Heading into the Series
After winning their first four games out of the gate this season, the Dallas Stars have a record of just 5-9-7. Granted, the Stars have played 5 fewer games, but have three more points than the Detroit Red Wings. This has been quite the fall from grace for a team that was the Stanley Cup runner-up in last season’s playoffs. Although the teams are close in the standings, viewing the teams’ rosters tells a different story, as Dallas still owns more skill. Although the Red Wings’ roster does not contain many names that outside of Detroit are known, they have been getting the most out of their roster recently. The Red Wings were able to earn two points in a series against the Carolina Hurricanes after earning three of a possible four points against the Tampa Bay Lightning. This is notably a minuscule sample size, but a trend nonetheless.
It is tough to consider the Dallas Stars’ offense complete with Tyler Seguin on injured reserve. The statistics will tell you that Dallas misses Sequin as well, as they have three fewer goals than the league average in five on five (5v5) expected goals for (xGF). Skilled winger Roope Hintz may miss some time against the Red Wings, as he missed Tuesday’s game due to injury. On a positive note for Dallas, Joe Pavelski has been lights out. At 36 years old, he is just outside of the top 20 in points, and seventh in the league with 14 goals. Another surprise for Dallas on the offensive side has been Northville Michigan’s own Jason Robertson. Robertson, only 21, has been a bright spot for Dallas scoring 15 points in the 20 games he has played. All told, this group is about 15% behind the league average in scoring.
Red Wings Offense
The Red Wings’ offense has been playing better of late, averaging 3.5 goals over their last four games. This outpaces their season average of 2.27 by over a goal, which has been good to see. During this time Filip Zadina and Dylan Larkin have looked like world-beaters. The Red Wings, as a result, have won two of their three games since Larkin’s return from injury. Detroit has also got some scoring from some unconventional places, as Adam Erne has scored three powerplay goals in his last four games. The powerplay as a whole has started to show some positive regression after going 41 chances without netting the puck. The Red Wings will need to continue the roll on the powerplay, as Dallas is a good 5v5 defense.
The Dallas defense has really played well to this point. Led by John Klingberg who has scored 17 points, they are seventh in the league in goals-against/games played (GA/GP). The advanced stats are even more impressive, as they have allowed 19 fewer goals at 5v5 than the league average. The expected goals against (xGA) at 5v5 is remarkable too, at 12 under the league average. Much of this can be attributed to the lack of high danger chances they allow. The league average for high danger chances against (HDA) is 83. The Stars defense has allowed just 38 on the season. That is a full 45 less than the league average. As mentioned above, the man advantage will play a key role, as the penalty-kill of the Stars is just 17th in the league.
Although this position group does not have any candidates for most valuable player, the unit as a whole has been the most valuable unit. They do not fair well from goals against/games played (GA/GP) allowing the sixth highest in the league, but I can explain. The 5v5 defense is good, allowing four less xGA than the league average. Not to mention that their HDA is way below average at 60. That is a full 22 less than the league average. You have probably been able to trace the breadcrumbs to where I am going here. The penalty-kill for the Red Wings has been brutal. They are second from the bottom in the league, killing off just 70.9% of the chances. Consistent with the story of the season, on paper, this series is going to come down to special teams.
Another injury that is hampering the Dallas Stars is that of Ben Bishop. Ben Bishop has been in Vezina consideration fairly recently and is a big boost to this tandem. Anton Khudobin was very good on their run to the Stanley Cup Finals last season as his replacement. Khudobin has been fairly average this season posting a .907 save percentage (SV%) while owning a -0.1 goals saved above average (GSAA). Jake Oettinger has actually the better of the two netminders posting a .917 SV% and has a GSAA of 3.2. Like many of the Central Division matchups, this series could come down to what goalies the Red Wings are facing.
Jonathan Bernier has been the most valuable player for the Red Wings this season, and the runner-up may not be all that close. Bernier has earned a SV% of .912 and a GSAA of 2.2. The stats do not jump off of the page, but anyone who has watched the Red Wings knows that in their victories, he is most likely the first or second star. An interesting stat line that Bernier does own is his 7-6-0 record. Although wins are not the best metric to judge a goaltender, posting a record above .500 for one of the league’s bottom 2-3 teams is something to be proud of. Greiss continues to try and find his game as his .883 SV% and league-worst -9.2 GSAA leave a lot to be desired. He was signed in the offseason to push Bernier or earn the job outright and is just not performing at that level.
Series Conclusion and Prediction
Between the slide that the Stars have been on, and the way that the Red Wings have been playing, it is tough not to be optimistic going into this series. Unfortunately, dealing in the world of numbers, the optimism takes a step back. This does seem to be a series that will be the opposite of the high-flying 6-4 outcome we saw against the Lightning a couple of games back. This series on paper will provide minimal chances for each team, so special teams should play a large role. I like the Red Wings to earn two points against the Stars in the next two games, but it could easily turn to three if we see overtime in either of the games.