Flyers vs. Stars: 5 questions with Defending Big D

Our friends over at Defending Big D were kind enough to give us some insight about the Stars as they enter the final stretch of the 2013-2014 season.

In the spirit of trying to learn about the enemy, we sent a few questions about the Dallas Stars over to Defending Big D managing editor Brad Gardner. He kindly obliged.

Our questions and his answers touch upon the Jamie Benn/Tyler Seguin MVP debate, whether or not the Stars have what it takes to make a run in the playoffs, and a number of other juicy topics. Enjoy!

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1) The Stars and the Flyers are pretty similar in terms of results this season (pretty much the same spot in the standings, eerily similar goals for/goals against). We're a little worried about the Flyers making the playoffs and going deep, what about the Stars?

They've been out-scored 12-3 so far on this three-game road trip, and that's after blowing a 3-1 third-period lead to Calgary, while the Coyotes do things like beat teams way over their heads in the Kings to take back the second wild card spot. We're a little worried about the Stars making the playoffs... Or, as they're in full on crash-mode like most March's in recent memory, we're quite certain that they won't. Philadelphia is catching them just at the right time. The team has not been under the effects of Jim Nill long enough to escape their yearly fate after teasing us, it seems.

2) Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin, hey, they're pretty good. If you had to choose, whom would you pick as team MVP and why?

It's tough to take one of them without the other, honestly -- let's give it to Tyler Seguin this year. He's been an exciting revelation that would have been a bargain at a much steeper price. Why the Bruins gave up on him, we'll never know.

A bit of a dark-horse candidate, and one most Stars fans will yell at me about, is Alex Goligoski. When he goes well, and he has gone quite, quite well for long stretches of the season, the team succeeds at an impressive rate. When he's coughing up the puck as he's been this week, it's the opposite. He's certainly an important player.

3) The Stars seem to lean heavily on Kari Lehtonen (to put it lightly). How big is it that he returned to the lineup this week, and do you think that Tim Thomas will be taking on more games as we enter the final stretch of the season?

It seemed big. Until the Stars coughed up the puck repeatedly in Pittsburgh and hung him out to dry, to a certain extent. We thought it would be a good mental page-turn after the 7-2 loss in Winnipeg, but the out of control feeling now only builds, regardless of who's in goal. They rely on him, certainly, but not like they have in the past. The Stars have the 8th best Fenwick close percentage this season, and generally put more rubber toward the opposition than Lehtonen faces this season. An important step forward for the franchise, even if it won't end in playoffs this season.

4) Valeri Nichushkin (along with Seguin and Benn) kind of destroyed the Flyers the last time these teams met. How has he progressed since the beginning of the season, and how much stock do you put into him being a cornerstone for the franchise going forward?

He has his moments, but he's just so 18 (or he might be 19 now). He tries to do too much. He gets lost in his own end at times. He gets bounced from the first line to the fourth line and back by Ruff. It's about finding consistency with him. As he learns English, matures his body and adjusts to life in the United States his game will only get better. He's hit a wall this season, however, never having played this many games before. He'll be fine -- very possibly elite.

5) How much has Dallas' play changed since bringing in Lindy Ruff? Do you think he ends up staying there for a million years like when he was in Buffalo?

Ruff coached a variety of styles in Buffalo, and true to that legacy he arrived in Dallas and took a look at what he had before making up his mind about how he'd have them play. What he saw as his advantage with this particular group is speed, and when they use it in concert with smart decisions in the defensive zone, it has been extremely effective at times. If Nill gets him the pieces he needs we could see the two be a duo here for years to come, certainly. He's refreshingly honest and the players love him. How long that lasts is anyone's guess, but the on-ice success will dictate his fate.

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Many thanks to Brad for answering our questions and giving a glimpse of what life is like as a fan of the Stars. Tonight's game is sure to be a doozy -- make sure you get the skinny both here and at Defending Big D.

Go Flyers.

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