Oct 9, 2014; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars defenseman Trevor Daley (6) defends against Chicago Blackhawks center Jonathan Toews (19) during the game at the American Airlines Center. The Blackhawks defeat the Stars 3-2 in the overtime shootout. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports
Yes, the Chicago Blackhawks are on an 8-1-1 roll since the injury to Patrick Kane. They even just beat the playoff-bound New York Islanders and New York Rangers on back to back nights. So, the Dallas Stars should be easy, right?
Just ask the Pittsburgh Penguins who fell to the Stars on Thursday night. Dallas has won 6 of their last 8 games and they are aware that they need to be perfect to make it back into playoff contention. That or they just want to screw things up for the contenders.
This will be the 5th and final game of the season between the Hawks and Stars. The Hawks have won 3 of the first 4 meetings. Tonight’s game is in Dallas and puck drop is set for 7:00 PM Central Time. You can catch tonight’s game on CSN-Chicago and you can hear it on WGN 720 AM.
Here’s a statistical breakdown of the Hawks and Stars.
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Offensively, the Hawks are a bit above average and they will face a Stars defense that is one of the worst in the league.
Defensively, the Hawks are elite and tonight they will face the also elite Dallas offensive attack.
On the Power Play, the Hawks have been average overall but much improved lately. Tonight, they will be up against a not-so-great Stars Penalty Kill.
For the Hawks, the Penalty Kill is elite and tonight they will be tasked with shutting down a below average Dallas Power Play.
In the faceoff circle, the Hawks have been great and tonight they will be taking draws against a Stars team that has been a bit above average at taking draws.
In terms of puck-possession, the Hawks are great and they will be fighting for the puck against a Dallas team that is nearly but quite as good as the Hawks at driving puck-possession.
On paper, the advantage has to go to the Hawks. When looking at the numbers, it’s easy to see why the Stars have been hot lately and it’s also easy to see why they have been one of the league’s biggest disappointments this season. The Hawks are going to have to be on their best behavior in their own zone. If they aren’t it could be a painful trip to Texas, thanks to the potent Stars’ offensive attack. This game might be decided but possession as well as the aforementioned defensive responsibility. If the Hawks have the puck more often than Dallas and they stick to their defensive assignments, there really is no reason for them to lose tonight.
The Stars are 33-28-10 with 76 points, which has them sitting in last place in the Central Division. However, last place in the Central is an extremely relative thing. If Dallas was playing in the Eastern Conference, they’d be in real playoff contention. With 11 games remaining, the Stars are 8 points behind the final Western Conference Wild Card spot holders, the Winnipeg Jets.
Jamie Benn leads the Stars in points and has the 8th most in the entire NHL. Benn also has 4 points in his last 4 games. Dallas’ most dangerous offensive player isn’t even Benn, it’d have to be Tyler Seguin. After missing 10 games, Seguin has recorded only 3 fewer points than Benn, and his 32 goals are 8th best in the league. Rookie defenseman, John Klingberg has had a fantastic season on the blueline and just had a 4-game point streak halted 2 games ago. Klingberg has been the best of the Stars’ young, overall inexperienced defense that has largely underwhelmed this season.
Starting in net for the Stars will likely be Kari Lehtonen. Lehtonen has struggled this season to the tune of a .906 Save Percentage. In 17 career games against the Hawks, Lehtonen boasts a less-than-stellar .910 Save Percentage.
The Hawks are 43-21-6 with 92 points, which is good for 3rd place in the Central Division. As of right now, the Hawks are 2 points behind the 2nd place Nashville Predators(who have played 2 more games than the Hawks) and 4 points behind the 1st place St. Louis Blues(who have played 1 more game than the Hawks). This game, as well as every game from here on out will likely be crucial to the Hawks’ chances of winning the Central Division.
Before going pointless in the previous game, Patrick Sharp had 2 consecutive multi-point games. Skating on the top line with Jonathan Toews and Marian Hossa should provide more than enough of a market correction for what has otherwise been a disappointing season for Sharp. Even when he’s not scoring, Teuvo Teravainen is making noise while skating as Antoine Vermette’s wing on the 2nd line along with Brandon Saad. With Toews and Vermette’s lines requiring the majority of opponents defensive attention, that has left Brad Richards and his 3rd-line wingers with golden offensive opportunities. Kris Versteeg will return to the lineup, alongside Richards and Bryan Bickell. Hopefully, he can seize some of the said opportunities. Tonight’s game will be Kimmo Timonen’s 1,100th career game.
Starting in net for the Hawks will be Corey Crawford. Crawford has been fantastic this season as his .926 Save Percentage illustrates. Crawford even has a .932 Save Percentage in 23 road games this season. Interestingly, in 18 career games against the Stars, Crawford has a lackluster .902 Save Percentage.
While the Hawks should win this game, there are more than enough reason to think the Stars could cool off the red-hot Hawks. The lead in the Central is in sight, so let’s get a little closer to it.