Gameday is finally here for the Dallas Stars.
The Stars take the ice tonight against top-seeded Anaheim in what could be the deciding game of the series. If Dallas wins tonight, thoughts of previous playoff series will creep into the Ducks' minds (remember Detroit last year?). And for the Stars to win, there's a good chance that they're going to have to snag one of the first two games.
The stage is set in the crease, where Kari Lehtonen will make his first postseason start with Dallas and Frederik Andersen will make his first ever postseason start for Anaheim. The 24-year-old Andersen was chosen over veteran Jonas Hiller, who has struggled mightily down the stretch of the season. Andersen was a very, very, very impressive 20-5 on the season and just recently missed a few games with an upper body injury. Anaheim feels that he's 100 percent, though, so he'll be between the pipes for the Ducks tonight.
Both teams will rely on their defensemen to build a wall around their netminders, and with that in mind, here's a player-by-player breakdown of Anaheim's D-corps.
D-PAIRING 1: Lindholm-Beauchemin
This guy is good... for a rookie. He's a skinny boy: 6-foot-3, 197, but his offensive potential is really, really good. He was a +29 in 78 games this season and, along with Sami Vaatanen, led a rookie charge on the blue line this year for Anaheim. If he and Beauchemin match up against the Benn and Seguin line, it's Lindholm who they should look to attack early. Playing in his first playoff game as a rookie is a big task, and the two talented wingers need to see if he's up for it early.
You might remember him from a bloody battle with Jamie Benn in the first meeting between the two teams. Beauchemin is a solid defenseman and is one of their bigger bodies at 6-foot-1. He's an impressive +26 on the year with four goals and 13 helpers. He's only played in two games against Dallas this year, garnering a -2 rating. Read as: he's certainly not Zdeno Chara.
D-PAIRING 2: Fowler-Robidas
Coming off an Olympic appearance for the United States in February, Fowler is coming off injury that caused him to miss the majority of the conclusion of the regular season. He was able to get some game action in the last two games of the season, hopefully for him to shake off the rust caused by missing an extended amount of time. He's definitely a big offensive factor on the blue line, playing a key role on the power play and using his speed to jump up on plays to create some extra offense. With a definite lack of depth scoring, the defensemen have to create offense, and Fowler is paramount to doing that.
Remember this guy? After spending most of the season rehabbing a broken leg, he joined the Ducks at the trade deadline and has become a great shot blocker that Anaheim really needed on their blue line. He is a veteran, can play with anyone, and certainly knows how the Stars play. He'll be a big source of information for the Ducks in preparing for what the Stars do offensively, and he just loves playing the big minutes. Watch out for this former Star.
D-PAIRING 3: Allen-Lovejoy
The 33-year-old former first round draft pick of the Vancouver Canucks has found a place on the third pairing in Anaheim. He tallied 10 assists and no goals and was +20 in 68 GP. He's their big boy on defense, weighing 225 and standing 6-foot-5. He's certainly a stay-at-home defenseman who won't travel far into his offensive zone but is good at shutting down the opposition in their offensive zone. It wouldn't be surprising to see his pairing on the ice with Rousell and Garbutt a lot.
Lovejoy is having a breakout season this year. With injuries to Souray and others along the way, Lovejoy has been asked to step up and play with Fowler for a lot of the season. He's been a +21 player this season and has played in all but four games. He has more points that Beauchemin and despite being 6-foot-2, plays an undersized defenseman kind of game. He uses a bit of speed and finesse instead of laying the big body checks.