The Ed Belfour Facepalm (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)
The Stars take the ice against the Minnesota Wild in a few hours in what should be a highly contested game between two teams fighting for the same playoff spot. The last time they met the Wild took the Stars to the woodshed 5-2 with both teams missing key players. Mikko Koivu will still be out for the Wild, but the Stars are back at (almost) full health with Jamie Benn and Mike Ribeiro back in the lineup.
In both games after the All Star break both Ribeiro and Benn have been in the lineup. The results have been mixed. The Stars beat Anaheim 6-2 in their first game after the break, but followed that up with a 5-2 loss at the hands of the Sharks where Dan Boyle scored one of the Stars goals. The results were remarkably different in the two post break games, but the processes that led to the results were closer than one would expect. The Stars only got outchanced by five on Wednesday, but on Thursday the Sharks outchanced the Stars by twelve.
The player reports for both games, and the game recaps can both be found after the jump.
We'll start this off chronologically. In the Stars first game after the break they thrashed the Ducks 6-2. It seemed like everything the Stars put on net went in. Jonas Hiller had been one of the hottest goalies going into the break after a miserable start to the season. Both he and the Ducks defense sprung massive leaks.
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
The Ducks ended up outchancing the Stars 15-10. From the first period on the chance deficit built up to the eventual 5. Some of that is because the Ducks were down by a massive total and fighting to get back in the game. Some of that is the Stars M.O. They deserved to win unquestionably, but by four goals? That's a little misleading.
The Stars top players against the Ducks were the defense pair of Stephane Robidas and Sheldon Souray on the backend. Both were +4 chances. The Benn, Steve Ott, and Michael Ryder trio were the Stars most positive forward unit. They went +5, +5, and +4 respectively at even strength. Inversely, the Ribeiro unit got dominated. In the matchups with the Ducks the Ribeiro unit usually ends up going head to head with the Saku Koivu/Teemu Selanne/Niklas Hagman trio. It never ends well. In the last matchup they were a cumulative -4 chances.
Unfortunately we must end on a downer. In the second game of the back to back the Stars were completely dominated by the Sharks. Possession teams have been a very big problem for the Stars this season. They don't keep possession very well. When they go up against a team that does it's usually church. The Sharks outchanced the Stars 17-5 overall. In the first two periods the Sharks took the Stars completely out of the game. The advantage after two periods was, seriously, 15-2.
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
No line was particularly good. Benn looked tired which is understandable given that this was his second game back after an appendectomy. The Ribeiro unit had little to nothing, and that's a problem which appears to be growing daily. The Stars complete lack of a second forward unit has been a real problem this season. Whoever plays with Benn ends up playing well usually, but the second line? It almost has to be broken at this point.
Ribeiro, Morrow, and Eriksson were a respective -6, -5, and a -7 at even strength. Usually results like this come, at least partially, from where the Ribeiro unit starts their shifts. For most of the season they've started predominantly in the defensive zone. In the last game against the Sharks there was a shift. I don't know if it was a one game fluke, or a conscious shift in policy. The Ribeiro unit started most of their shifts in the offensive or neutral zones. Despite this tactical change things still went wrong. Hopefully this is a change that sticks. They ultimately need to get more results from it though. If the second line isn't able to generate more offense with more quality offensive time then the issues go much deeper than anyone really wants to admit.
The Stars top players against the Sharks were the usual suspects. Goligoski, Benn, Ryder, and Philip Larsen were all even at even strength to lead the Stars. Everyone else was a massive minus, but no one is really free of fault in a game like that. It was just bad.
Fortunately the Stars don't have time to sit around and feel bad for themselves. They take the ice in a few hours against the Wild. I could beat you down with talking about how badly the Stars need these points, but what's the point? We all know the score. Hopefully the Stars come out with some jump, and take care of business.