Every hockey game has its charm, and it’s a different experience for every person, but there’s something about games between division rivals that are especially exciting, even if we’re (almost) two months deep into the season.
On Saturday, November 24, the Dallas Stars will pay a visit to the Colorado Avalanche for the first time this season, and it has potential to be an exciting game for both parts. Both teams currently seat on the Western Conference’s Wild Card, which is not too bad if the playoffs started next week, but (obviously) both want more than just a wild card spot.
Sure, the Avs are still recovering from a Not Good At All 2016-2017 season, but after their Very Good comeback last season, their confidence is high and has been paying off so far. So what should the Stars (and fans) look out for this Sunday?
The Scandinavian Sandwich
Don’t be fooled by the NHL calling Colorado’s top line “The Rocky Mountain Line” – it’s actual name is “The Scandinavian Sandwich”: Gabriel Landeskog (Sweden), Nathan MacKinnon (Canada), and Mikko Rantanen (Finland). Combined, the Avs’ top line has 83 points, with Mikko Rantanen leading the league with 32 points (8 goals, 24 assists) at the time of this writing.
The chemistry and connection between these three players is undeniable and it’s (finally) getting the recognition it deserves.
Now, they have the Scandinavian Sandwich, but we have the Benn-Seguin-Radulov, who can give them a fight (not physically, though) (well yeah, maybe that too). The best thing the Stars can do? keep the puck away from MacKinnon and Rantanen. For real.
Girard and Big Z
This might not be the Avs’ strongest point but boy, do they have some really good players here. Nikita Zadorov, who led the league in hits last season, will not hesitate on checking anyone (literally ANYONE) against the boards. He won’t hesitate on dropping the gloves either. All for the sake of keeping that puck as far from the goalie as possible.
And then we have Sam Girard. Sure, Big Z is one to look out for (we don’t want more players on IR, please boys. Please) but probably the biggest threat here is Girard. He’s fast (very fast), skilled (very), and controls puck masterfully. Girard AND Heiskanen in the same rink? YES!
Other defensemen that the Stars should keep an eye on, just in case, are Ian Cole and Erik Johnson. Cole usually plays more defense and Johnson goes more towards offense, but both will gladly drop the gloves if necessary. So yeah, as mentioned above: this game has a lot of potential on so many levels.
Power Play/Penalty Kill
The Avs’ first Power Play Unit is Landeskog, Wilson, Rantanen, Barrie, MacKinnon.
The Stars’ first Power Play Unit is Benn, Seguin, Radulov, Lindell, Spezza.
The Stars currently stand at #5 in Penalty Kills with a 82.5% with the Avs’ at #18 with 79.7%. However, the Avs are #2 in Power Play Percentage with 30.3%, while the Stars sit at #18 with 20%. Are you feeling it?
As usual, the key is to stay away from the penalty box as much as possible, but as we have seen so far, it doesn’t depend so much on the players but on the officials and who they are favoring that day – or if they are too lazy to pay attention to what is happening on the ice. This is a league-wide problem; don’t think they have a personal vendetta against the Stars.
Still, if either the Stars or the Avs (or both?) spend too much time in the box, we’re in for an exciting PP/PK.
Our beloved Ben Bishop is out for at least a week with a lower-body injury, so Anton Khudobin will be on the net on our side.
Now, the Avs’ starting goalie, Semyon Varlamov, is currently #8 league-wide with a Save Percentage of .926, with Bishop seating at #13 (.923). Khudobin, on the other hand, has a Sv% of .925 (7 games played, 6 games started, 3 wins, 3 losses, 1 OT). There’s also the possibility of the Avs starting Philipp Grubauer, who currently holds a Sv% of .896 (7 games played and started, four wins, one loss, 2 OT). So, uhm… yeah, they’re both good.
Both teams can give the other a good fight, but both are also inconsistent. The Stars and the Avs began the season with a bang and have already had some low-lows, but when they’re good… they’re really good! And if both keep in mind that 1) they’re division rivals and 2) they’re both on the Wild Card, it’s safe to say we’re up for an exciting game.
And yes, of course we will be covering on Twitter. Make sure you don’t miss the fun!
PS. – We’re always open for predictions, hit us up!
Featured Image: NHL