Dallas Stars head coach Lindy Ruff has used the healthy scratch as a teaching device to great effect this year. On Alex Goligoski. On some of the younger defensemen. On Valeri Nichushkin. On Ryan Garbutt.
Thursday it was Antoine Roussel's turn, and though it hurt their team speed on a night when they certainly needed some more, it seemed to pay off once again at Madison Square Garden last night.
"I actually think it hurt our lineup, not having him in, not having his energy," Ruff told Mike Heika yesterday, "He's done a good job on the offensive side, he's done a good job against the top lines, and I told him as much as it hurt him to be out, it hurt me to take you out, because I think it hurts our team. I think we need the way he plays, the speed of his game, but the penalties were getting out of hand."
Perhaps it served as a message to the both of them because they almost saved that whole game by themselves last night in generating 100% of the offense along side Cody Eakin.
And the Stars need that secondary versatility, and badly. Alex Chiasson had a good stretch early. Roussel and Garbutt had their moments in November, before re-emerging last night. Erik Cole had a good December- But there is no consistent threat away from Benn and Seguin, and the offense they hoped they'd get from Ray Whitney and Sergei Gonchar just hasn't been there yet.
If Roussel and Garbutt can toe the line and aim for more productivity than irritability this team might have a chance.
Last night the game changed on- Yes, an offensive zone penalty, though at first glance it appeared Shawn Horcoff was the one getting hooked, then upon review perhaps that he did clamp down, though the Ranger player ought not to have had his stick up there in the first place. Often times that will be let go, or else the call will go on the dunce who put his stick parallel to the ice. Not last night.
The Rangers didn't dawdle on their power play opportunity. You know the rest.
Stars fans feel as though it's always Garbutt, Roussel and Horcoff. Do the numbers back up the eye-ball test? Here's how it breaks down:
|Player||Total Minors||Offensive Zone Minors|
Without the offensive zone "overzealousness" (tm) all three would be below the d-men that simply must take those penalties as a matter of course.
Among these, team-wide, are seven high-sticks, five cross-checks, five slashes, five roughing calls, three interferences, a boarding, an illegal check to the head, a dive and a goaltender interference. Mostly what Erin likes to name as "safety calls"- Avoidable actions not pertinent to the job of securing, or continuing to possess the puck in the offensive zone for the purpose of generating positive possession events.
There's always debate on whether or not an "offensive zone" penalty is statistically more significant, somehow, than one taken anywhere else. The answer, of course, is no. It isn't. Once it's called a penalty is a penalty.
Then again, there's the perceptions of what is a "good penalty" and what is a "bad penalty" which boils down in our hearts to simply the ones we can stomach more easily than others- Which is to say that if Brenden Dillon is whistled for something while defending Ryan Getzlaf 10 feet away from Keri Lehtonen that's seemingly more understandable.
If Antoine Roussel gets an elbow up too high while fighting for a puck 175 feet from his own net and there's no apparent imminent danger of the other team scoring then it's a tough one to swallow.
The challenge has been extended by their coach. We see now if "finding the line" can be a part of a turn-around this team desperately needs.
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