When all was said and done the Blues had won 4-1 and led in hits (29-26), takeaways (7-5) and blocked shots (20-15) after sixty minutes of play. The Stars led in shots on goal (28-22), faceoff wins (30-20) and giveaways (12-6) in the loss. Both teams were 0/2 on the power play.
Game 6 is Monday night at 8 PM EST, live from Scottrade Center in St. Louis, and can be viewed on NBCSN in the United States and CBC and TVAS2 in Canada.
First Star of the Game Cody Eakin’s first goal of the playoffs was a big one, as the Stars beat the Blues 3-2 in overtime to level the series at two-all.
Neither team was able to capitalize of their lone man-advantage in the frame, but Vladimir Tarasenko did find the back of the net with a wrister at the 10:17 mark, assisted by Jaden Schwartz. Schwartz completed a steal by Carl Gunnarsson along the near boards in Dallas‘ offensive zone and was able to find Tarasenko already streaking towards Third Star of the Game Kari Lehtonen’s net. The winger collected the pass near center ice with no defensemen in his path, allowing him to advance between the dots before going five hole on Lehtonen.
In addition to leading on the scoreboard, the Blues also owned the face-off dot (61%), blocks (three to one), giveaways (none to three) and hits (16 to 10).
Radek Faksa leveled the game 4:05 into the second period, with an assist from… Joel Edmundson (that’s a joke, just in case you were wondering). Edmundson was trying to find a teammate in the neutral zone, but Faksa easily intercepted that pass to advance on Brian Elliott’s crease and score on his five hole.
16 seconds after Faksa’s goal, David Backes found himself in the penalty box for tripping Mattias Janmark. It proved to be costly, as 53 seconds later Patrick Sharp scored the Stars‘ first power play goal of the series with a quick wrister past Elliott’s right skate. He was set up by Jamie Benn (his eighth helper of the playoffs) and Jason Spezza. John Klingberg passed the puck along the blue line to Spezza, who found Benn along the far side of the goal line. Benn was forced to the top of the crease, but he found a crashing Sharp to take the lead.
Backes earned himself another trip to the penalty box at the 11:11 mark, but he took Kris Russell with him this team, as both were charged with penalties (roughing and slashing, respectively). The four-on-four circumstances lasted only 1:27 before the Notes earned a four-on-three when Eakin took a seat for slashing Schwartz.
St. Louis converted on that infraction when Paul Stastny scored his first goal of the playoffs, a tip-in on Tarasenko’s initial shot to level the game at two-all. He was also assisted by Alexander Steen. Steen took a pass from Tarasenko near the blue line, but quickly returned the puck back to his possession outside the near face-off circle. Tarasenko fired a wrister right at Stastny’s stick at the top of the crease, which he angled just the right way to get the puck over Lehtonen.
Alex Goligoski sent the Blues right back to the playoffs at the 13:55 mark when he hooked Patrik Berglund, but Steen returned the ice to four-on-four after only 24 seconds when he interfered with Faksa’s advance on the puck. Dallas was unable to convert on their end of the 24 second power play when Goligoski returned to the ice.
Although an exciting second period, this game certainly needed a third, as the score was two-all after 40 minutes. St. Louis continued to lead the game in face-off wins (53%), blocks (four to three) and hits (25 to 19).
Unlike the first two periods, there were no goals or penalties committed in the final 20 minutes. Elliott and Lehtonen deserve credit for forcing overtime, as they both saved all seven shots they faced. Through regulation, St. Louis continued to lead in face-offs (56%), blocks (seven to four), giveaways (four to six) and hits (34 to 30).
Only 2:58 into overtime, Eakin scored the winner with his first goal of the postseason, assisted by Sharp and Benn. Benn collected a pass at his defensive blue line and advanced the puck to center ice before passing to Sharp along the far boards. Eakin received a cross-ice pass at the near face-off dot, which he wristed over Elliott’s glove shoulder to level the series at two-all.
Lehtonen earns the win after saving 24 of the 26 shots he faced (92.3%), while Elliott takes the overtime loss after saving 25 of 28 (89.3%).
With the win, the Stars reclaim home ice for the now effectively three game series. The important Game 5 will occur Saturday at 1 p.m. eastern in the American Airlines Center, and may be viewed on NBC, SN or TVAS.
The St. Louis Blues may have only managed 25 shots on goal, but they were able to level their series against the Dallas Stars by beating them 4-3 in overtime, thanks to Captain David Backes.
Only 3:36 into Game 2, Cody Eakin collected a puck along the near boards and passed to Second Star of the Game Jamie Benn, who was positioned behind Brian Elliott’s net. He set up a centering pass towards the left face-off dot for Alex Goligoski, who top shelfed his slap shot into the back of the net.
The Blues took offense to that, and 35 seconds later Third Star Backes carried the puck into the neutral zone before passing to Patrik Berglund, who completed the advance into the attacking zone before passing off to Robby Fabbri. Fabbri dumped back to the attacking Berguland, who scored a slap shot past Kari Lehtonen’s glove hand to level the game at a goal apiece.
At the 7:02 mark, First Star Troy Brouwer and Scottie Upshall connected with Joel Edmundson to give him his first goal of the playoffs, and more importantly, a St. Louis lead.
With 80 seconds remaining in the opening frame, Brouwer scored the Blues‘ final goal of regulation on a power play wrister, assisted by Kevin Shattenkirk and Fabbri.
At the beginning of the second period, it was not Lehtonen in Dallas‘ net, but instead Antti Niemi, who did not yield a goal on 10 shots faced in his opening 20 minutes of work. Similarly, Elliott saved all six shots he faced, holding the score at 3-1 going into the final frame.
The fifth goal of the game wasn’t scored until the 4:35 mark of the final frame, courtesy of Mattias Janmark, his first of the playoffs. His wrister was assisted by Eakin and Colton Sceviour. Eakin dumped the puck out of the defensive zone to Janmark, who had only one Blue to beat on his way to the crease before sneaking the puck past Elliott’s left skate.
Dallas‘ offensive push was certainly made evident 13 seconds later, when a Dallas power play shot was fired so hard it broke Elliott’s mask, but he made the save to maintain the one-goal differential.
With 2:36 remaining in regulation, Benn scored a wrister to level the game, assisted by Eakin and Kris Russell. Eakin won the face-off from the far dot, which he sent back to the blue line for Russell to collect and fire on net. Elliott made the save, but Benn collected the rebound to slide the puck past the sprawling goaltender’s glove hand.
Neither team was able to break the draw before the clock struck zeroes, so the game required 10:58 of overtime before Backes’ power play wrister proved to be the winner. After providing the screen on Alexander Steen’s initial shot and literally jumping over the puck, he collected the rebound and scored behind Niemi’s left skate.
Elliott earns the win after saving 31 of 34 shots faced (91.2%), while Niemi takes the overtime loss, saving 19 of 20 (95%). Lehtonen takes credit for the poor first period, where he saved only two of five (40%).
Now a best-of-five series, the locale shifts to Scottrade Arena in St. Louis, MO. Game 3 will occur on a busy Tuesday, May 3 at 9:30 p.m. eastern and can be viewed on NBCSN, SN or TVAS.