The Great Southern Trendkill: Defending Big D
It was supposed to be a pretty straightforward chain of events. With Marty Turco and Mike Modano exiting Big D after a couple of disappointing seasons, the Stars were supposed to suck, and with their ownership and attendance situations leaving a lot to be desired, they were going to deal top center Brad Richards for picks and prospects, and everyone was supposed to move on with their lives. In our season preview podcast, I even openly laughed at Greg Wyshynski when he suggested they might make the playoffs. But the Stars haven't held up their end of the bargain, and they've decided they're not going to suck this year...at least to this point. Richards has been leading the way with 12 goals, 19 assists, and 31 points, driving up whatever it might cost a suitor to trade for him as well as his off season asking price. He's surrounded on Dallas' top line by the criminally under appreciated Loui Eriksson and emerging power forward James Neal, who have 25 and 24 points respectively. Aside from that line, Dallas' corps of forwards could best be described as "fucking annoying" in the most complimentary way possible. Captain and Guy Cabonneau's son-in-law Brenden Morrow leads a group of sneering dickweeds including Steve Ott, SCH favorite Mike Ribeiro, and old friend Adam Burish. It's a group that will finish every check (or in Ribeiro's case, feign an injury) and then not stop yapping about it until the final horn.
On the back end, it's a largely no-name group led by the Black Knight himself, Stephane Robidas. He's aided by Nicklas Grossman, who's best described as a poor man's Robyn Regehr, and Trevor Daley, who's having a nice contract year offensively with 10 points and is a +9. And though Kari Lehtonen's been shouldering a Kiprusoffian workload in his first healthy season in forever, it'll be a revitalized Andrew Raycroft in net tonight, who's only allowed 7 goals on 144 shots in 4 decisions, which is good for a paltry 1.65 GAA and a .951 save percentage. Much like the Kings, the Stars don't do anything elaborate, and they'll want to get the puck deep or on net at every chance, and then let the waves of bodies follow.
As for our Men of Four Feathers, "Life Without Kaner" begins tonight, with Jeremy Morin being recalled after a couple days in Rock Vegas for cap purposes, and he brought Rob Klinkhammer with him. Though word has not officially gotten out to the beat guys, it appears the top line will be as we speculated with Toews centering Viktor Stalberg and Jack Skille, and Klinkhammer replacing Skille on the 4th line. The second and third lines should look as they have the past few days, but it's anyone's guess as to what the power play units will look like. The special teams will be key tonight, as Dallas' PK is even worse than the Hawks' at only 78.1 percent, and the Stars' power play is only 2 for 41 on the road all year (though the Hawks PK of late has certainly proved a tonic for that ailment). On the blue line the pairings remain unchanged, as Nick Boynton continues to show Quenneville pictures of Jordan Hendry shitting on his tomato plants or something. Corey Crawford gets the nod in net, as his hot streak overrides any sentimentality of having Marty Turco face his former squad.
Without both Kane and Hossa for the next little bit, the Hawks will have to drastically simplify their offensive game plans and hope that Jonathan Toews and Patrick Sharp can drag the rest of your 2010 Chicago Ice Hog forwards along for the ride while the defense continues its encouraging trend of decreasing shot totals against. This is where the fun happens kids, don't say we didn't warn you. Let's go Hawks.