Are Recent Last Minute Dallas Stars Collapses a Trend or Aberration?

"Five seconds!" How many times did Dallas Stars fans utter these words in the last 36 hours? During overtime. In the American Airlines Center bathroom. Down the stairs. In the parking lot. I heard them (and said them) dozens of times before I got to my car. As a group, we were outraged.

An unfortunate side effect of our sports culture is that we tend to analyze only the end of something that went wrong: the last drive of a football game; the last possessions of a basketball game; that last, failed shift of a hockey game, etc. Usually there are dozens of other failed plays throughout a game (or season, as may be the case) that contributed just as much or more to the eventual failure. For the Stars it's usually the entire first period. Just something to keep in mind as we focus on the end of close games.

The community raged all day Thursday: "They can't close out a game!" Personnel decisions were questioned. With so many of these last second third period collapses lately I set out to find how big of a problem this has been this year and hopefully answer some of these queries we've been getting about Loui Eriksson, Toby Petersen, Steve Ott, Brenden Morrow, etc: "Why was/wasn't so-and-so on the ice?"

Even the loquacious elocutionist himself wondered what the heck the Stars were doing on Wednesday night...

From the Razor Boy's Blog:

Whatever the play was set to be if you won the draw on that final face-off it either didn't work or wasn't executed properly. (Jamie Benn, where were you going?) And while we're forensically disassembling the post- timeout play; why was Loui Eriksson, the team's best defensive forward, on the bench - just as he was in Anaheim when this same horror movie was first run? Huh? Riddle me that?

To answer Razor's question, it appears as though Loui Eriksson is NEVER out there in this situation. Ever.

Here is a list of many such situations and who Marc Crawford placed on the ice for the faceoff with approximately one minute remaining (assuming that with that amount of time he means for these players to finish the game in all likelihood).

Game Outcome DAL Players On Ice Faceoff W/L By:
ANA 3/23 4-3 OTL 15 10 14 3 33 W - Langenbrunner
SJS 3/5 3-2 W 16 10 14 3 33 W - Burish
ANA 3/4 4-3 OTL 29 16 10 3 33 W - Burish
PHX 3/1 3-2 W**** 29 15 14 3 37 L - Ott
NSH 2/26 3-2 W 29 16 10 3 37 W - Ott
EDM 1/20 4-2 W (EN) 29 16 10 3 37 W - Burish
LAK 1/17 2-1 W 29 91 16 3 37 L - Ott
EDM 1/11 3-2 W 29 91 18 2 3 W - Richards
CBJ 12/18 2-1 W 29 16 10 3 37 L - Burish
WAS 12/2 2-1 W 29 16 10 2 3 L - Burish
STL 11/27 2-1 W 29 16 10 3 37 L - Ott
STL 11/26 3-2 W 29 16 10 2 3 (No faceoffs last 90+ seconds)
OTT 11/24 2-1 W 29 16 10 3 37 W - Burish


There are more but I think that's enough to illustrate what Marc Crawford's plan is in this situation.

Continued after the jump...

As things have moved along Jamie Langenbrunner's veteran presence has pushed him into these situations a little bit and Jamie Benn's emergence as the best player in the league in March got him out on the ice for a couple of these situations as well, for better or worse.

The clear choice of Crow, however, is Steve Ott, Adam Burish and Brenden Morrow with some combination of Stephane Robidas and either Skrastins, Grossman and Goligoski. Whether we realized it or not, that rotation has been SET.

At a glance it appears as though the Stars have been money with a lead in the final minute, just not in March. They've allowed a goal in three of their last four situations like this, and were saved from it in Phoenix by the theatrics of Jamie Benn. The goal with 20 seconds remaining surrendered to the Kings stings like those as well but the Stars were not protecting a lead at the time.

There does not appear to be a big corollary between winning that faceoff with a minute to go and winning or losing the game, and looking at this chart it's obvious that Dallas rarely ever gets that empty netter. They usually don't have the puck.

You might question why Jamie Benn is out there that late or where Steve Ott was last night, but with such a general consistency in these lineups the questions naturally turn toward poise as the importance of the games rises. Are the Stars just not handling the pressure at this late hour, or is most of this just the black magic of the Ducks incredible run that thankfully was ended last night? (though not without another amazing comeback by Anaheim)

And what of Razors point? Is Loui Eriksson someone you'd like to see out there in this situation? For now Stars fans might just want to be encouraged that the Stars have had as many late game leads as they have lately. That in itself is a great sign. The cough ups are an aberration. If the Stars can put themselves in this position often enough these last nine games they have the ability to close it out.

But Misters Grossman and Skrastins...you might want to get back ASAP just in case.

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