In what is becoming one of our new features, we're reaching out to the SBN blogs of our opponents on Game Day to get a sense of the match-up from the other side. Today, I posed three questions to Brandon Worley, who is one of the managing editors over at Defending Big D. Without further ado...
1. The Stars didn't exactly go for "youth" this off-season, adding two 40-year-olds to create a roster with 11 guys now 29 and older. How have Ray Whitney and Jaromir Jagr been so far, and what does their signings say about the team's prospects going forward?
BW: Don't be fooled by the ages Jagr and Whitney; this team has made it a point to get younger. On Saturday night against the Blues, nearly half the players on the ice had less than 82 games of NHL experience. Jagr has looked good, however, and before his injury had been playing on a line that was facing the toughest competition on the team and were performing as well as could be expected. He's led the team in shots and has showcased he's still a very feared offensive weapon.
Perhaps no one really expected what the Stars have gotten from Whitney, although they should have. Whitney leads the team in points in the young season and has shown to be a great leader for the team at a time when it was sorely needed. He's shown to still have incredible vision with the puck and he nearly played the hero on Saturday when his game-tying shot rang off the post with just over a minute remaining.
2. It looks like the Stars aren't scoring a ton of goals, but are again getting great goaltending from Kari Lehtonen when he's played. Are the Stars only going as far as Lehtonen can take them?
BW: The simple answer is yes. The Stars defense is a work in progress and will likely be the team's biggest issue for the remainder of the season. The Stars are allowing the most shots in the NHL yet have a more than respectable goals-allowed per game, and Lehtonen has no-doubt been the reason the Stars have even had a chance in these games. The trick is going to be keeping him healthy; any goalie is going to wear down if facing 40 shots a game four days a week. What's amazing is that he's still not fully warmed up; he told me last week he likes to have four or five games to really get ready for the season, so the past week or so has been his preseason. He's playing the best I've ever seen him right now.
3. Other than the expected rust of the lockout, what's been the Stars' biggest Achilles-heel so far during the young season?
BW: The defense. The Stars are inexperienced and undersized and they don't have any defensemen that should be considered an actual top pairing. As a result, Alex Goligoski and Stephane Robidas are forced to play some very tough minutes that limits their offensive effectiveness, a problem when both have been the top scoring defensemen for the Stars in the past. The hope is that with each game, rookies Jordie Benn and Brenden Dillon will continue to improve and that the Stars will be able to get a solid contribution from, perhaps, Jamie Oleksiak sometime in the near future.