Last Roundup With Big D
Game 4 in what has been an edgy, controversial, uncharacteristic series with the Stars from Dallas this season. Starting with premiere goaltenders Turco and Leclaire for the first 2 games, the teams netted 20 goals, 10 apiece, as they split 3 point games in Dallas. Last time at Nationwide found a mono-plagued Mason giving up 3 goals on 8 shots, and an overmatched Wade Dubielewicz surrendering 4 more in a 7 – 3 thumping by Dallas.
Things could well be different in this matchup. Both teams have been playing very well over the last 2+ months, with Dallas earning points at a 63% clip since 1/1, and the Jackets at a 61% pace for the same period. Mason is back and healthy, as are the majority of the other Jackets, though Modin is out for a week due to a marginal hit he took at the end of the Carolina game, forcing his knee into the post.
Dallas has shown some signs of cooling off of late. They are just 4 – 3 in February, having lost 2 of the last 3, while scoring just 4 goals in that stretch. This includes a 1 – 0 shutout at the hands of the Coyotes in Dallas, and a 6-2 thumping at Chicago in their last outing. According to the Dallas bloggers, Lehtinen skated this morning, but was obviously favoring a leg injury. Steve Ott did not skate, and is considered a gametime decision. Dallas has a big homestand coming up, and needs to be healthy for the likes of Chicago and San Jose. Their road record is comparable to the Jackets at 11-14-3.
No doubt the Stars will try the same attack as last game — come out with a rush and try to overwhelm the Jackets forwards in the defensive zone, and crowding the net on Mason. While we lose a little muscle in Modin, we now have a healthy Chimera and Torres, and both Murray and Dorsett in the lineup, which we did not have last time.
The keys to success:
Puck Control — This is first and foremost — do not turn the puck over in our zone, or at either blue line. We do not want to give Dallas any momentum or the opportunity to start a track meet. Keep your heads up, be aware of time and space, and support each other. Move it briskly, but not rashly.
Be Physical — We can sometimes act a bit afraid to hit hard against teams that we fear in transition. Can’t do that. Put up the picket fence in the neutral zone, and hit hard. Win the battles for the puck as we did in Carolina. Block shots and do the little things well.
Offensive Movement — Use all of the ice and get Turco moving, both at full strength and on the PP. Traffic in front, and put good shots on net. Get the puck deep to set up the defense in the neutral zone.
Dominate The Circle — After having our head handed to us on faceoffs in Carolina, let’s return to dominance. If we have possession, we can be a very scary team.
Strong Backbone: Mase will feel he has something to prove after his last outing, so I fully anticipate a monster game from him.
Interesting stat: The team with the most shots has lost in each of the first three games of the series.
Big home game with likely a huge crowd to get them through the lulls. A 4 game week, but 3 of them in the friendly confines, so energy needs to be high. Sole possession of 5th place at stake, and evening up of the season series.