The Stars 2011-12 season has been a search for consistency. Every now and then the Stars will come out flat, get behind the eight ball in the first period, play conservatively in the second, then finally fall off a cliff in the third. This unfortunate scenario is happening less often lately, but Saturday against the Oilers the Stars prepared to play a trap game.
The Oilers limped into the game missing half of their already weak d corps. They were without The Nuge® up front, and early in the first they also lost Jordan Eberle. This had the makings of your classic intensity letdown trap game where a superior team plays down to the level of an inferior team thus giving away crucial points. The Stars have been a prime candidate to give points away needlessly for most of the season, but on Saturday they showed up in a big way proving further (maybe???) that they're developing into a cohesive unit of standings climbing worker bees.
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
The Stars, in fact, did the opposite of play down to the Oilers. They laid the wood to them, outchancing them 23-11. I had to do a double take after the game, but mc79hockey recorded almost identical results. The Stars controlled the play in the first then shredded the Oilers in the third. I'll need to look, but I'm fairly certain that third period is the most dominant period the Stars have played all season. Follow the jump to see the developing ice time distribution picture, and all of the normal fanfare usually found after the jump.
Glen Gulutzan made it known early in his tenure that he isn't a big tinkerer. Game by game data bears this out, but lately he's been busy. He and his staff first split the two most underrated players in the sport apart when he moved Loui Eriksson to Mike Ribeiro's wing, and kept Jamie Benn centering a top line with Michael Ryder. The defensive pairings have been shifting due to injuries, and due to carrying seven defensemen some nights. Against the Oilers, the Stars management profile seemed to develop a bit more detail. The ice time distribution was much more clearly defined than normal.
Most nights the Stars have a clearly defined fourth line with three regularly rolling lines. On Saturday the Stars still had a clearly defined fourth line, but they also had clearly defined third, second, and first lines. I sorted the player report by position then by even strength ice time to illustrate this a little more clearly.
The only issue keeping the chart from being ordered 100% identically to the line combinations from Saturday is the flipping of Ott and Vernon Fiddler. Outside of the strangely low minute total by Ott, the lines are very clearly defined. You have three minutes of separation between the defense pairs (Pardy acted like a second pairing guy with Fistric only on the ice for 11 minutes at even strength). You also have two to three minutes of seperation at even strength between each forward line which is something that has rarely happened at all this season. I included offensive zone start % to show that the roles of the particular lines are still loosely defined (IE the "checking" line getting 60% offensive zone starts). The Stars appear to be trying to get their top guys more ice time though, and that's a positive sign.
Several Stars had big games in the scoring chance department. Adam Pardy, Brenden Morrow, and Alex Goligoski were all +8 chances at even strength to lead the Stars. Ribeiro was a +7. Pardy, Ribeiro, Eriksson, and Morrow were also on the ice for the Stars only two powerplay chances pushing them to +10, +9, +6, and +10 respectively. The special teams played a small factor in the game, but the Stars as a team were still +1 chances on special teams nonetheless. There is very little to be unhappy with about this game. The Stars made progress in defining what they are, and picked up two points.
The Stars look to take two more points from Anaheim on Tuesday that they should be able to take. The Ducks have been terrible this season, have already lost one head coach, and have trade rumors swirling around them. This is another team that the Stars should be able to handle at this point in the season if they're a legitimate playoff team. It will be interesting to see if there are any further tactical developments, or if the Stars try to settle in with the groove they appear to have found. If you have any questions or comments about the scoring leave a comment or send me a tweet @Josh1220.