After two big wins with plenty of fireworks involved, the Dallas Stars take on the Anaheim Ducks to close out the season series tonight. But, in this third matchup, they are facing a different Ducks team.
The Dallas Stars have had some big wins this season.
Though the offense has been hampered to a certain extent and they have dug in for some ugly defensive battles in their 16 victories, there have been a handful of exciting wins. And of those, two came against the Anaheim Ducks.
The first came on Oct. 13. A little over one week into the 2018-19 regular season, the Stars welcomed the Ducks to Dallas to close out a four-game homestand. The Stars were 2-1-0 on the year, while the Ducks boasted a 3-0-1 record. A Saturday night showdown pitted the two teams against each other for the first time in the new year.
And for the first 30 minutes of the contest, it was all Anaheim Ducks. The Stars had some early chances, but couldn’t capitalize on a stellar showing by John Gibson. Meanwhile, Anaheim scored three goals in the first 28:09 to silence the Dallas crowd and take control of the game.
But, the Stars would not be held down for long. In a span of 2:47, Alexander Radulov, Connor Carrick, and Jamie Benn scored goals to tie the game at 3-3. John Klingberg scored a few minutes later to flip the script and give Dallas the 4-3 lead. Anton Khudobin held down the fort for the remainder of the game and Radek Faksa added an empty net goal at the end of the game to complete the incredible 5-3 win for the Stars.
Dallas tied a franchise record with 30 shots in the second period, Khudobin got his first win as a Star, Carrick scored his first goal with his new team, and the big guns got it done for the Stars in a miraculous comeback.
12 days later, the Ducks were back in town for a second bout. And in the second contest between the two clubs, there was no comeback necessary.
Following a few traded goals through the first 24 minutes, the Dallas Stars opened up an offensive clinic, scoring three unanswered goals in a span of 13:13 in the second period to take the 5-2 lead. That lead would hold until the end of the game, giving Dallas their second win against Anaheim. Jason Dickinson (x2), Miro Heiskanen, Roman Polak, and Mattias Janmark all tallied their first goals of the season in the victory.
So, as the Stars enter the Honda Center tonight to close out their three-game season series against the Ducks, it’s easy to pick them as the favorite. They have outscored the Ducks 10-5 in two meetings, received production from both the big guns and the depth scorers in the wins, and seen solid performances from both Ben Bishop and Anton Khudobin.
But, don’t jump to conclusions just yet. After all, it seems as though the Stars will be up against a measurably different Anaheim team this time around.
The last time these two teams met was on Oct. 25. On that night, Dallas handed the Ducks their fifth regulation loss of the season. The loss bumped them down to 5-5-1 on the year, leaving them in the middle of the pack in the Western Conference. From there, it looked as though the Ducks were on the downhill skid.
The loss to the Stars was part of an 0-5-2 skid that dragged them from the top of the Pacific to outside the playoff picture. They were relying too heavily on John Gibson, couldn’t get consistency from their power play or penalty kill, and were not receiving the necessary production from their top players. As a result, hope was dwindling in Anaheim.
But that all seems to have turned around in the past few weeks. Since Nov 21, the Ducks are 8-2-0. They have resurrected their record from a humbling 8-9-5 to 16-11-5, good enough for a tie for second place in the Pacific division. They own two more points than the Stars, though Dallas has two games in hand. Even so, it’s a testament to how efficiently they have bounced back, even in the absence of key players like Corey Perry, Cam Fowler, and Rickard Rakell.
But there hasn’t been any significant changes to the overall team play, at least in terms of statistics. The Ducks are second-to-last in the NHL in goals per game average at 2.44. Their defense is slightly above average, giving up 2.88 goals per game. On special teams, they own the 24th-best power play and 13th-best penalty kill.
In other words, there’s nothing outstanding in their numbers. Instead, it’s simply been about them playing with timeliness and capitalizing on their opportunities.
In each of their past seven wins, the Ducks have been tied or trailing going into the third period. As a result, they have fronted a handful of offensive comebacks, relied on some solid goaltending, and picked up some valuable points.
As a result, this game presents a new challenge to the Dallas Stars. This is an Anaheim Ducks team that, while they don’t necessarily have an overwhelming offensive or defensive attack, they know how to capitalize when it counts. The Stars are on the playoff brink right now (as crazy as that may seem), so a win would be big in propelling them forward.
This is the first night of a back-to-back for the Dallas Stars and the second game in a four-game road trip. This Anaheim team has new life and is on a hot tear as they approach the top of a struggling Pacific division.
Tonight’s puck drop at 9:00 p.m. is a big two points for both clubs. Let’s see where it takes them.