Who: Dallas Stars (1-6-1) @ Pittsburgh Penguins (5-2-0)
When: 7:00 p.m.
How to Watch: AT&T Sportsnet in the Pittsburgh viewing area, Fox Sports Southwest if you’re somewhere down in Texas, ESPN+
Opponent Track: Wow, well not the start they were looking for. Dallas is reeling with just one win on the season (and it took until overtime to beat the Capitals last week). They’re 0-3-1 in the last four games, including being out-scored 7-2 in the last two games; a 4-0 loss in Buffalo on Monday and a 3-2 loss in Columbus on Wednesday. The path ahead doesn’t get easier, tonight starts a back-to-back, Dallas will be in Philly tomorrow night to conclude a four game road trip.
Pens path ahead: Pittsburgh also starts a back-to-back, playing Vegas tomorrow night. The Pens are then inactive for two days as they prep for a quick trip south to play both Florida teams next week on Tuesday-Wednesday.
Season Series: The Pens will make their annual trip to Dallas pretty soon here in eight days for a game on Saturday October 26th. Might be favorable scheduling to catch them twice early in the season when they clearly aren’t on track yet.
Recent history: The Pens were 2-0 vs Dallas last year, opening up the proverbial can of whoop ass to win 5-1 at home last November, then taking a 3-2 win in Texas last March.
SBN Team Counterpart: Defending Big D for all your Stars related news
Tale of the Tape
—Not surprisingly, it’s NOT a pretty picture for the Stars this season, no matter how you slice it. They’re really struggling offensively, getting among the lowest shots in the league and not shooting particularly well on the rare occasion they do shoot. Add in a power play that has 1 (one, uno, eins) goal in 24 chances and, yep, that’s how you end up dead last in the league in scoring so far, averaging under 2 goals per game.
—There’s no real bright side here, but in slightly less bad news, Dallas does at least not allow a lot of shots against either. This is pretty necessary, since their goalies haven’t been stopping a ton of pucks either.
—The Pens, however, are pretty much league-average or better right now in every category we track in the tale of the tape, which is always a good sign of a team playing pretty well-balanced.
Player Stats at a Glance
—Remember last year when Stars’ team president bizarrely called out Seguin and Benn for not coming through, when they actually were playing well and everyone around them stunk? Well, so far this year he actually has a case to make about the big guys playing better. They’ve combined only for 3 goals and 6 points through the first eight games, that’s just not enough production from the Stars’ stars.
—New free agent additions Joe Pavelski and Corey Perry haven’t exactly been ripping it up either. In Perry’s case, there’s a good reason for it- a foot injury sidelined him until last game. Pavelski is a bit more surprising. The long-time Shark scored 38 goals last season in SJ, has just one goal in eight games this year. Pavelski has also scored 60+ points in each of the last eight full seasons. This year, 2 points. At age 35 has he fallen off a cliff? Or just taking a little longer to acclimate to the first team change of his career? Dallas needs answers, and they need them soon.
—Ben Bishop was a Vezina finalist last year, this year it’s early but he’s got a sub .900 save%, showing just how volatile goaltending performances can be year-to-year. However, his team is also doing him less than zero favors out there, so we can probably reserve some judgement on him for a while.
—Roope Hintz is a nifty little player that’s fun to watch, and his name is also very fun to say. Roop-ayyyy Hintzzzz.
Possible Lines (based on Monday game)
Jamie Benn - Tyler Seguin - Alex Radulov
Mattias Janmark - Roope Hintz - Corey Perry
Jason Dickinson - Radek Faksa - Joe Pavelski
Andrew Cogliano - Rhett Gardner - Denis Gurianov
Esa Lindell / John Klingberg
Andrej Sekera / Miro Heiskanen
Jamie Oleksiak / Taylor Fedun
Expected scratches: Justin Dowling, Joel Hanley
Injured reserve: Blake Comeau, Stephen Johns, Roman Polak, Martin Hanzel (LTIR)
—Weird that this is a one win team so far this year, they have some decent enough talent and depth but just need to put the pieces together
The power play STINKS
Sean Shapiro from The Athletic with a good article about Dallas’ 1-for-24 powerplay.
After re-watching all 24 power plays, you do start to notice a couple of positives that the Stars should try to build on as they work their way out of the slump.
For starters, the Stars have frequently had the player in the slot open during the man advantage. It’s a slightly different look for each opponent, but in more than half their games, Dallas could have worked the puck into the slot or “bumper” player for a chance.
The other thing is how little Joe Pavelski has been involved in the power play so far. He’s been on the ice and played a good number of minutes with the man advantage, but overall he hasn’t found a fit yet either in the slot or in front of the net, where he operated for years with the San Jose Sharks.
When working on this film room, I had to go back and re-watch a couple of power plays to find a clip where Pavelski was getting work done in front of the net.
Fixing the power play is part of a long list of concerns for Dallas at the moment, but figuring out how to succeed with the man advantage could be the key to unlocking the rest of the Stars’ offense. Of their seven losses, five have been by one goal. A power-play goal every so often could make a tremendous difference.
This is something to watch tonight. If Dallas gets a PPG, you’d have to think their confidence is going to soar and that could open up the floodgates to score more. This is a team that shouldn’t average 1.88 goals/game very long, the law of averages suggests that with the level of skill they have, sooner or later they’re going to be finding the back of the net.
Hopefully the Pens can keep them frustrated for one more game, but it could be telling and a bad sign if Pittsburgh allows the Stars to feel good about themselves if they’re able to convert and break the slump.
And now for the Pens..
That fudge unreal bud?
Infographic courtesy of the Penguins:
Potential Lines (Based on Thursday’s practice)
Jake Guentzel - Sidney Crosby - Dominik Simon
Dominik Kahun - Jared McCann - Patric Hornqvist
Zach Aston-Reese - Teddy Blueger - Brandon Tanev
Adam Johnson - Joseph Blandisi - Sam Lafferty
Brian Dumoulin / Kris Letang
Marcus Pettersson / Justin Schultz
Jack Johnson or Erik Gudbranson / John Marino
Expected scratches: Chad Ruhwedel (healthy), Juuso Riikola (healthy)
Injured: Bryan Rust (broken hand, LTIR), Evgeni Malkin (lower body injury, IR) Nick Bjugstad (lower body injury, IR), Alex Galchenyuk (lower body injury, IR)
—We’ll tentatively pencil McCann back into the lineup, since he did skate in his usual spot yesterday in practice. But note that McCann hasn’t been officially announced as in, just quite yet.
—The Pens’ goalie usage situation will be interesting. A presumably weaker team tonight in Dallas, a tougher team in Vegas tomorrow. Will they go with Matt Murray for Game 1 and throw Tristan Jarry to the wolves tomorrow? Or reverse the logic and save their starting goalie in Murray for the game considered tougher? It’ll be interesting to see how Sullivan and the Pens want to play that one.