The Dallas Stars will start their first playoff run in six years on Wednesday night.
Their opponent: the Anaheim Ducks.
The Ducks were the top team in the Western Conference during the regular season and only Boston had more points on the season. That being said, Anaheim (for some odd reason) doesn't seem as scary as the overall conference number one seed should. They play a great team game, yes. They are great at home, yes. But they are very vulnerable in a lot of areas, and in many cases, the Stars seem to match up incredibly well against them.
The two forward lineups are eerily similar- a great top line followed by a huge drop-off in talent. The Stars, though, had more consistent depth during the season. The depth, indeed, is what will probably decide the series.
Here's a breakdown of the forwards line-by-line and player-by-player:
LINE 1: Beleskey-Getzlaf-Perry (It's really a revolving door as to whom is with Perry and Getzlaf)
RYAN GETZLAF- The top center has had a career year, racking up 87 points and 31 goals. His previous high in goals was 25, and he surpassed that mark pretty early in the year. That being said, he's only had six more goals since and has missed a little time with injury. Needless to say he is an incredible player who will match up against the Benn and Seguin combo a lot. If you can keep Getzlaf from scoring any goals, though, the overall threat of Ducks scoring goes down significantly.
COREY PERRY- The dude is going to score goals. He's a natural at it. He's quick, has a pair of hands that make goalies liquefy in the crease. Perry has scored some unbelievable goals this year and has single handedly kept the Ducks in some games they had no business being in. He's not talked about as an overly defensive player, but he's not Ovechkin in that sense either. His real weakness comes on the leadership front, and if the game goes south, he gets a little pouty. It should be the D-pairing's job to make his life miserable, because he gets frustrated pretty quickly.
MATT BELESKEY- He has been the most consistent man to fill the top line out since the departure of Dustin Penner, and he's had experience on the top line (most of last year). The bad thing is that Getzlaf and Perry make any mediocre player a lot better. The good thing is Beleskey is still an average player. The absence of a true scoring threat on the left wing makes it a lot easier for the Dallas defense to concentrate their attention on the other two forwards.
LINE 2: Cogliano-Bonino-Selanne
ANDREW COGLIANO- He's one of the most underrated guys on the Ducks. He's calmly had a couple good years and Anaheim tends to do really well when Cogliano is going. He's a super fast winger who can beat you off the rush and set up his linemates with some great passes. The bad thing for Anaheim is that their second line is made up of players who would be great third liners, but only decent second liners.
NICK BONINO- This guy is third!!! in points this season for the Ducks. That's great for Bonino, but bad for Anaheim. That means their top scoring drops off a cliff after Getzlaf and Perry. He's a good center, beatable in faceoffs though. If someone asks where the scoring could come from for the Ducks, one might be wise to point to Bonino, who has snuck under the radar of seemingly everyone outside the OC this year.
TEEMU SELANNE- Do I have to say anything about the ageless one? The Finnish Flash is showing his age this year, but with age comes wisdom. He's had so much playoff experience that he probably can't remember it all, and he'll certainly want to win the cup in his last season.
Line 3: Maroon-Perrault-Silfverberg
PATRICK MAROON- The rookie has had a sensational year this season. He's been a decent goal-scorer and is a tough guy who loves to fight and throw his body around. He's a guy the Stars really need to look out for. I'd expect the Roussel and Garbutt line to match up against Maroon's line.
MATTHEW PERRAULT- He was an AHLer for a while this year after being picked up from Washington during the offseason. Now he is fourth in scoring for the Ducks. He's got very natural goal scoring potential and loves the dirty areas around the net, especially on the power play. Again, if this line gets going, the Ducks become a very dangerous first round opponent.
JAKOB SILFVERBERG- The former Ottawa Senator is a much better player than the Ducks use him as. He was a breakout star last year in Ottawa but just hasn't shown the same this season. He was an Olympian but got scratched on the Ducks around the same time. Granted, they were going with the hotter players (Maroon at that time) but he can certainly get hot at a dangerous time.
LINE 4: Winnik-Koivu-Palmeiri
DANIEL WINNIK- He is truly a depth player. He's a big guy who can establish a good forecheck and get opponents trapped in their own zone. Bruce Boudreau doesn't use his fourth line too often, but when he does, the veterans know what they have to do.
SAKU KOIVU- He is showing his age along with Selanne, but has a lot of experience. He's a great leader and still can have the scoring touch when the puck finds his stick in a good scoring area.
KYLE PALMEIRI- He's played a bit on the top line and has shown some bright spots this season. He's just one of those streaky guys who can play on any line. If he scores, it will certainly help, but if he doesn't, the Ducks won't rely on him too much. He's a flexible player who stays in the lineup by doing everything well.