Following an entertaining, yet discouraging road-trip through Carolina and Columbus; the Dallas Stars will see the friendly confines of the American Airlines Center over their next eight contests.
Settling for three points in four hard fought road games this past week amidst a shuffling of personnel, one can’t help but feel the Dallas Stars are close to determining what is going to work for this club in 2020-2021. Sprinkle on top the pending return of Joel Kiviranta (lower body) and this Dallas Stars line setup could – and should – look much different next time they hit the road on February 22nd to Florida.
Undoubtedly and not unexpectedly, 20-year-old forward Ty Dellandrea has emerged the most productive from the swatch of under 25-year-old ‘offensive extras’ for the Dallas Stars this season. While Dellandrea spent the entirety of the Columbus series on the taxi squad, there was – in my opinion – a larger purpose behind that move from head coach Rick Bowness.
In this shortened COVID season, experimentation on a large scale is certainly frowned upon. Clubs have less time to acclimate younger players to existing line mates and younger players have less time to learn team schemes and formations. Resting Dellandrea for two contests allowed the Dallas Stars staff time to see Joel L’Esperance and Nick Caamano in both games and additionally Jason Robertson in Thursday’s contest.
Ideally, one would think, all clubs would aim to conclude the majority of tweaks and trials within the opening two weeks of game play. Leaving as much time for chemistry and relationship building among those remaining on their active roster. Following the conclusion of their road trip on Thursday, Bowness addressed the play of a few youngsters.
On Joel L’Esperance
"“Joel had a really good game last game,” Bowness said. “He had three really good chances. So we went that way today. Ty will be back in the lineup on Sunday.”"
On Jason Robertson
"“He was OK,” Bowness said. “He wasn’t the reason we lost the game. Jason’s an offensive player, he’s got to play with offensive players. You’re not going to break up the Benn-Pavelski-Radulov line, that’s been carrying the team. So you put him with those guys when you can. He was fine.”"
Outside Dellandrea, it makes sense that Robertson will be a focal point for the Dallas Stars this season. Tallying 25 goals a season ago for the Texas Stars in the American Hockey League was a statement for the offense minded 21-year-old. While he did not split up the top line mentioned by Rick Bowness above, he spent his ice time on Thursday alongside 2019-2020 club goal leaders for in Roope Hintz and Denis Gurianov. Rendering the head coaches ‘offensive statement’ a motivational remark, and nothing else, for me.
Blackout Dallas projects that alongside Dellandrea, forward Tanner Kero will rejoin the Stars active roster in the days leading up to the return of Joel Kiviranta. Likely at the cost of Caamano or Robertson as Dellandrea angles to replace L’Esperance.
Now that we have some useful information laid out, let’s get to it.
Jamie Benn – Roope Hintz – Denis Gurianov
Joel Kiviranta – Joe Pavelski – Alexander Radulov
Blake Comeau – Radek Faksa – Andrew Cogliano (FCC)
Situational – Jason Dickinson – Ty Dellandrea
Nick Caamano – Justin Dowling
Over the past four games, the ‘Green Power Ranger’ line of Benn-Pavelski-Radulov has logged an incredible xGoals% (Expected Goals) of 90.0%. While it’s tantalizing to keep them humming along together, head coach Rick Bowness’ opening day lines conveyed a strong, visible plan for the future. In which the table above mostly refers back to. Captain Jamie Benn echoed this sentiment prior to the start of this season.
"“I’ve played for a lot of great coaches, but he’s got to be right up there,” Benn said. “Our relationship has definitely gotten stronger, closer; there’s obviously a lot of communication between a head coach and a captain. The door is always open to his office, and I can always go in there as well as the rest of our team. A great person, a great coach.”"
There is almost nothing that younger players like Hintz, Gurianov, Caamano, Dellandrea, Dickinson and Kiviranta could not learn from this squad. GM Jim Nill knows this. Rick Bowness knows this. One of the five eldest NHL clubs in 2020-2021, this is the plan to avoid as much of a collapse as the Dallas Stars will eventually – due to aging out, salary cap – become younger and younger.
We saw Roope Hintz on Thursday net front on a number of occasions, not just grinding, but showing patience; awaiting the outcome of the play. Gurianov has been a much more stout physical presence this season, recording twelve hits through eight contests. He finished with just sixty-three total knocks last season, less than one per game played.
Of the middle leaning youngsters, Nick Caamano likely takes the NHL active roster nod from Robertson or Kero, for that matter.
While he has a knack for pre-mature shot launching, sharing the same shot total as Jon Klingberg and Alexander Radulov; his positioning has been a welcome addition this season. Jason Dickinson is a worker, plain and simple. Line mates feed off his energy. If Caamano can embrace his defensive roots, Ty Dellandrea could have a special rookie season amongst those two bodies on the fourth line for Dallas.
Good news for those that don’t like to make decisions, the Dallas Stars have no need to make any changes to their third line. Enjoying a xGoals% of their own totaling 80.0% over the past three games, the FCC line appears ready to repeat their successes of this past season. Only thirteen NHL lines managed to log more ice time together than Faksa, Comeau and Cogliano in 2019-2020; the only line to allow less xGoals against was the Pittsburgh Penguins punch of Tanev-Blueger-Aston-Reese.
Something you see playing out differently? Let us know in the comments.
Extra points if your breakdown involves Tanner Kero garnering more ice time.