I set out to write something about the Stars third line. Reilly Smith, Tomas Vincour, and Cody Eakin are loads of fun to watch on a nightly basis. I poked around the fourth line to try to compare what's going on with both lines, when I realized how strange Antoine Roussel's first five games have been.
So, rather than force together a post that I have limited interest in, here are some of the weirder notes from the Stars early season stat lines from their bottom six forwards:
* When Smith is on the ice the Stars shooting percentage at even strength is 0.00. The Stars have yet to score a goal at even strength with Smith on the ice despite the fact that he has been flying around. In fact, only three forwards on the Stars generate more shots per 60 minutes than Smith. Those three are Ryan Garbutt, Ray Whitney, and Roussel.
* Roussel is weird. He takes more penalties than he should, but when he's on the ice the Stars inexplicably generate shots. The Stars take 33.4 shots per 60 minutes with Roussel. Whitney is 2nd at 27.9 He shares some pretty ridiculous company. With him on the ice in protected minutes the Stars give up relatively few shots, too.
The problem is that with Roussel on the ice the Stars block A TON of shots. Blocking shots is good, but blocking an inordinate amount of shots suggests that you don't possess the puck nearly enough. The Stars fourth line obviously doesn't, but his speed on the forecheck has helped him improve the fourth line. It still isn't good mind you, but it isn't at the depths it had been.
* The three lowest PDO performers (shooting percentage for + save percentage for) have been Loui Eriksson, Roussel, and Smith. Other members of the team have had some incredible luck go their way (Derek Roy, Brenden Morrow, and Vincour), yet these three are waiting for the luck dragons to turn around and blow them a kiss. It's only a matter of time until Eriksson goes off.
* Vincour has been playing the most difficult defensive minutes of any Stars forward. With his promotion to the third line the difficulty has decreased given that the Stars are protecting Eakin and Smith, but nonetheless he is being heavily relied upon defensively at even strength.
The early season has been full of ups and downs, but there is one message we can all subscribe to. Do not give up on the third line. Smith, Vincour, and Eakin have been playing very well given their experience levels. Smith could easily have three goals on his own. One of these days they're going to break out, and at the rate they've been generating offense it could be very soon.