Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Gameday Preview: Stars v. Oklahoma City Barons

Texas Stars
4-1-1-0, 9 pts
#1 Western Conference
v.Oklahoma City Barons
3-3-0-1, 7 pts
#4 Western Conference
October 23rd at 7:30 PM
Cedar Park Center, Cedar Park, TX

Before the last matchup in this series, the Stars and Barons were ranked 11th and 14th respectively in the Western Conference. Thanks to winning streaks by each club, those rankings have changed to #1 and #4, heady but familiar terrotry for both clubs. Texas finished first in the league last year while Oklahoma City finished fifth.

Texas' last loss, in fact, came against the Barons at the Cox Convention Center last week. The Stars still earned a point for taking the game to overtime and haven't lost since. Oklahoma City, for their part, parlayed that win into a three point weekend against Abbotsford to bank a four game point streak.

Richard Bachman has been hot for the Barons. He ranks near the top of the league in goaltender stats with a sub 2.00 GAA and .934 SV%. He hasn't been rewarded with as many wins as those numbers probably deserve (2-3-1) but is certainly showing no ill effect of being back in the AHL. That win number is probably due to the anemic Barons' offense which is averaging 2.14 goals per game, the same as its goals against average. That's not a recipe for success, but Todd Nelson's club appears on the upswing in that regard.

Texas returns its second-year goalie, Jack Campbell, to Cedar Park after the shellacking he took in Anaheim on Sunday night. The Ducks put 47 shots on the young netminder. The 6-3 final was bad if you only saw the box score. Campbell played just fine but just didn't get any help at all from his defense. The Texas club features a stouter defense, averaging 25.83 shots against on the season (5th overall). Texas also keeps the puck down on the other end of the ice more, as they are #1 in shots for on the season at 37.33 per game. I would guess that Campbell gets a start here to shake off the 'bad' game in Anaheim.

The biggest story right now has to be the top six (or top nine if you prefer). There's no argument on which line is the top line for Willie Desjardins right now. Travis Morin, Colton Sceviour and rookie Curtis McKenzie have fueled the Stars' offensive output. Of the 26 goals the Stars have scored, that line has 14 of them. The 'third line', if you can call them that, of Mueller, Ranford and Petersen has six goals.

Three more tallies come from defensemen and one from Matej Stransky. However, the big surprise is that last year's big time scoring line of Mike Hedden, Justin Dowling and Brett Ritchie has just two goals (both Hedden's) and seven points overall. It's hard to diagnose what exactly is going on with the line, but it's arguable right now whether they are the 2nd or 3rd line. It's just a number on a page, yes, but it speaks to how the season is going for them. Mueller has had a huge impact in just a few games and has ignited scoring from rookie Brendan Ranford. Hedden and Dowling had a similar effect on Alex Chiasson last year, but it remains to be seen if that success carries over to this year and Brett Ritchie.

Stars injury/call up report:
Smith (injured)

Website: okcbarons.com
Blog (unofficial): NewsOK's Barons Hockey
Twitter: @OKCBaronsHockey

1 comment:

  1. Excellent analysis. Mueller has seemed to be a catalist for his line while some of our seasonsed stars like dowling, ritchie and oleksiak have been a little slower to get back in the groove. Having a strong offense keeping the puck on the other side of the rink has helped nilstorp and would be a welcome relief for campbell if he takes the net. I saw the recap of the dallas game and you're right, dallas whas poor passing which just gave the puck away. I am excited about this start to the season and hope we keep our strength areas going. Go Stars!

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