Wednesday night against Pittsburgh, the Dallas Stars were in a bit of a pickle in the second period. The Pens had scored to cut their deficit to one and the Penguin fans in the building could smell blood in the water. Pittsburgh was surging. Mike Ribeiro gained the blue line only to look up and see that his line mates had long since gone for a change and he was all alone: Enter Stephane Robidas.
At that point in the game Robidas had already scored the games first goal in the opening frame to give the Stars a 1-0 lead. He had led the Stars to a successful 5-on-3 kill, stopping the Penguins two man advantage for nearly two whole minutes. (He also somehow recorded a hit, down two men). He blocked a couple of Evgeni Malkin shots and then killed another penalty in the second period.
He was having a pretty good night already when Ribeiro went charging into the Penguin zone alone. Robidas jumped in on the play, took a pass from Ribeiro, made a gorgeous feed to Steve Ott and just like that the game changed. 3-1 Stars and our nerves were calmed.
That's what Stephane Robidas does: Whatever you need him to do, in whatever situation you need him to do it.
This isn't something new. It's been written a dozen times before and it will be written a dozen more times, but it needs saying every now and then because he's consistently underrated no matter how many of these great seasons he puts together.
And oh yeah, he currently leads the NHL in +/- with a plus-12 rating.
Last season at this time (and for much of the year) he led the league's defensemen in both scoring and hits. This year he's letting his students take the lead on the latter. Grossman, Niskanen and Fistric rank 5th, 11th and 17th among defensemen in hits; Hardly a place you would have seen those names at this time last season.
Robidas has been mentoring that trio since the 2007-2008 season when he recorded 11 points in 18 playoff games as the Stars advanced to the Western Conference Finals. With Nick Grossman seen running around stapling everyone to the boards this season, it could take a little bit of that burden off of Robidas, who turns 34 in March.
This is the first year of Robidas' well earned 4-year extension signed last September. The deal pays him an average of $3.3 million per season starting this year through the 2013-2014 campaign. A fair number for the man who's job it is to chase around the Thortons, Getzlaffs and Crosby's of the world every night for the Stars.
People like to say he's not a "true number one defenseman." The last one of those we had around these parts was a guy named Zubov, so that's a tough comparison, but we do know this: The more people say Robidas can't do the job of a true number one, the more he goes out and has games like he did last night. That hasn't been enough to get Dallas to the playoffs each of the last two years, true, but the man leaves everything on the ice, every night, and no one seems to ever talk about it.
Robidas nearly received the recognition he deserves from his country last year when he was on the short list of defensemen being considered to represent Canada in Vancouver this winter. He was 7th or 8th on the depth chart of a stellar group that was very hard to crack, and that should tell fans around the league how highly thought of he is.
So consider this a gentle reminder about the greatness of Mr. Robidas. Stars defense talk always seems to end up with the Niskanen's and the Daley's of the world. Don't let the supreme effort, sacrifice, and resourcefulness of Robi become something you take for granted.