Feb 24, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Dallas Stars center Vernon Fiddler (38) and center Tomas Vincour (81) congratulates goalie Kari Lehtonen (32) after their win over the Minnesota Wild at the American Airlines Center. The Stars defeated the Wild 4-1. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE
The Dallas Stars are streaking. Finally. The Stars have desperately needed a winning streak for a while now. They've needed to find a consistent energy level. They've had to fight through injuries. Despite all of the struggles they've faced the Stars appear to have found a level of consistency. They're out working opponents on a nightly basis. The fruits of their efforts are showing up in the scoring chance, shot, and win totals lately.
They've put this winning streak together without Jamie Benn. They beat a bad team in Montreal, but the other three wins are quality for a team fighting for the last playoff spot. The most recent two of those wins are the focus of this post. The Stars 4-1 win over the Minnesota Wild and 3-2 OT win over the Vancouver Canucks were playoff caliber efforts. The Stars outchanced both teams at even strength to keep their roll going. The details of each game can be found after the jump.
The Stars hosted the Wild in a fight for two crucial points on Friday. They came into the game on a two game winning streak after knocking off the Blackhawks the night before. The Wild were without star center Mikko Koivu, and prior to the game they shipped Marek Zidlicky to the Devils. The Stars were set up for a win. All they had to do was take advantage, and they did. The Stars outchanced the Wild at even strength in every period.
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The total chances for the game were 14 a piece, but the Wild had a 7-2 advantage on special teams. That isn't because the Stars special teams were poor though. They, as has been well documented on the broadcast, haven't been getting on the power play much lately. In about eight minutes short handed they only allowed the Wild to generate six chances with the extra man while they generated two shorthanded chances. You can't complain about that at all.
No Dallas Stars was negative in the scoring chance column. Stephane Robidas, in 17 even strength minutes, was +6 chances. Mike Ribeiro led the forwards with a +5 in 16 even strength minutes. Michael Ryder came in with a strong +4. Alex Goligoski, Sheldon Souray, and Loui Eriksson were all +3 to push the Stars to victory.
The Stars final game before the trade deadline presented them with a daunting challenge. They were faced with the challenge of beating the number one team in the NHL without their best player on the ice. Remarkably the Stars hung tough again, ultimately pushing their win streak to four games. The Stars managed to outchanced the Canucks 19-13 in the matinee.
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The Stars dug themselves a 2-0 hole, but managed to climb out of it with sheer will power. The Canucks were outchancing the Stars 9-7 when Ryder scored to cut the deficit to 2-1. Over the remainder of the game the Stars would outchance the Canucks 12-4 including overtime. Some of that is due to score effects. When a team is losing they will generally be expected to outchance their opposition as the game nears completion, but this was more than just score effects. The Stars dominated the Canucks in the overtime period too. They knew they needed the points and confidently took the attack to the Canucks.
The Stars top players were once again Ribeiro, Ryder, Eriksson, and Goligoski. All four were +4 chances at even strength. Philip Larsen and Sheldon Souray were +3 chances. The only negatives were Trevor Daley, Mark Fistric, and the line of Adam Burish, Steve Ott, and Tom Wandell. We'll get into what they've been doing lately tomorrow, but that trio was roughly -2 chances at even strength.
Life doesn't get any easier for your Dallas Stars. They host the Penguins tomorrow night in James Neal's return to Dallas. (It won't be billed as James Neal's return to Dallas by anyone outside of Dallas I imagine, but I look forward to seeing him again.) The Stars need to keep the points coming, and lately they've been able to play with anyone. Jamie Benn will be back on the ice after recovering from his stab wound, and the Stars will need him as much as they've needed him at any point in his young career. Now is his first time to shine. The Stars are going to need him to assert himself in a big way over the next six weeks to make the playoffs. Lighting up the Penguins would be a good start.