Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are both scoring at better than a point-per-game through eight contests. They look every bit the way a top line should. After that things get a little murkier and the disquiet of a fan-base struggling with a .375 (points percentage) start would demand some changes if it could.
Jim Nill and Lindy Ruff will not be so hasty, as Mike Heika points out in his column today.
"We've had a couple of games that could have gone the other way," coach Lindy Ruff told the Dallas Morning News. "We've been without our starting goaltender. I think there's a little patience in getting him back and seeing how the team rallies around that."
Whether they do or not, they'll be up against an easier slate with two on the road and Buffalo coming up after that.
Their performance against Minnesota, Colorado, San Jose, Los Angeles and Anaheim has to be at least a little concerning, however. Those look like five playoff teams and the Stars managed just two points out of the stretch. They'll face a similar stretch in December when they get Colorado back-to-back, Vancouver, San Jose and Los Angeles is a hellish eight days.
The following breaks down just those five games against those good teams (1-4-0) by line, or what was generally the lines at even strength, and includes the differential of attempted shots for/against.
Total Corsi differential for those five games, 5-on-5 play.
CD = Corsi differential. This is not a standard way of looking at these kinds of things, but just roll with it for this five game sample.
The scoring stats are for all situations, just to get an idea of where the points are coming from and perhaps just as importantly, where they're not.
Depth scoring has been an issue for the Stars. Garbutt and Jordie Benn scoring in recent action was nice but there hasn't been enough of it. The third line, be it with Cole or Nichushkin, Fiddler or Roussel, isn't getting it done at either end of the ice.
Ruff's usage (zone starts) haven't been easily discernible in such a small sample size, but one of the few things that has been clear is his desire to start Horcoff and Fiddler more in the defensive end. Their numbers are going to suffer as a result. That's just a part of hockey-life, but they'll need to push play forward or at least stay closer to even against these better teams if the Stars are going to push into playoff contention.
Rich Peverley has been everything we'd hoped he'd be, so it makes you wonder- Aren't Benn and Seguin going to score anyway? Can you try Cole back up there with them and have Peverley with Horcoff and Roussel, or is the faceoff issue too prohibitive?
Roussel-Horcoff-Peverley sounds like quite a checking line, and one that might be able to keep the possession numbers a little more in line, particularly against what is generally perceived to be easier competition upcoming.
The fevered meddling of panicked fans, probably, but change would seem to be in order as things move along here. We'll get an idea out of practice today if Ruff is thinking about a shuffle, but he and Nill have shown their patience and willingness to ride out the storm.
We're just going to have to find our patience as well.
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