The narrative of the 2010 Stars contains various tangentially related themes that added up to narrowly missing the playoffs. It was a story of stubbornly sticking to a system that never worked, of riding your top players into the ground, and ultimately failure. The 2010 Stars don't beat the Phoenix Coyotes last night. They couldn't play that game. Despite some lapses, the Stars now have the flexibility to play a defensive game.
What we call this is progress, and it's something we haven't seen in three years. Last night against Phoenix the Stars played a defensive game, and they won. They were flexible. They made strategic changes without giving off the impression that they were panicking. They ran, overall, like a well-oiled machine. Follow the jump to see what the scoring chance data from last night's game tells us about the progress of the team.
..and we're off.
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
For the first time this season the Stars generated more chances at even strength than their opposition which is a wonderful development on it's own, but how did it happen? We'll get into the ice time distribution when we check out the individual player performances for chart number two, but what stands out immediately from the cumulative chart is the total number of even strength scoring chances has gone down for three straight games. In order there have been 35, 26, and 18 even strength chances for both teams in the three games of the season. The total the Stars have given up per game has dropped per game also from 18 down to 16 then to 8 last night against the Coyotes.
The Stars are still getting outchanced on special teams though, The best way to illustrate this is to find the difference between all of the chances given up on special teams (chances given up while shorthanded + chances given up while on the powerplay) versus how many they've generated (powerplay chances for + shorthanded chances created). In the three games the Stars are being outchanced on special teams 15-6 with relatively equal time. They aren't generating enough on the powerplay to stay competitive long term, but they're trying to address that issue.
The Jamie Benn Experience is getting more ice time. Through the first two games the Benn and Loui Eriksson line were getting second line even strength and powerplay minutes. In game two the Brenden Morrow, Mike Ribeiro, and Michael Ryder powerplay unit was on the ice for over five minutes of powerplay time while the Benn, Eriksson, Steve Ott trio took the ice for roughly two and a half minutes. That changed last night though. The Ribeiro unit continued to pick up powerplay and even strength ice time, but the Benn unit got more.
Last night the Benn unit was on the ice for six plus minutes of powerplay ice time. The trio has been by far the better group at even strength and on the powerplay so far this season so it's good to see their play get rewarded by Gulutzan. They've consistently been outchancing whoever they've played against, and that continued last night. Benn, at even strength, was a +4 scoring chances on a night with relatively few scoring chances. His line created six of the Stars ten even strength chances last night, and so far they have been the Stars top line by far.
One of the problems for the top line has been the shots they've attempted. They aren't scoring chances. They're pumping chances at the net from all over the ice, and they aren't generating much in the way of rebound chances. They've been giving up tons of chances too, and it appears that Gulutzan tried to address that last night by putting Stephane Robidas and Alex Goligoski out with them more often to keep the puck moving out of the backend. I'm not 100% positive on that, but it appeared that way. Considering that Robidas and Goligoski both basically broke even on the scoring chance war despite dominating for two games while Trevor Daley and Sheldon Souray improved significantly in game three, I think it's reasonable to make the assumption that Daley and Souray saw more time with the defensively responsible Benn unit.
I have no real clear place to make this statement so I'll make it here. Demote Vincour if he's only going to play four minutes per game. He needs to play.
|DAL||1||17:19||Ribeiro tip of Goligoski shot||3||11||23||32||33||81||23||29||33||37||41||89||5v5|
|PHX||1||11:43||Schlemko right circle||6||11||16||32||44||6||18||22||23||28||41||4v5|
|PHX||1||8:43||Torres alone in slot||6||11||23||32||44||81||6||16||29||37||41||89||5v5|
|PHX||1||5:51||Yandle high slot||3||20||28||32||38||3||11||13||17||19||41||4v5|
|PHX||1||5:00||Whitney top circle||6||11||16||32||44||3||11||13||17||19||41||4v5|
|DAL||2||16:01||Ott high slot||3||14||21||29||32||33||11||14||17||23||33||41||5v5|
|PHX||3||4:03||korpikoski wide tip||10||28||32||33||63||73||13||22||23||28||33||41||5v5|
|PHX||4||3:52||tip wide hanzal||3||6||29||32||3||11||13||19||41||3v4|
I'll leave you with this thought: If you want to have cities you've got to build roads. The Stars are building roads. They've shuffled the ice time distribution, attempted to fix the powerplay, and they're learning that they can't play a Blackhawks-style game with any reasonable expectation of success. They're getting better, and that's all we've been asking for going on three years now.
**Editorial note: You know it's going to be a good day when, as you're finishing this up, the Dallas Stars Theme Song comes up on shuffle on your iPod.