Let’s face it. We still don’t enough about the enemy. They’re smart. They’re quick. And they take an advantage of a team that’s over-aggressive in ice positioning and expose them. Plus, of the four games they played during the season only one game between the Preds and Coyotes resembles the rosters used during this series.
Sure, the Predators are playing like the Predators of November right now, but that’s not giving credit to Phoenix for playing some slick hockey. And boy… they are.
During the season, Austin Waldron and Andrew Monrreal took helm of Blackout Dallas, and it quickly became a go-to place for all things involving the Stars, and some good hockey insight. So when it comes to honest opinions on the Pacific division, put these guys in your sights.
They also were nice enough to respond to a brief email.
-Seeing how Dallas and Phoenix tangle with each other six times a year and have had some battles over the years, what’s the best way to break through Dave Tippett’s structured defense?
Austin Waldron: Discipline and patience. You have to figure out a plan and stick with it. You can get a few good chances a game, but too often it’s easy to get restless and start trying things. Getting over-aggressive is what they want, because their great puck-moving Dman can quickly create a rush the other way.
Andrew Monrreal: A structured defense like Tippett’s will collapse to any team with enough talent, but obviously that level of talent is hard to come by. The Stars, in particular the last couple of seasons, haven’t had that level of talent and instead have to rely on both strong defense and goaltending of their own and forcing the Coyotes into making mistakes. The Stars beat the Coyotes 3 times this year, all in a shootout. The 3 losses? Once was in OT but the other two were the result of the Stars being completely shut down by the Coyotes’ defense. The Stars had a power play goal in two of their three wins, the one exception being a tying goal scored in the last 30 seconds. Those are the keys to beating the Coyotes: solid defense of your own, and the ability to capitalize on Coyotes’ penalties.
-During the second half of the year, Shane Doan concussed Jamie Benn and faced supplemental discipline. I’m taking a wild guess that Doan isn’t the most liked guy in Dallas these days.
AW: No. I think he should have received more than he did. Five games.
AM: It’s hockey, Doan made a bad play and put out a blatant elbow. I don’t hate him and I still think he’s on the penultimate Captains of the league. Jamie Benn was fine and played the next game, so it really wasn’t a big deal. Doan apologized and accepted the suspension. It’s the past now.
-Mike Smith has taken flight under the guidance of Sean Burke. The Stars were able to best Smith three times, all in shootout wins. Just where exactly is this guy vulnerable?
AW: Screens. He had some good qualities when in Dallas and Tampa, but Burke has taken him to the next level. The Coyotes do a good job of handling rebounds, but those are one way to go. Traffic is the obvious because that can cause any goalie issues. But most shots he can see he will stop and he has great movement in the crease.
AM: It’s pretty hard to best Smith, if the Coyotes get to the Finals you’re looking at the likely Conn Smythe winner. Austin will probably have more insight here than I, as I did not follow the Stars as closely as I do now back when Smith was with the Stars or the Lightning, where he struggled and almost played himself out of the NHL. I’ve only truly seen him this year and this is the year when he’s taken off.
-And finally, what’s to hate about these guys? Give us some ammo.
AW: Torres. Doan’s sometimes dirty play too. Really they can just be annoying. Tippett has the system ingrained and they will follow it. Defense, smart rushes, counter-attacks, and driving to the net.
AM: (aimed at Phoenix) Well, I don’t like that you took our fired coach and gave him an outlet to become a consistent playoff contender and a Jack Adams Award winner. Makes the Stars look bad. Oh and Tippett gets really tiring to play against. I was so excited to get out of the Pacific with realignment but that was shot down. It wasn’t a problem when he was behind our bench but I really cannot stand playing against the Coyotes. Six times a year gets old. I’m sick of you guys.