Wednesday, May 8, 2013

Previewing Round Two: Texas Stars Face High Scoring OKC Barons

Jordie Benn scores on Yann Danis, who has a 10-2 all time record against Texas. (Credit: Texas Stars)
I've written up a full preview of the series with Oklahoma City on Defending Big D. I wanted to call attention my keys to the series here on 100 Degree Hockey, because I think the readers here can have a really great debate about whether you agree with me on them. What do you think of these?
Keys to the Series

I'm going to put on my TV analyst hat here and try to break down an incredibly complicated series with dozens of competing factors to a few key points. Because, you know, that's what it's all about.

Goalie Play

Cristopher Nilstorp was fantastic in the first round. In case you missed the stat I dropped earlier, he's got a 0.96 GAA and a .963 SV%. Those are video game numbers. Yann Danis has a 2.97 GAA and a .913 SV%. Now, that doesn't mean that he's going to be some pushover. Danis always plays Texas very well. In the the season series, he faced Texas seven times and sported a 6-1 record. The sticklers will point out that four of those wins came during the NHL lockout and therefore put their legitimacy into question. I would argue it doesn't matter. If you think you can't beat a goaltender, it can get to you, regardless of the truth of it. Danis, for the record, has only two losses against the Stars in his career. He's 10-2 lifetime.

For Texas though, Nilstorp has to help keep the Stars in these games against the potentially devastating Barons' offense.

Avoiding the 'Texas Relays'

For those not from Austin, Texas Relays are a yearly event at the University of Texas that brings thousands of people to the downtown area as they watch high school, college and university students participate in track events.

Much as many Austinites look to avoid downtown during that weekend (and SXSW and ACL and many others...), the Stars should look to avoid getting into a track meet with the Barons. It is extremely conducive to OKC's game to get into those situations. They can score a lot of goals, and it's not that Texas can't (3.06 goals for per game, 6th in the league). It's that the playoffs are a dangerous place to get into track meets. It is not the Texas Stars' game plan. They are a team based on defense, much like the Calder Cup finals year, but with extra scoring punch. That is their differentiating factor.

Rolling Four Lines (and Solid D-pairings too)

After mixing things up through the end of the season with Fraser, Chiasson and Benn in Dallas, some injuries in Texas and the general mayhem of adding players on PTOs, ATOs and recent draftees, things have settled. After the addition of those players from Dallas, Texas sported the following lineup for both games, minus Travis Morin for game four as he was out with an injury. He's expected back for Game 1.

Fraser-Morin-Sceviour
Hedden-Chiasson-Dowling
Ritchie-Glennie-R. Smith
Gazdic-Petersen-Wathier

Oleksiak-Benn
Gaunce-Connauton
Fortunus-Morrow

Coach Desjardins said that he likes to keep a steady lineup once he gets into the playoffs, and it looks like he's found it. In Desjardins' system, the play of the fourth line is just as critical to the teams' success as the play of the first. The teams' ability to roll four lines was a strength all year. It's what helped wear down the Admirals in their series as Milwaukee had to dress two defensemen as forwards in Game 4 to attempt to get a quality fourth line on the ice.

The good news for the quarterfinals is that the fourth line was very effective. While they didn't have any points in the series (barely any points were had by anyone), they were effective in moving the puck up the ice, keeping it out of their zone and getting the change for the first line without the puck ending up in their net. It's a thankless task some nights, but they did it well. (Sidenote: they did combine for 19 shots in the series, so it wasn't all dump and change)
Agree or disagree?

2 comments:

  1. I pretty much agree. I'm not not sure the addition of Connauton and Ritchie and the development of Chiasson (and that whole second line) mean we may even have an edge in a scoring race. My biggest concern is Nilstorp who hasn't had his best games against OKC. Texas wins with equal or better goaltending. If Danis outplays Nilstorp OKC wins, simple enough.

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  2. I think that OKC took advantage of a goalie in Charlotte with 9 regular season AHL games under his belt. Granted Rob Madore was spectacular against us, but he was miserable under playoff pressure. I agree with Carl that Nilstorp wasn't as good as his numbers suggest, but the reason that's true is simple: right now Texas has as good a top 6 D core as any in the league. And it'll be those guys who ultimately win this series for us.

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