The Dallas Stars are coming home having completed a three game western Canadian road trip during which they put their feet up on the furniture in Edmonton, Calgary, and Vancouver. The Stars were 5-2 victors last night despite the ominous signs the first few minutes of the game provided. The defense decided to not pay attention to Zack Kassian 30 seconds in which forced Mark Fistric to hand him a penalty shot. The Stars got on an early powerplay, but Philip Larsen promptly took a penalty seven seconds after the initial powerplay draw.
Despite this series of unfortunate events the Stars turned it around for the win. They outchanced the Canucks 23-20 (17-14, per Csnucks Army). The total includes a 6-3 advantage on special teams, and advantages in the first and second periods. At even strength the Canucks and Stars split the difference 17-17.
|Period||Totals||EV||PP||5v3 PP||SH||5v3 SH|
The Stars, prior to last nights game, have risen to 13th in the NHL in Fenwick% (shot differential without blocked shots). The penalty killing is on fire. They legitimately deserve to be where they are based on their performance since the break. A second straight win over the Canucks just provides an exclamation point. The player reports and full chance list (it's long) can be found after the jump along with a quick look at what Glen Gulutzan did to address the problem I raised yesterday.
Mike Ribeiro and Michael Ryder are ultimately going to get most, if not all, of the credit for last night's win. They combined for two goals and three assists in a 5-2 win that included an empty netter. They got the ultimate results that everyone is going to see. They filled up the box score with counting stats, and someone has to do that at some point for games to be won. They did everything asked of them.
However, the most valuable players of the game were the line of Jamie Benn, Steve Ott, and Adam Burish. They scored one goal early in the third, but they easily could have had four with a visit from the luck dragons. Goal scoring wasn't their main contribution to the win though. They contributed a healthy dose of puck possession. Benn, Burish, Ott, (and Loui Eriksson) were the only top nine forwards for the Stars to be on the positive side of the Corsi ledger.
The Corsi difference from the Ribeiro line to the Benn line is fairly large in favor of the Benn group. Part of that is due to Gulutzan adjusting to the faceoff/zone start issue I brought up yesterday. I tried to come up with several solutions which would fix the problem, thus allowing Ribeiro/Ryder as much offensive zone time as possible. The one situation that didn't cross my mind was not allowing Ribeiro to take any critical faceoffs.
O+D: Offensive Zone + Defensive Zone Faceoffs; Total: Total Faceoffs;
OZ%:Offensive Zone Start%; Corsi +/-: Shot Differential
*All of these numbers are at even strength
Ribeiro and Ryder were on the ice for only five and six critical faceoffs respectively. The Fiddler line was even only on the ice for seven. Benn was on the ice for 15 critical draws, and 27 total. About half of the critical faceoffs in the game went to the Benn unit which makes sense on one level. Ott and Burish are the Stars top two faceoff guys. In attempting to win more faceoffs it makes sense to use your best guys on the draw.
The problem with this strategy is that you're forcing the Ribeiro line to do more than play in the offensive zone. They have to work the puck up the ice consistently to generate offense. Of the critical faceoffs Ribeiro took 40% were in the offensive zone. Ryder? 33%. They obviously weren't being used in a defensive role, but you can see the impact not handing them gobs of ice time had on their Corsi. The line was about -3 in the shot differential at even strength. Over time against good teams (the Canucks are as good as anyone) that's going to catch up to you.
I like the spirit of the change, and the creativity is phenomenal. I'm not a big fan of the execution of the idea though. It places too much emphasis on faceoffs. They have some importance, but in the long run limiting the offensive potential of the Ribeiro line runs a severe risk of biting the Stars.
The Stars top players were the members of the Benn line. Benn was +6 chances at even strength. Ott and Burish were both plus four. Mark Fistric led Stars defensemen at +4. The Ribeiro line was -3 in the chance column, and part of that has to do with being forced to work harder to get into the offensive zone. Most of the value they generated last night was on the powerplay. Both were on the ice for four chances on the powerplay.
Wearing the collar last night was Philip Larsen. He had probably his worst game as a professional at -7 chances at even strength. He prompted Cam Charron of Canucks Army to write the following in his recap:
Part of my issue with the Canucks losing to the Stars is that they have a lot of players on their team who have names that bring up a "who" quality about them. Who let Tomas Vincour, Philip Larsen and Ryan Garbutt in the NHL?
Larsen had a poor game, and he'll need to bounce back. Those of us that have watched him consistently this season know what he can bring. I'm not as high on him as others (I still think he needs time to develop), but he's definitely better than he showed against the Canucks. Ditto Vincour and Garbutt who lost way too many offensive zone puck battles considering how little they actually played. Then again it's pretty difficult to get in a rhythm in only five minutes.
The Stars look to knock off the struggling Sharks tomorrow night to push them closer to the brink of not making the playoffs. The two clubs are trending in very different directions, and you can be sure that the Sharks will come out firing with all the intensity of a playoff game. Or, they might not. It's notoriously hard to tell with the Sharks sometimes. If the Stars continue to play like this it shouldn't matter which Sharks team shows up.