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Ducks @ Stars PREVIEW: Aiming For The Stars

The Anaheim Ducks will try to get back in the W column against the top-heavy Dallas Stars in today’s match-up.

NHL: Anaheim Ducks at Dallas Stars Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports

Game 5

Date: Saturday, October 13th, 2018

Time: 5:00 PT / 8:00 ET

Location: American Airlines Center

TV: Fox Sports Prime

Radio: AM830

Your Enemy: Defending Big D

The Anaheim Ducks are coming off a 2-1 shootout loss against the Arizona Coyotes handing Arizona their season’s first win and giving themselves the season’s first loss. A close game by scoreboard, but hardly that by metric. The Ducks actually looked like they were in sound control during the first period, but then came back to the familiar game we’ve gotten used to seeing the prior three match-ups.

The game’s SOG differential by period basically tells you that story:

  1. 16-13 (-18.75% differential)
  2. 10-6 (-40% differential)
  3. 12-5 (-58.3% differential)

Yikes. Anyone telling you that the Anaheim Ducks are dominant has clearly NOT been watching the games. John Gibson has been Anaheim’s saving grace and that’s all there is to the unexpected 3-0-1 injury-riddled start of the Ducks’ season.

Meanwhile in Texas, after surviving some drama surrounding Tyler Seguin’s contract renewal, the Dallas Stars are 2-1 on the season, coming off a 7-4 loss against the bright and shiny Toronto Maple Leafs. But the two games prior to their first loss were defining wins (3-0 SO against the Arizona Coyotes and 5-1 against the Winnipeg Jets). The Dallas Stars’ total of 12 goals scored does not exactly bode well against the Anaheim Ducks’ noticeable lack of puck control. But these numbers can be a bit deceiving....

The Stars have scored a total of 12 goals in three games, nine of which have been scored by the Star’s top line consisting of Jamie Benn, Tyler Seguin and Alexander Radulov. Jamie Benn is off to his best scoring start in three years after tallying three goals and three assists, while Tyler Seguin pulled a Dallas Star first after posting back-to-back four-plus-point games. So while Dallas’ top line is clearly on fire, it is clear that depth scoring remains a problem.

Based on the above, it will be interesting to see how Randy Carlyle tinkers with his own lines to shut down that first line while having enough to create offensive threats. Up to this point, he’s been primarily concerned with finding firepower from lines consisting of secondary scorers (+Rickard Rakell) and AHL players. The first (Comtois-Henrique-Silfverberg) and second (Cogliano-Kesler-Rakell) lines have been optimized to create some semblance of a forechecking power. But it is very clear that the key to winning this game will be to solve Dallas’ first line. The question remains whether it will be worth splitting up the first and second lines to reunite the Jakob Silfverberg-Ryan Kesler-Andrew Cogliano checking line in order to stop the Seguin-Benn-Radulov line.

One other key point to mention about today’s match-up is special teams. The Dallas Stars currently have a 50% conversion rate on the PP after converting four of the eight home power play opportunities. It is no surprise that the same players responsible for the majority of goals also play a large part on the PP unit. Jamie Benn leads with 3 PPG and 4 PPP. Seguin and Radulov follow in terms of PPP. The Anaheim Ducks are now at 91.7% on the penalty kill after allowing the first from Arizona last game. Contrary to the way penalty minutes have gone in the past few season, the Ducks are actually ranked 27th among teams for penalty minutes. This stark change in penalty metrics is due to 1) Nick Ritchie being out of the lineup (hallelujah!); and 2) The current roster predominantly being made up of kids. So the Ducks will fare well to continue staying out of the penalty box. Gibby will have enough on his hands with even-strength play.