Sunday, January 09, 2011

Climbing a Hill(er) to look at the Stars: A Tale of Two Teams on the Rise... and some shamless plugs

After an eleventh and twelfth place finish last season in the Western Conference respectively, the Dallas Stars and the Anaheim Ducks are third and fifth in the West.

In the beginning of the year, one would have them in the lower portion of the Pacific Division, while the LA Kings and San Jose Sharks would be able to reign freely on top. However, ironically, if the playoffs were to start today, the Kings would just barely be in the eighth place spot and the Sharks would not be in the playoffs, sitting in twelfth place like the Ducks last year.

Giving the Stars Some Shine

Of course, as always at this time of the year the two conferences are quite jumbled up and the Kings and Sharks are behind the Ducks by only three points; however, aside from the Sharks and the Kings underachieving, the Stars have received help on all ends.

The Stars have seen stellar seasons from Brad Richards with 49 points through 43 games and Lou Eriksson just behind Richards with 46 points. Not to mention, they have Kari Letohnen and Andrew Raycroft, surprisingly, have worked well together, combining for a 2.33 GAA and a .924 save percentage for Dallas. Now with the old-new addition of Jamie Langenbrunner who was absolutely miserable in [Hell] New Jersey, the Stars look to add more scoring to give them more of an offensive attack.

This is just a notice, look out for them. The Minnesota Wild beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 4-0 last night, and got their butts whopped by the same score tonight by the Dallas Stars.

The Anaheim Hillers

Anaheim may not have much offense (even less now that Ryan Getzlaf has been out for a significant length of time because of injury) and the Ducks have a hard time keeping opponents out of their zone. That, however, hasn't stopped their goalie Jonas Hiller from being unstoppable in net.

Hiller completed his second consecutive shutout tonight against the Sharks in a 37-save performance. Through the two shutouts, Hiller stopped 80 shots. In fact, according to Jim Neveau's piece for The Hockey Writers about the Blackhawks and the Ducks game, he states that:
"...the Ducks currently are allowing the most shots per game of any squad in the league, with 34.6 pucks per game finding their way through the defense and onto the net."

Of course, this is telling that his defense won't do much to protect him, and it is possible that after sometime, Hiller could crack. But for now, it does not seem so.

With the Ducks in fourth place after tonight's win, it's not impossible to see them in a playoff spot come the end of the year. But as mentioned before, the conferences are packed tightly at this point in the season, and three points separate the fourth seed from the eleventh seed in the Western Conference. It would depend on if Anaheim is able to find any kind of scoring when Getzlaf returns and if somebody learns to block shots before Hiller wears down. Riding on a hot goalie can only take a team so far, as we saw last year with Montreal, who lost in the conference finals to the Flyers, who had a much more complete attack.


For Shamless Plug time, I did a few more spots on radio this week. January 6th, I was a busy woman appearing on two shows.

The first was a second appearance on Rink Side Rants with Tim Redinger and Frank Rekas. Here I recapped the Winter Classic, my experience at the Winter Classic and a few other "shenanigans" in the NHL, including my learning about the NHL Guardian Project.

Shortly thereafter, I joined Gabriel Morency on Sports Rage to talk more Capitals and post-Winter Classic consequences for both the Caps and Penguins. Was rather impressed, as I learned that folks in Canada do their homework on hockey and don't hang on to yesterday's news about teams (like no "Caps struggling" questions).

I was on one more show tonight, Game Points with Matthew Ross on The Team 990 from Montreal to talk, yes, more Capitals, and my biggest surprises in the NHL this year. No link right now, but I'll see if I can get you guys one.

Pucking this much has never made me happier.....

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