This might turn into a regular event for me, and for this I must apologize. But I care so deeply for the Stars team and the potential to be great and I will never stop cheering for this team.
I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the problems facing this team, and now I have more, but this time with tempered optimism.
First off, let me say: GO STARS! WOO! Three game winning streak! One game above .500!
Second off, let me say: Dallas still looks like they are one injury away from having their season tank on them. Just my opinion.
While winning can relieve the tension of a locker room, and it can make steadfast and fair weather fans alike rejoice and gain the excitement typically reserved for small school children; Winning also masks a boat-load of blemishes and a dump truck bed full of blunders.
I do like the lines that Glen Gulutzan has put out there. The Morrow - Benn - Jagr line has surprised me (nay, shocked me). I knew Benn would be very good when he got his skating legs under him (and he looks like he is about 3-5 games away from being in mid-season form, perfect timing!). And of course Jagr is going to be Jagr, and we all knew that OT goal was coming and we all know there will be more of them (hopefully a lot more). But Morrow! Wow, I must say...he has (so far) proved me wrong. He looks like he is flourishing in his role of messing with the timing of the other teams defense and he also looks like anytime he gets to the net he belongs there. Very important quality to have that was missing from this team in the early going. Good on you Morrow, keep up the dirty work.
The Eriksson - Roy - Ryder line has done a superb job of handling the top line of the opposition, or second line if they are playing on the road, and getting scoring chances. It was only a matter of time before they started clicking and Voila! they have been good for a goal in each of the last three games (all wins). Roy sounds like he is grateful for the chance to be here in Dallas and to have the faith of the brass to let his shoulder heal over the off season. I hope he resigns with Dallas right off. He is one forward I am growing to like more and more as the season churns.
The Vincour - Eakin - Smith line has been a breath of fresh air for Stars fans who like what they have seen at times from each of these boys. The Texas Stars trio reunited makes a good story line, and it seems all but inevitable before they bank home a couple of goals (though I doubt very much they could do it on a regular consistent basis).
The Nystrom - Fiddler - Roussel/Garbutt line has done exactly what I thought they would with less time on the ice, make less mistakes. And be, dare i say? (dare, dare) a bit pesky. Yep, it seems that that mentality has not completely left the Stars quite yet, and for certain times of each game, their are portions where just a dash of pesky is exactly what the doctor orders.
I can not tell you how many times over the last three games I have literally screamed at the TV, "Hit that guy! Don't pull up, hit him!". When the opposition has the puck, skating up the middle of the ice, then cuts to the near boards to carry it into the attacking zone, why doesn't our defenceman engage contact at that point? If you let your opponent carry the puck into your zone, get set up, dust the puck off, have tea and biscuits with the Queen, and still allow him time to look for the passing lane, guess what is going to happen. You don't have to guess, you've seen it happen. A lot. Scoring opportunity and possibly a biscuit in the basket.
Second: Defenceman backtracking from the opponents blue-line.
I have been watching this happen for a number of years, basically since Tippett left. Goligoski was guilty of it last night for sure and I think Robidas was also, but I don't think I had the whole picture.
Picture this if you will: The Stars have brought the puck into the attacking zone, either by dump and chase or by carrying it over the line. In either case the play is forced into the corner by the strong side D-man. The cycle game starts and for a brief moment the Stars look like they are getting the opposition to either over-commit or get out of position. The puck goes behind the net to the one Stars forward who attempts to corral the puck and look for a scoring lane. Instead there is a tie-up behind the net and the Stars forward sends the puck up and around to another forward along the board. The puck sometimes takes a funny hop at this point and hops over the stick of that second Dallas forward.
Instead of doing what every other D-man on every other decent team does at this point (which is of course pinch down and either shoot the puck or pass across the blue line to the weak side) Goligoski gives up on the offensive pressure and backtracks toward his own zone to defend. He gives the opposition a grand opportunity to escape defensive pressure and turn the tables on the Stars. Goligoski has gone from a scoring threat (where the worst play he can make is a rising shot that is either blocked out of play or hits the back boards and circles back out of the zone) to a back-tracking d-man hoping not to get burned on a drive toward the net. Goligoski is supposed to be our best option at moving the puck, yet he elects to back-check and for-go offence.
Disclamer: I am aware that back-checking in this situation is the sensible option and is a fine strategy to employ if you are leading in the game (which Dallas was at the time). I also agree that if Goligoski (or Robidas, or Daly) can't get to the puck in time, or feel it would be too close to chance, then I am fine with back-checking. The play I am referring to Goligoski abandoned the blue line and it took a full (one-OneThousand, two-OneThousand) before the other forward for Anaheim grabbed the puck and started skating forward. Goligoski may have even hit the red line before the duck player even touched the puck.
I also maintain that even if it had been Aaron Rome at the point, or Jordie Benn, or even Mark Fistic or Nick Grossmann (back in the day) I would have been happy they decided to back-check and let the opposition come to them. Robidas, Daly and Goose in my opinion, if they have the opportunity to skate forward and do something in the offensive zone (given the opportunity and space, mind you) they should take every advantage to do so, because that is what leads to broken plays and juicy rebounds and sweet goals.
Third: More Hitting!
One question that begs an answer is why do you think the oppositions (2) man forcheck is so effective? Because out opposition ALWAYS finishes their check. The D-man standing behind the net waiting for his mates to get set up has to know he is going to get hit. The two wingers cut off the strong side and weak side passing lanes by taking away the boards. So, two options for the D-man, skate the puck up the middle or pass the puck to a back-checking forward. The skate up the middle is met by the F3 forward just about all the time and the back-checking forward is a luxury most shifts. If Gulutzan is opting for a more conservative "let the opposition roll up to you" attitude, then hit the buggers once they cross the blue line (with the puck so not to draw a penalty). When escaping the zone, have the forwards circle back to open up lanes and windows for the d-man skating through the middle of the ice. (Granted this is starting to work better, but still looks like it is one hiccup away from landing on someone else's stick)
Finally (this one is pretty weak) Penalty personell. Benn, Jagr, Ryder, Smith, Morrow, Goligoski, Vincour, Oleksiak, Rome, Rousell all had less than 1:00 of penalty kill time. Now, before you jump all over me, I get it. There are two penalty kill units (just like 2 power play units) and when we get into the second period the ice times for those individuals skyrocket. What I maintain is: Daly, Dillon, Robidas, Eakin, Eriksson, Roy, Nystrom, and Fiddler are the ones taking the penalty kill. Personally, I would like to see more Jamie Benn on the penalty kill, but I no doubt think that would wear out our super-star more-so than already seen. Perhaps Eriksson is being asked to do too much here, which might explain why his game has been a bit off (as the experts have claimed). Nystrom and Fiddler on the Pk is great, primarily because they would be complete wastes on the team without it. Perhaps if we ask Morrow to fill in for Eriksson every once and a while...
I do not know wether or not the Stars will end the play-off drought this year (I hope, I hope, I hope). I am currently conflicted. I want the stars to succeed, but I also what the stars to have another top 10 pick in the next draft if they don't make the big dance.
Side note: I did not realize that Scott Glennie has been the only top 10 pick the Stars have had in the last 16 years! The one chance we had at gaining a great talented (top ten worthy - potential all star) player and we flubbed it! Go figure.
As always, thanks for putting up with my rant, and let's hope I am wrong about one injury being the loose thread that unravels the bizarre quilt that is the Dallas Stars this season.