We have a podcast every so often at Second City Hockey, and before the season we had on Yahoo's Puck Daddy, Greg Wyshynski, and he picked the Dallas Stars as his surprise team. We laughed and derided him at the time. As usual, it is us looking like the true morons of the piece.
The Stars ride in tonight with a grip on first place in their division. Not only that, they've done it in pretty entertaining fashion. While they're only middle of the pack in goals-per-game, they boast two scoring lines that can light you up. Brad Richards centers the top, and before the year he was everyone's door prize at the trade deadline -- figuring a bankrupt Dallas organization would cash in on the impending free agent. But that didn't happen, and he has 45 points. His play makes the already-dangerous Loui Eriksson lethal. Eriksson plays a game a lot like Patrick Sharp, where he just finds open space to score from. On the other side is emerging billy club James Neal, who is everything you'd want a power forward to be.
The second line boasts team captain and unquestioned leader Brenden Morrow, with another developing power forward in Jamie Benn. Benn not only scores, but bloodied legendary hard-ass Jarome Iginla in a fight earlier this year.
A lot of success for the Stars though can be attributed to goalie Kari Lehtonen. He's gotten pitchforked in two of his last three outings, against Detroit and Vancouver, but his numbers are solid. And for a team without glittering special teams, that averages getting outshot, and contains no star defensemen, the goalie has to bail them out a lot. And he has. He'll be a stern test tonight.
Under coach Marc Crawford, the Stars love to get up and down the ice. They used to try and strangle games, but with the firepower they do have, they've gone loopy on that. This is part of the reason they were so easily swatted aside (for most of the game anyway) by the Hawks last time they were here. They can't keep up, and this defensive corps isn't mobile enough to deal with the Hawks' forwards when they're moving their feet. Their should be plenty of room to the outside for the Hawks when they come through the neutral zone.