With seven games remaining no one is asking the Stars how they got their points. To borrow an overused sports cliche from Al Davis: "Just Win, Baby". The Stars beat the Calgary Flames 4-1 early Saturday afternoon, but the game was significantly closer than the final score would otherwise suggest. The Stars did everything they could think of to win this game. They consistently juggled the lines (perhaps to a fault by throwing the lineup into chaos), and to the amazement of long time observers, played ailing captain Brenden Morrow on the fourth line. Despite the take no prisoners attitude the Stars were outchanced 16-9 by the Flames.
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The Stars got stuck in their own end a ton after the first period. In the first the Stars outchanced the Flames 6-4. From there on out they were outchanced 12-3, and it might not have been that close. It's easy to say the Stars went into a defensive shell. For a while they might have, but for the most part the Stars had no answer (or, at least, they had a futile answer) for the Jarome Iginla line. The inability to do anything against that group killed any momentum the Stars tried to generate. We'll look at the Stars efforts to fix their scoring issues, the transition issues, and the player reports after the jump.
Through the first two periods the Stars were matching the third line of Vernon Fiddler, Eric Nystrom, and Radek Dvorak against the Iginla trio. Nystrom, Dvorak, and Fiddler ended the game with -16, -12, and -8 Corsi ratings. Through two periods they were in much bigger holes. At one point I remember seeing Nystrom at -18. They were completely overwhelmed defensively, and had no realistic chance of pushing the Iginla line into a defensive posture with 100% of their critical faceoffs taking place in the defensive zone. In the third Glen Gulutzan stopped exclusively matching them with Iginla. The Jamie Benn line began seeing more time against Iginla. Those results weren't pretty either, but they helped stop the defensive bleeding.
The line juggling throughout the game was a sight to see. The Stars, trying to find some offense and find a way to get value out of a hurt Morrow down the stretch, were drawing names out of a hat at times to pick lines. At times Tomas Vincour was with Benn or on the third line. Morrow played some with Mike Ribeiro, but mostly on the fourth line. The final takeaway from the lineup juggling can be nothing other than frustration. The offense still wasn't there, but I suppose that's why Reilly Smith is about to enter the lineup.
The Stars biggest positives were Adam Pardy and Tomas Vincour. Yes, Pardy and Vincour. They led the Stars at +2 chances. The defense pairing of Alex Goligoski and Philip Larsen had a forgettable game. Goligoski was -6 chances at even strength. Larsen was -4. Nystrom and Dvorak were both also -4. As a team the game was forgettable. They can't have too many more of these if they have visions of taking the Pacific Division.
The point is that the Stars won though. Both teams needed the points, and the Stars got them. They get a chance to adjust their gameplan against the Flames immediately as they square off tonight in Calgary. The Flames are close to being all but eliminated from playoff contention. They're going to come out firing. If the Stars play like they did for 50 minutes on Saturday they risk giving the Flames new life. If they come out with the intent of burying a competitor trying to take their playoff spot this should be a fun night of hockey.