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5 Questions: Checking in with Defending Big D

With the Penguins matching up with the Stars on the schedule tonight, we wanted to check in with our friends from Dallas and do a little Q & A about what we can expect from the visitors from Texas.

Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sport

Our friends from Dallas reached out to us to do a little Q&A about the Penguins. We obliged, and they returned the favor to give us some perspective on what the Stars will bring to the table tonight vs. the Pens.

Without any further introduction...David Wilson, from Defending Big D. He is mildly obsessed with coffee, and in his non-spare time, he works as a barista and coffee roaster.

The Stars seem like they're going to be a super fun team to watch this season. I think the Pens-Stars game tonight will be awfully fast paced and exciting, and I'm curious to see what kind of insight David can bring to the table.

Let's get to it. (with my thoughts on David's answers italicized)

1. What was the biggest offseason acquisition the Stars made? Hemsky? Spezza? and why?

Jason Spezza, hands down. The acquisition of Ales Hemsky is a beautiful little complementary piece, but without Spezza nobody would be projecting the Stars as anything more than a bubble team... Again. Having Spezza come in though as our second line center suddenly means Dallas can stack up with pretty much anybody down the middle. Ok, maybe not with you guys, but then Crosby and Malkin is just unfair.

But I don't think you'll argue that a combo of Tyler Seguin and Jason Spezza down the middle isn't a force, and when you can throw in Jamie Benn and Ales Hemsky, not to mention Val Nichushkin and bonus forward #6 (still a work in progress, but whatever) it makes for a pretty high-powered offense.

In short, Jim Nill essentially created an entire second line in the offseason by bringing in Spezza, such that the trio of Cody Eakin, Ryan Garbutt, and Antoine Roussel, who last year had their moments but were playing out of their depth on the second line, now slot in as one of the best third lines in the league.

Now, one 'biggest acquisition' the Stars could have used over the summer would have been a top-pairing defenseman or a legitimate backup goaltender, as question marks still surround what we've got there. But maybe that's next summer's plan...

This is a great assessment. Hemsky seems like more of a player that a team 'wants,' whereas Spezza filled a void that the Stars 'need.' Against most teams that don't have Crosby and Malkin down the middle, Seguin and Spezza can go toe-to-toe with most center depth around the league. Letting depth players be depth players, something Penguins fans know all too well, is a big piece to successful roster construction.

2. I watched the Stars/Blackhawks game last week. Do you expect that exciting brand of hockey from the Stars all season long?

Oh god yes. Isn't it fun?

Of course, having said that, I really hope the Pittsburgh coaching staff didn't watch the Nashville-Dallas game on Saturday. After playing the first period of that one as pretty much a continuation of the mile-a-minute version of the Stars we saw against Chicago, the Predators were able to adjust defensively, namely dropping the two wingers back and effectively setting up four men on the blueline, while Dallas continued to try to carry the puck in at speed, eventually forcing it, and finally getting shut down completely. Allow the game to open up at all though, and 'breathless' becomes a good way to describe it.

Sean McIndoe said it best:

"Best case: The run-and gun Stars are great fun to watch, playing a bunch of 5-4 games that they win. 
Worst case: The run-and-gun Stars are great fun to watch, playing a bunch of 5-4 games they they lose." (Grantland)

The pace of that game was just incredible. It will be very interesting and perhaps a lot of fun to see how wide open the game against the Penguins tonight gets, and how the coaching staffs respond accordingly, to the team speed on both sides.

3. What can Penguins fans expect to see tomorrow that's different about the Stars than we've seen in past years? Keeping in mind that many Pens fans might only see the Stars once or twice per year.

To boil it down? They're just flat out better.

What really changes the game though is the offense. In years past, the Stars had an underrated goaltender who could bail them out and/or steal games here and there, a suspect defense, and an offense with a few stars - think Loui Erikkson, Mike Ribeiro, Brad Richards, James Neal, etc - but no depth, and no real standout first line. 
This year, the Stars boast an underrated goaltender who can bail them out and/or steal games here and there, and a suspect defense. But there it changes.

The offense now keeps the power duo of Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn formed last year intact, and adds to it Jason Spezza and Ales Hemsky. And the depth is vastly improved too, with the third line one of the best agitating lines in the league, and also able to display some offensive prowess, and a solid veteran fourth line, with speed a focus throughout the lineup.

Heck, you saw that game against Chicago. It's quite possible the Stars will be one of the most entertaining teams to watch in the NHL this season. Who knows, maybe Pens fans will actually want to see the Stars play more than once or twice a year.

Having a team with depth REALLY changes things. Just having watched one Stars game so far this season, I already love watching them play, and wish that the Penguins did play them 5 or 6 times per year, instead of just twice. There's always the Stanley Cup Final, I guess!

4. Give me your expectations for Tyler Seguin's offensive production this year.

This one's kind of tough. The obvious answer is, he's just going to get better isn't he? 
Last season though, I feel Seguin benefited from playing on a Stars team that nobody really took seriously after a five-year playoff drought, and alongside the incredibly underrated Jamie Benn. This year, especially after turning heads with the offseason acquisitions, I think teams are going to be paying a little more attention to Dallas, and with Benn being voted as the top left wing in the league over the summer, there are going to be game plans in place to shut these two down. However, this is where Jason Spezza comes in. Because last year, Seguin put up his point totals despite consistently facing the best of the opposition. This season, the second line threat is almost as potent as the first. 1A-1B ya feel me? Does Seguin end up getting more opportunities this season? Or getting shut down more effectively? Who knows?

Would it be a cop-out to say I think Seguin's offensive production will be exactly the same as last season?

Not a cop-out at all. Seguin is remarkable and he is the kind of player that you constantly expect to get better and wonder at what point they will finally level off. I wouldn't be surprised to see near identical production as last season, if not better. I mean, just two nights ago, Seguin scored a hat-trick against the Blue Jackets. The kid just appears to be getting better and better.

5. Where do you see the Stars finishing the season in the standings? and how far do you see them going in the playoffs?

Thank you for asking how far they'll go in the playoffs. I like that you take playoff qualification for granted. That has not been a thing for Dallas in some time.

In fact, for the first time in pretty much ever, the entire Defending Big D staff picked the Stars to make the playoffs. (Defending Big D Season Staff Predictions).

I personally picked them to finish 3rd in the Central, and 6th in the Western Conference. I'm sticking with that, but there might need to be some modifications made. At first glance, Minnesota and Nashville both appear to be better than I gave them credit for. To be honest though, I see five teams from the Central reaching the playoffs again this season, with Colorado and Winnipeg the odd ones out.

That said, I'm calling Stars-Blues in the first round, with the Stars taking it before falling to the Blackhawks in the second. Although imagine a seven game series played like the game on opening night. What a ride!

I wouldn't say I take playoff qualification for granted, but I did predict and do believe that the Stars are a playoff team this season. I could very much see them finishing 2nd or 3rd in the Central with a matchup against the Blues or Blackhawks in the first round. Give me a 7-game Blackhawks series at some point, please.

BONUS QUESTION 6. If you were on death row facing execution, what would your final meal choice be?

Maybe I'd go with a medium-rare filet mignon. If only because I don't eat red meat, but a last meal seems like the perfect time to go all in.

This is a good answer. Going all in on the way out. I like it.

Big thanks to David and Defending Big D for helping put this together. It was a lot of fun.

Look for my answers to David's questions at DBD also.

Face-off tonight is at Consol Energy Center at 7:00 pm - For more on tonight's game, check out our Stars vs Penguins coverage