The Avalanche continues their round-robin tourney for seeding tonight against the Dallas Stars, a team that’s given Colorado quite a fit this past year.
The Avs only managed to pull out two out of a possible eight points (0-2-2) against Central-Division rival Dallas during the 2019-20 regular season. The Stars, known for their stingy defense and brick-wall goaltending, have limited the Avalanche to just six total goals in four games, the fewest amount (by far) the usually-offensively-capable Avs have scored against any team that they’ve played four times.
“We haven’t had a lot of success against them this year,” Tyson Jost admitted. “(But) we haven’t played hockey in four months, it’s practically a new season. It’ll be a good test for us, we’re excited for it. It’ll be a really good team we’re playing. We’re confident in our abilities too, and obviously we haven’t had a lot of success against them during the regular season, but like I said, it’s been four months and it’s practically a new season and we’re ready to bring our A-game.”
There’s been a contingent of Avalanche players that has been attending a few of the games in the Edmonton bubble in their free time. Among them are Jost and defenseman Ryan Graves, among others. On Monday night, that “scout team” of Avs, if you will, took in the game against Dallas and Vegas, the two teams the Avalanche have remaining on their round-robin schedule.
“It’s going to be a good test for us, Dallas is a good team,” Jost said. “We had the chance to watch them (Monday night) play Vegas. You can see they have a lot of skill up front and their backend is really good too. They have a couple mobile (defensemen) that can move the puck really well and jump up on the rush.”
Like I previously mentioned, Dallas’ defense has become its identity this season. While they’re loaded with some offensive talent in Tyler Seguin, Alexander Radulov and Denis Gurianov, who is the team’s leading scorer and NHL’s second-ranked rookie goal scorer, still, the Stars have scored the third-fewest goals of any team in the NHL, flirting with playoff-absent bottom-dwellers such as the L.A. Kings and Detroit Red Wings.
The defense in Big D, however, has allowed just 174 goals past their strong goaltending tandem, the second-fewest in the league. In the case of the Stars, their defense really is their best offense…and quite possibly their only strength.
Ben Bishop, a two-time Vezina Trophy nominee and finalist, has always been among the NHL’s top goaltenders each season. This year again he ranks in the upper echelon of NHL netminders. But it’s really Dallas’ back-up goaltender who has been arguably the better of the two.
Of goalies that have played 30 or more games this season, Anton Khudobin ranks first with a .930 save percentage and second behind his former teammate Tuukka Rask with a 2.22 goals-against average. Both Bishop and Khudobin finished the 2019-20 regular season with a combined GAA of 2.52, good for second-best in the NHL.
Khudobin, by the way, is expected to get the start against the Avalanche tonight. In between Colorado’s pipes, coach Bednar confirmed this afternoon that Pavel Francouz will get the starting nod.
Bednar also offered Colorado Hockey Now his own scouting report of the Stars during Monday night’s matchup against Vegas.
“Certainly Dallas turned up their play during the second period and gave Vegas a lot of trouble getting out of their zone,” Bednar said of what he saw. “They had a heavy forecheck and kept some pressure on Vegas…and got rewarded a few times to take the lead.
“It was a hard-working game, it had pretty good pace and intensity to it…it was a pretty tight-checking game.”
Bednar, like his team, expects a good fight against a Dallas team that’s physical and possesses a fierce forecheck. But will that be enough to stop a finally-fully-healthy Avalanche team — which is something that couldn’t be said about their previous four matchups against the Stars.
“They’re obviously a really good hockey team,” defenseman Ian Cole said. “For whatever reason, they’re always a team that we match up a little better against…I think everyone in our room is aware of the troubles we might’ve had with them in the past and everyone is very determined to try and end that (today). You want to talk about the law of averages, I guess we’re due, right?”
Pre-game Quick Hits:
- This will be the 25th meeting between the Avs and Stars in the postseason. The Avalanche has the edge against Dallas with a 14-10 record.
- Khudobin, the expected starter for the Stars, is 2-3-0 against the Avalanche all time with a 2.82 GAA and a .908 SV%
- The Avs have allowed 12 goals to Dallas over their four match-ups this season, the third-most to any team they’ve played.