With two big points on the line last night the second best defensive team in the Western Conference came into Dallas to dim the Stars playoff hopes slightly behind goals from the most unlikely goal scorers possible. I actually had to look for a few minutes to find the first names of goal scorers Nolan (Jordan) and King (Dwight, apparently) because they're so green that as of 7:01 AM CST February 13, 2012 they aren't even listed on the Kings official site. Despite their anonymity they, and the equally probable goal scorer Andrei Loktionov, gave the Kings all the goals they would need in the Stars 4-2 loss.
Overall the Stars played well. They outchanced the Kings 10-9.
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
The ultimate result didn't go the way of the good guys, but certain aspects are continuing to improve. The in game management continues to steadily improve. Players are being held more accountable on an individual basis for their lethargy. There's some good here, but we've reached the point of the season where moral victories are meaningless for the 2012 season. But, if you like moral victories (I do!) follow the jump to see how well the Mike Ribeiro trio played, and to smile at how little time they spent in the defensive zone.
The renewed play of the Ribeiro unit the past few games has gone a long way to help stabilize the Stars scoring issues. The situation is still far from perfect. The Stars still obviously need a top six forward or two. But, the personnel in place are likely going to remain in place until at least the offseason. If the goal is the make the playoffs then the coaching staff will have to make do. I touched on a big change that has taken place since the break here. The zone start distribution is crazy different. Last night was even more fun.
Included above are the even strength faceoffs taken by the Ribeiro line and the fourth line. You might look at that chart and say "wait...you only listed the second line genius". Right, I did. The fourth line wasn't allowed to take a single faceoff last night in six minutes of ice time. 1/3 of their minutes came against Loktionov, Trevor Lewis, and Kyle Clifford. Needless to say, the fourth line was protected heavily. They also got two minutes against Anze Kopitar, but that's inevitable to some degree because as soon as Darryl Sutter sees the fourth line on the ice he probably starts salivating like Pavlov's Dogs.
The Ribeiro line once again had their defensive exposure limited, and they continued to produce quality chances. They were on the ice for zero defensive zone draws and five offensive zone thus continuing the recent trend of feeding that group offensive zone time. The results haven't been perfect on a team level, but considering the composition of the current roster the new set up makes a lot of sense. Ideally Jamie Benn is getting as much offensive zone time as possible, and in the future it's reasonable to have that expectation. For now he's going to keep getting the tougher minutes though.
The Stars top players were the aforementioned Ribeiro trio. Ribeiro was +6 chances. Loui Eriksson and Michael Ryder were both +5 chances. The third line held their own, and the Benn group had an off night. Benn, Tomas Vincour, and Steve Ott were barely visible for long stretches. The Stars obviously need more out of that line if they want to make the playoffs, and the inconsistent play of Benn since the All Star break makes you wonder if he's wearing down a bit.
Stephane Robidas was the Stars top defenseman. He registered +3 chances at even strength. Trevor Daley, Alex Goligoski, and Philip Larsen were solid as well. Those four guys played the bulk of the minutes. In the third period the duo of Nicklas Grossman and Mark Fistric were basically benched. Coach Gulutzan called out a few players anonymously through the media, and it's fairly obvious Grossman and Fistric were at the top of that list. I find it hard to believe at this point that either guy is going to be on the roster for much longer than the end of the season. They've steadily been more and more marginalized as the season has worn on. Fistric has never played difficult minutes in his career. Grossman's minutes are getting progressively easier, but the turnovers he's responsible for stick out like a sore thumb and overshadow other aspects of his game. They both look like dead men walking.
Next up for the Stars are the Detroit Red Wings. The remaining Stars schedule seems ridiculously difficult, but I'm not sure if that's me being negative and thinking that 2/3 of the Western Conference is better than the Stars or the actual strength of schedule being difficult. Either way, the Wings are looking to make history on Tuesday. They are looking to set the NHL record for longest home winning streak. The only obstacle in their way is your Dallas Stars who desperately need to find a way to come away with a loser point at the absolute minimum. Here's hoping they can spoil the Wings record chase.