Sizing up the Dallas Stars

Tomorrow we play the Dallas Stars, a team we vanquished in six games way back in the 2008 Western Conference Finals (they missed the play-offs last season). Detroit is currently a single spot ahead of Dallas in the Western Conference on the heels of Detroit’s 3 game winning streak (Dallas has played an extra game). The two teams, at present, would occupy the final two play-off spots if the regular season would end today. Pretty much all of the mainstream media is in full back pedal mode after predicting “the downfall of Detroit”, Detroit is 10-3-3 after the Swedish Stinkfest.

Dallas doesn’t boast superstars in any position, really. However, they do have a tendency to be moderately strong in each department, which sums up to at least a play-off caliber squad…if you ignore last year. The Stars currently sit at an impressive 7th place in the league as far as G/G average with 3.05. Detroit’s eight goal shellacking of the Blue Jackets and seven goal performance against the Ducks have lifted their G/G average as they rose to 4th in the NHL with a hearty 3.39. Advantage: Detroit

Marty Turco had an absolutely horrible start to the season last year, which contributed to Dallas’ slide out of play-off contention especially because the Stars were lacking of a consistent back-up. Marty, a former all-star hasn’t quite returned to his former glory this year, but has improved dramatically…Detroit owns him though. Dallas currently ranks 16th in the league with a ho-hum 2.79 G/A average. The Wings are doing much better on defense as of late, despite giving up three to Anaheim in the third frame of Saturday’s contest. They’re sitting 19th in the league with a 2.89 G/A average. Advantage: Dallas, but not by much.

Dallas’ mediocrity continues with its power play. The Stars are currently converting 17.2% of the PP chances, which is only good enough for 21st overall in the NHL. Detroit’s power play looked bad against the Leafs, but has turned the corner. Working on the PP in practice last week seems to have paid dividends. Despite the PP losing Jason Williams on the point, it’s currently 5th best with a 24.7% conversion rate. Advantage: Detroit.

Marty Turco’s improved play has not seemed to help the penalty killing, which may come as a surprise. Dallas is currently ranked 17th in the NHL, with a 79.7% effectiveness rating. Detroit, who had came close to killing off an extended 5 on 3 power play on Saturday, remains mired near the bottom of the league in terms of penalty killing effectiveness. They are currently ranked 26h in the league with a 75.4% kill rate. Advantage: Dallas

So if we pull ranks and take the average for GA/G and G/G…

Dallas: 11(.5)th
Detroit: 11(.5)th

If you combine PK and PP percentages to get an overall effectiveness rating:

Dallas: 96.9%
Detroit: 100.1%

The key for a Red Wing’s victory tomorrow night will be to continue to own Marty Turco. Detroit has historically beaten the former U of M goaltender with staggering effectiveness. Detroit is clearly a more talented team, even with the injuries they have suffered. The loss of Sergei Zubov is a big blow to Dallas’ defense. The fact that Marc Crawford is the Stars’ bench boss could rekindle this rivalry right quick if he resorts to the same methods that brought him success in Vancouver and Colorado. However, unlike Bowman…I’d put my money on Babcock if another coach confrontation turned to fisticuffs.

Last season, Detroit surprisingly struggled against teams that failed to qualify for the play-offs (they were swept by Colorado and were shut out by the Islanders). They posted a 1-2-1 record against the Dallas Stars in 2008-2009. The home winning streak and my perfect attendance at the Joe will be on the line tomorrow night.