Hold on to that puck and get it deep! Credit Shannon Byrne on the photograph.
NHL players typically give a preview in their media scrums of what their head coach will say in his press conference that follows, having just been the target of his post-game pontification. Very reasonable lines of questioning offered to Dallas Stars forwards Loui Eriksson and Michael Ryder last night gave them a chance to be positive after a big win over the Phoenix Coyotes. They kept bringing something up, however.
"We came here to get the two points and we did," said Eriksson, "but it's too bad for us to playing like that in the third, giving [away] too many turnovers, and they scored on two there, so we have to get better on that."
"I think we did good things but we've got to find ways to keep that two goal lead and not give those guys a chance to get back into the game," added Ryder, who tied a career high in goals last night. "We made a couple of mistakes. A couple of turnovers, and they ended up in our net, so I think we need to get a little better at that part."
So when Glen Gulutzan took the podium at the AAC a few minutes later it came as no surprise when he started with turnovers on his mind.
"For sure, we shot ourselves in the foot," opened Gulutzan through nearly gritted teeth. "We couldn't get it through our heads that turning the puck over is dangerous, so... I bet you we turned over 25 pucks tonight."
"Good thing we got a real good goalie," he added quickly, in a tone one doesn't typically expect after a big two points are put in the bank.
The last time Glen Gulutzan was this perturbed after a Stars home game was the ill-fated afternoon contest against the Nashville Predators on Sunday, February 19th. Following that the Stars won ten of their next eleven.
The turnover myopia continues after the jump...
The Stars had been burned on turnovers against the Coyotes before this year. One need only to think back to the overtime period at Jobing.com Area on February 18th. Mark Fistric turned a puck over behind the net to Ray Whitney, who found Radim Vrbata for the game winner all alone in front. It almost happened again last night, and it permeated the event level downstairs no matter what question was asked.
On the 'too many men on the ice' penalty:
"The player that has the puck needs to put it in deep," reiterated Gulutzan. "He turns it over and the blue line and we're trying to make a change and they fire it right back over toward our feet. Simple. Simple. Don't turn pucks over the blue line."
That player, because you're going to ask, was Eric Nystrom, who was credited in the official play by play with a giveaway two seconds prior to the penalty call. Sheldon Souray had the unfortunate distinction of being the guy who turned the puck over on the tying goal, having been pick-pocketed from behind a half-second before he was probably going to put that puck deep. Those were the big ones last night, but it's clear that the issue has been a pervasive one all year long.
Sensing a pattern, someone ventured (I think it was Dallas Morning News reporter Gerry Fraley) "Are you surprised you have to deliver that message at game 73?"
"Yes I am, yeah. For sure," responded Gulutzan before Fraley could even get the entire question out of his mouth.
When asked a question seemingly for the purpose of eliciting a positive response on the tremendous offensive night the Ribeiro trio had, he steered the conversation back to turnovers yet again after a bit of praise.
"We already said the rules aren't the same for everyone. Those three guys have been getting it done. They might get a little leeway. A little leeway, depending on the time of the game and the score of the game, however, no one else does."
"Other guys gotta get it deep."
After an off-ice work out today he continued his tone that conveyed anything but a big victory, saying that they need to "shake it off" and get ready for Vancouver, in reference to giving Phoenix a point last night.
It might all sound harsh after a win, but if it's at all indicative of this team's resolve to continue getting better, even this late in the year, then it should give Stars fans confidence that their heads are in the right place moving forward. They've gone 12-3-2 over their last 17 games and know that the only thing they've earned so far is an opportunity to take the last steps.
They were having these tough conversations last night while the fans celebrated all the way to the cars, and they were doing it so that there will hopefully be many more celebrations to come.