Game 80 Preview: San Jose Sharks @ Dallas Stars

San Jose Sharks (40-29-10, 90 pts) @ Dallas Stars (42-32-5, 89 pts)

7:30 PM CT, April 3, 2012

American Airlines Center, Dallas, Texas


No detail is needed to explain just what tonight means for the Stars. It’s a do-or-die, win-or-it’s-over game against a team that has owned the Stars this season. The Sharks easily handed the Stars a 3-0 defeat in the last game, so it’s obvious that things need to change.

So what do the Stars need to do tonight? Step one would be to not have a terrible start. The Sharks scored just 58 seconds into the game on Saturday, 58 seconds. There’s barely even time for fans to settle into their seats before the Stars are already chasing the game. In all four of the Sharks wins in the series this season, they have scored a goal in the first five minutes of the game. In the second game of the series, they scored twice in the first minute and a half of the game. The one game that the Stars won? They were the first team to score and that goal didn’t happen till midway through the second period. If the Sharks score a quick goal today, you can go ahead and start ushering the fat lady onto the stage and have her warm up.

2nd key to the game for Dallas is to work Antti Niemi. In three of the five games in the season series, the Stars have barely reached 20 shots on goal (20, 21 and 22 shots to be exact). In the one win for Dallas, they were still outshot by a ton but still managed to put 35 shots on Niemi, the Stars most in the series. That lack of shots just means that there’s a lot of time spent in the Stars zone, time in which the defenders and Kari Lehtonen are scrambling to cover the net. The Sharks have gotten at least 34 shots on goal in every game. As good as Lehtonen is, he can’t hold out long against a team with players this explosive.

To keep the puck and the pressure off of Lehtonen, Dallas needs to slow the game down. Play patient and work the passes. Hurrying through the game has only led to turnovers for this team and that directly leads to goals against the team. There’s no need for the tight angle shots out of desperation. Dallas needs to work the puck back from the blue line and forecheck like they have never forechecked before. Just be able to hold onto the puck for extended periods of time and things will be alright. The less that San Jose has the puck, the less they have a chance to work their offense and bury Lehtonen under an avalanche of shots. Puck possession is key.

I’ve seen this team long enough to know that there will be some bad turnovers and missed defensive assignments. The key will be to limit those. Smart puck possession will limit the turnovers in this game and the best way to make up for the bad defense is to check the hell out of the Sharks forwards. Don’t give them more than a second to look around the ice to pick out their pass. As patient as they should be on the offensive end of the ice, they have to be just as aggressive on the defensive end. This could be the season ender for Dallas. The Stars need to show some passion in their game tonight with a nothing is going to be easy attitude. If nothing else, the Stars have outhit San Jose in each game of the series, but a lot of those hits have come out of frustration as those games have gotten away. Hit aggressive and smart tonight. Don’t throw the body around recklessly that leads to penalties.

And that leads to the last key of the game for Dallas. For the love of God, stop taking bad penalties. Continuously going on the penalty kill destroys any chance of momentum for Dallas. Being on the PK doesn’t exactly give a lot of chance to take over the game and work the opposing goalie. The Sharks have gotten five, three, five, three and then six power play opportunities in each game of the series, repectively. San Jose has a great power play, fourth best in the league, so the last thing the Stars need is to give them even better chances to score.

Kari Lehtonen gets the nod tonight. He’ll have to be incredible in this game if things are looking poor again. He’s only started two games in this series (the last two) and has a 1-1-0 record. If he’s forced to be the MVP in tonight’s game, things aren’t likely to be going well.

Dallas should be getting both Eric Nystrom and Radek Dvorak tonight so there won’t be anyone missing this game due to an injury.

Notes and thoughts:

  • In each game this series, the second period has really been where this thing struggles for Dallas. They are outshot by an average of eight shots on goal. Nine of the Sharks 20 goals in this series have been scored in the second period. San Jose has scored a goal in the second period in every game so far this series.
  • The Stars PK has been bad this past week. They’ve allowed a power play goal in three of the last four games, going 14 of 19 (73.6%) in that span. Not by coincidence, Dallas lost the three games in which they allowed a power play goal and won the game that they didn’t.
  • The power play has been horrendous in the mean time. Dallas has dropped to 30th in the league on the power play, dead last.
  • This is the last true chance to affect the standings directly for Dallas. Leave nothing on ice, effort is everything.

more after the jump


Screw the Sharks. We know what they’re about and what they can do.

Niemi gets the start. Defenseman Douglas Murray is the only question mark for this game due to a back injury.

Notes and thoughts:

  • San Jose is a disciplined team. Only three times in the past 15 games have they gone on the penalty kill more than twice.
  • San Jose has only won three of their last 17 road games. They’re 15-17-7 on the road this year. Dallas needs to take advantage of their home crowd tonight.

Season Series:

  • Nov. 19 @ American Airlines Center: Dallas 1 – San Jose 4
  • Dec. 8 @ HP Pavilion: Dallas 2 – San Jose 5
  • Feb. 2 @ HP Pavilion: Dallas 2 – San Jose 5
  • March 8 @ American Airlines Center – Dallas 4 – San Jose 3 (SO)
  • March 31 @ HP Pavilion: Dallas 0 – San Jose 3

Series Stats:

Dallas San Jose
Goals per game 1.6 4
Shots per game 25.8 38.6
Hits per game 37 18
PIM per game 25 17
Power Play 2 of 12 (17%) 5 of 22 (23%)
Penalty Kill 17 of 22 (77%) 10 of 12 (83%)