Mar 20, 2012; Dallas, TX, USA; Phoenix Coyotes defenseman Rostislav Klesla (16) and Dallas Stars left wing Jamie Benn (14) fight for position during the first period at the American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-US PRESSWIRE
The Stars have missed the playoffs for three years running. Last season was the closest that came to making the playoffs over that span, but none of the games ever had that patented playoff intensity for me. Some games this season have come close to that level of intensity for me before last night, but none ever fully replicated the playoff feeling. Last night the intensity turned up to 11 as the Stars hosted the Coyotes with ten games remaining on the schedule in a fight for the Pacific Division lead. And the Stars were dominant.
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After a rough first period with neutral zone turnovers, poor to non-existent defensive zone coverage, and seemingly no on-ice communication the Stars found themselves in a 1-1 game. After Shane "not that kind of player" Doan attempted to rearrange Jamie Benn's face at the 14:00 mark of the second period the Stars went on a tear. Over the next 34 minutes of regulation hockey the Stars outchanced the Coyotes 13-5 at even strength. The player charts and individual chance report which describe this wonderful nationally televised game are after the jump.
The Stars top line and Kari Lehtonen are getting a lot of credit today for last night's win, but once again it was the rest of the team doing the dirty work that allowed them to be in position to score. While we're at it, they did score three goals. They deserve credit for that, but it should be noted that they were only +1 at even strength. They weren't as dominant as a three goal game would suggest. Defense counts. Below are the Stars Corsi +/- and Offensive Zone Start% numbers from the game:
The Ribeiro line was a modest +3 with a healthy dose of offensive zone time against, predominantly, the Daymond Langkow/Doan unit. They did their job. When I went to look up how well the Ribeiro unit played last night a few things stuck out to me. For one, Benn had a tough night on the ice while battling through the Coyotes physical efforts. Quietly, Brenden Morrow had a hell of a game. Playing the wing with Benn he was barely in the offensive zone. He got good results in a more defensive role for the first time this year with a +2 shot differential.
What jumped off the page to me was how rough of a night Sheldon Souray had. The turnover on the penalty kill late that led to Ray Whitney's goal was inexcusable, but to be honest I didn't notice him much prior to that moment. Souray registered a -16 Corsi on a night when the Coyotes pushed 37 pucks towards Lehtonen at even strength (missed shots + shots on goal). Of the 37 shots fired at Lehtonen, Souray was somehow on the ice for 30 of them.
In 20:28 of even strength ice time Alex Goligoski was +7 chances to lead the Stars. A gaggle (indeed, a gaggle) of Stars (Ribeiro, Michael Ryder, Eric Nystrom, Radek Dvorak, and Philip Larsen) were +4 in a five way tie for second. The aforementioned Souray was -4 chances at even strength. He did play predominantly in the defensive zone, but so did the trio of Nystrom, Fiddler, and Dvorak. That line was matched up against the Lauri Korpikoski wrecking ball yet still had half the Corsi issues of Souray. It almost makes you wonder if he's still hurt.
The next time the Stars take the ice will be against the Vancouver Canucks yet again. The Stars have taken both matchups this season, and taking a third in a row would be remarkable. The Stars no doubt have the Canucks attention by now. If they come out of the gate against Vancouer the way they did against Phoenix they'll be in trouble early. They've proven that they're capable of playing with the Canucks. The Stars only have nine games left on the schedule. There are still 18 points available, and each one puts the Stars closer and closer to clinching a playoff spot. Two more from the Canucks would be quite the statement.