The changes implemented by Glen Gulutzan lately have led to the Dallas Stars picking up critical points in their journey that they hope ends with a playoff berth. I've documented the vast change in zone start distribution since the All Star break in this space once already, and the trend continued in both of the last two games. In those two games the Stars were able to pick up three of four points while maximizing the scoring opportunities for the top lines while limiting the defensive exposure of the Mike Ribeiro line.
The Stars were outchanced in both the 4-2 win against Columbus, and the 3-2 shootout loss at the hands of the Sabres. The Sabres picked up a couple of chances in overtime. Otherwise they only outchanced the Stars by one. The Blue Jackets took it to the Stars by a margin of 22-11, but nine of those chances came on the powerplay in the second period during the Jeff Carter show. You can't simply ignore those chances, but....supposing you did the deficit was only two chances. They're getting better results lately, and I think that's all any Stars fan has wanted to see all season.
Full details of both games can be found after the jump.
The matchup with the Jackets wasn't particularly pretty. The Stars got outchanced in each period, and 9-2 on special teams. As I mentioned before, all nine of the Jackets' powerplay chances came in the hectic second period. Jeff Carter was showing the Jackets why they traded for him, and quite possibly showing other teams what they could add to their lineup by picking him up in the next couple of weeks. He was unstoppable, and part of that was because of an exploited matchup.
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
The checking line was utilized as a true checking line against the Jackets. Vernon Fiddler, Eric Nystrom, and Radek Dvorak were tasked with slowing Carter down. It went very poorly. Respectively they were -6, -7, and -7 chances at even strength. They had no answer for anything he was doing, but they still came away with the victory.
The unavoidable consequence of using Ribeiro and Jamie Benn's lines more in the offensive zone is the defensive burden that will be placed on the shoulders of the Fiddler and fourth lines. The fourth line has been sheltered all year. The Fiddler line hasn't been exposed to the defensive pressure they've seen the last two nights all season. For one night against Columbus it didn't go well.
Your highest pluses against the Jackets were Steve Ott, Vincour, and Ribeiro. They all checked in at +3.
Speaking of Vincour, he had the best offensive game of his career last night against the Sabres. He took six shots and scored the Stars second goal. He was +1 chances in the OT loss to the Sabres due to a few defensive breakdowns by his line, but they still looked like a very potent trio.
The Sabres outchanced the Stars 17-14. The Stars were ahead in the chance department 12-10 after two periods, and at one point they did have a two goal lead. Unfortunately they couldn't hold either lead. The Sabres outchanced the Stars 7-2 down the stretch en route to forcing the game into overtime with 38 seconds left on the clock.
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
Everyone played pretty well against the Sabres. The biggest negatives were the fourth liners, but as I mentioned earlier that's just one of the consequences of giving Benn and Ribeiro so much attack zone time. They run the risk of giving up more goals by exposing the fourth line, but hopefully the top two lines will be able to score enough goals to offset the difference. The defense pairing of Mark Fistric and Philip Larsen were both -4 chances, but they both played tough minutes for basically the first time in their careers. They were used as a de facto checking pair with Souray out. It wasn't perfect, but they survived.
The biggest performers on the night were Trevor Daley, Nystrom, and Fiddler at +2 chances. The checking line settled into their role a little bit. The story of the game was the offensive performance of Vincour. He easily could have had three goals, but he's still developing. The biggest roadblock stopping him from becoming a top six forward for the Stars is getting into prime offensive areas. For a night he did. In his 15 minutes of ice time he took six shots and picked up a goal. There is no reason Vincour can't continue to do this if he keeps getting into scoring position. Hopefully this is another step in his offensive development and not a mirage.
The Stars turnaround and play again Sunday at 5:00 against LA for some reason. At least they waited for football to be over before scheduling this game. Stars/Kings games have been a lot of fun this year despite the Olympic caliber diving exhibition we usually get as a bonus treat. The Stars are improving right before our eyes. They have better game management, they're (usually) limiting even strength offense, and getting the puck to the net. If they continue to sand the rough areas of their game a little further they should be in good shape to pick up two necessary points Sunday.