Jordin Tootoo proving how little he really wanted to fight Mark Fistric. (Photo by Frederick Breedon/Getty Images)
In the rematch of "Shea Weber got hurt so lets discuss suspending Mark Fistric"-gate the Dallas Stars came out prepared to play. Glen Gulutzan deftly and unexpectedly shifted Loui Eriksson to Mike Ribeiro's line. The move paid huge dividends quickly in the Stars 4-1 win over the Predators. If you were watching either team for the first time you left the game with the distinct impression that the Stars were the far superior team.
The Stars got a jump on the Predators early. In both of the first two periods the Stars outchanced the Predators 4-2 for a total of 8-4 after two periods. After two the score was 3-1 Dallas. The Predators could have made it interesting with a goal at any point in the third, but the overall feel of the game was that a Stars defensive or goaltending collapse (not entirely out of the question) were the only avenues for the Predators to come back through.
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
Overall for the game the Stars outchanced the Predators 12-4, including a 4-0 advantage on special teams. Follow the jump to see the impact of moving Eriksson to play with Ribeiro, the re-emergence of Alex Goligoski, and the usual player reports from last night's 4-1 victory in Music City.
Two changes made significant impacts last night. The most noticeable was the juggling of the top lines. Eriksson was dropped down to play with Ribeiro and Brenden Morrow with Steve Ott shifted up to play with Jamie Benn and Michael Ryder. Ott had been playing with Ribeiro and Morrow lately, but the line still lacked the offensive punch you'd like to get from a secondary scoring unit. Ott was with them for the dual purpose of taking faceoffs for Ribeiro and to add a defensive pulse to the mix.
By moving Eriksson to the second line neither line loses anything defensively. Sure, Ribeiro will have to take more faceoffs, but faceoffs aren't as valuable as actual possession skills like the ones Eriksson possesses. One of the biggest problems with the Ribeiro line all season has been getting hemmed in their own end. This situation isn't going to pop it's head up nearly as often with Eriksson on the wing. Flipping Ott to the Benn line gives that unit a new dynamic also. Benn is a very good possession player himself, Ryder is a pure shooter, and Ott is a forechecker/pest. The fit is unmistakeable, and it's possible thanks to the goal scoring run Ryder has been on for the past month
The juggling worked last night, and it isn't because Ribeiro or Morrow are magically better players. The line is a better fit with Eriksson on the wing because he is a much more active offensive player than Ott. A perfect example of why that line has the potential to be very good for the Stars was Ribeiro's first goal last night. You've seen it if you've turned on a hockey highlight show of any kind the past 24 hours. Ribeiro deserves all the credit in the world for making the two intelligent moves to get interior on the Predators defense, but you can't discount the value of Eriksson on the play. Eriksson drives to the net on the same side of the ice Ribeiro is coming down which draws the Predators defense to one side of the ice on the odd man rush. Ribeiro intelligently recognized this, and made two ridiculous moves to find the open space. But the creativity of Eriksson on that play made the Predators defense think about what they were doing instead of reacting.
Thus, you see the value of movement and creativity. The Stars powerplay lately has looked much better simply because they're constantly moving. The goal is the make the other guy over-think his job to make him make a mistake. The same principle holds up in baseball when a runner like Elvis Andrus is dancing off of first base to draw the pitcher's attention, or when a defensive coordinator in football has his defense walking around instead of being down in a stance. The Stars, if they keep these lines together, have the ability to make opposing defenses think about what they're doing to cause the mistakes that lead to easier goals with two lines instead of just one. I'm interested to see how it plays out.
The reinsertion of Stephane Robidas into the lineup had a stabilizing impact on Goligoski. This is the pair I would ideally like to see going forward, but it would throw the remaining two pairs into a state of flux. Let's ignore that for a moment, and just look at what Robidas and Goligoski had their hands in last night.
Last night Goligoski was a +2 even strength chances which includes only being on the ice for two chances against. (Yes, he was on the ice for 50% of the Predators chances, but 50% of four is much better than 50% of 14.) Robidas is the type of player you need with Goligoski to bring the most out of him at even strength. He's a defensively responsible player that can skate and has some offensive instincts. They were great when they played together at the end of the season, and I'm interested to see if that pair continues to play together. I want to tell you that Goligoski was your most valuable player last night with +6 chances total, but we can't underestimate the contribution of Robidas in helping to stabilize the defense of the pairing at even strength.
The top forward line last night was the trio of Benn, Ryder, and Ott. Ultimately hockey is about production, and the Ribeiro unit did score two goals, but I hockey isn't about just scoring goals. It's about scoring more goals than you allow, and Ribeiro line did still have some defensive miscues. The line as a whole was significantly improved though. Without them the game takes a much different, and much more frustrating path.
For some reason the Stars play tomorrow right about the time I plan to wake up. They take on the Oilers again in a matinee that the Stars, if they play like they did against the Predators, should be the team favored to win. They need all the points they can get. If they think they're a playoff team then they can't lose points to teams like the Oilers. If you have any scoring questions leave me a comment or send me a tweet @Josh1220.