Know Thy Enemy: Dallas Defense Preview

Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Taking a look at how they defend in Big D.

Pairings

(based on reports from yesterday's practice)

Trevor Daley - Alex Goligoski

Patrik Nemeth - Jordie Benn

Kevin Connauton - Sergei Gonchar

(Former Duck great, Aaron Rome is also currently on the roster)

Injuries

Brenden Dillon - Missed the final game of the regular season with a lower body injury, did not practice yesterday, listed as a game time decision for tonight

Aaron Rome - Just returned to the lineup after missing seven games with an undisclosed injury.

How did their season go?

The Stars have had a pretty consistent top four of Goligoski, Daley, Dillon and Jordie Benn this season while the aging Gonchar has seen limited and sheltered minutes 5-on-5 with a rotating cast of characters.

Goligoski and Daley typically match up against the opposition's top line and lead the defense in scoring (6-36-42 and 9-16-25, respectively). Their point production comes, in part, from the fact that Lindy Ruff has tended toward best on best forward line matching, so they're often on the ice with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin up front. Of course, they aren't just leeching off of the big boys, their ability to get the puck up to Benn and Seguin in transition is key to the forwards' success as well.

Gonchar has been past his prime for a good three years now, but he still gets it done on the power play, 14 of his 22 points this season have come with the extra man.

Stats vs. Ducks

Name

Games Played vs. Ducks

Goals

Assists

Points

FF% (5v5)

Stephane Robidas

2

1

0

1

47.1

Brendan Dillon

3

1

0

1

55.2

Trevor Daley

3

1

1

2

53.6

Kevin Connauton

1

0

0

0

45.5

Jordie Benn

3

0

1

1

58.6

Alex Goligoski

3

0

0

0

48.5

Sergei Gonchar

3

0

0

0

48.3



Top Three Threats to Anaheim

1) Transition - As noted above and in the forward preview, a big key for Dallas in this series is their speed through the neutral zone, and that all starts with quick, vertical outlet passes from D to forwards on the breakout. As someone who remembers the days of Ken Hitchcock and Dave Tippett in Dallas, it's kind of funny to think of them as such a speed team now, but such are the times we live in.

2) Possession - The full season Fenwick percentages for the Dallas D-men paint a rosier picture than the (small sample size) head to head numbers above. On the season all of the top four D for the Stars hover around 51% FF (5v5). While it is a concern that their numbers versus the Ducks this season are almost all higher, those are largely being skewed by the third game in the season series. The most dramatic example being Dillon's whopping 70.8% in that 2-0 shutout on Feb 1.

3) Experience - While Dallas hasn't made the playoffs in five years and is generally considered a young, inexperienced team, the defense actually has a nice little blend of playoff participation. Benn, Dillon and [insert random sixth defenseman here] will see their first playoff action in this series, but Goligoski (15 games with Pittsburgh in 209 and 2010), Daley (29 games over three years, mostly Dallas' 2008 run to the WCF) and of course Gonchar (lots, including the 2009 Cup with Pittsburgh) have all been there before.

Top Three Ways to Beat the Dallas Defense

1) No easy zone exits - To counteract threat number one, the Ducks forecheckers will need to be careful not to get caught up the ice so that they give themselves a chance to get into passing lanes and cut off those aforementioned outlet passes. Hustling on the backcheck is all well and good, but no player moves as fast as the puck and bad pinches/turnovers in the offensive zone can very quickly turn into Dallas forwards peeling around flat footed Ducks defensemen.

2) Turnovers - From Pierre Lebrun's series preview on ESPN.com

This is a team that made the playoffs despite not protecting the puck terribly well, with the fifth-most giveaways this season. That's representative of a blue-line corps that still needs work but also of an overall club whose defensive coverage from the forwards back doesn't give you much confidence it can go far in the playoffs.

3) Drawing Penalties - As noted by Defending Big D in their preview of the series, Daley has a relatively poor penalties drawn to taken differential (-16), while Corey Perry's is high (+14). So seeing as they will likely be matched up whenever Ruff can manage it, there is some potential for a extra power play opportunities for Anaheim. That is, of course assuming that the PP is in fact an advantage for the Ducks in this series, which isn't necessarily the case as we've seen at certain points this year.

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