DALLAS, TX - MARCH 10: Who let Jonas Hiller out of the clock tower to terrorize civilians? (Photo by Brandon Wade/Getty Images)
Saturday night the Dallas Stars hosted the Anaheim Ducks with reinforcements. The Stars welcomed Brenden Morrow and Steve Ott back to the lineup for their nail biting 2-0 win. At this point I'm not sure they even know what they're doing. Everything they touch turns to gold. They're like Will Ferrell debating in Old School. They've blacked out and gone from being mediocre to above average. The blackout continued Saturday with the Stars out chancing the Ducks 17-11, including 13-6 through two periods.
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The Stars outchanced the Ducks 15-9 at even strength, and split the difference on special teams 2-2. As a whole they played well. No one stuck out in a bad way, but there were a few very positive performances. Follow the jump to see the individual player and individual chance charts to see who stood out.
The return of Morrow to the lineup forced the Stars to adjust some. The lineup had been in a state of flux lately despite the winning streak. Against the Ducks Glen Gulutzan drifted back toward what has worked since the All Star break. He got the Mike Ribeiro line into the offensive zone for 70-80% of their faceoffs. The results, as we'll see, speak for themselves.
The Jamie Benn line became quasi checking line. The Stars didn't play any strict checking matchups, but instead focused on getting lines with the ability to transition in their own end. This structure helped the Stars to play a sound defensive game, but, as always, there's a catch. Morrow, inserted on Benn's wing, has struggled defensively this season. His play in his own end is something to watch down the stretch, but he looked fine against Anaheim. The issue Morrow, and the line in general, present are penalties.
The Stars top three forwards in even strength penalty minutes per 60 minutes are Morrow, Steve Ott, and Benn. Down the stretch they are going to, or at least should, be counted on to play the difficult defensive minutes for this team. In the defensive end of the rink penalties are much more common. These three are going to have to be careful to not take unnecessary penalties. In his return Morrow took three minors. He'll need to clean that up if he's going to thrive in this role.
The Stars most positive forwards were the line of Michael Ryder, Loui Eriksson, and Ribeiro. They were +5, +4, and +4 respectively. Get the trio offensive zone time, and they will get you offense. The Benn line more or less broke even at -1 in difficult defensive minutes. All in all the forward group was good.
The defensive corps was able to stay healthy for a full 60 minutes, and played well as a result. Philip Larsen led all Stars defensemen in even strength ice time by almost three minutes at 21:21. He was +2 chances in those minutes. Alex Goligoski led the defenders at +4 in 18:41 of even strength ice time. Adam Pardy and Trevor Daley were both +2 also.
The Stars embark on a quick two game road trip with stops in Minnesota and Winnipeg before they head home for a four gamer. The Stars have 13 games left, and a very high probability of making the playoffs at this point. They're playing at a very high level. The Stars stretch of play since the break has completely turned their season around. All good things must come to an end though. This has to end at some point (I think). I'll be sad to see it go (if it does in fact go away at some point). This stretch of games has been incredibly enjoyable to watch, and it has gone a long way towards cementing a playoff spot for the first time in four years. It doesn't mean the season is over though. The Stars still have business to take care of over the next month. They need to keep snatching those points.