I've watched a good deal of the Texas Stars playoff run. The potential for good things in the future is obvious. But, being young, most of the players exhibit signs of severe hockey bipolar disorder. The symptoms show up particularly often among the defensive corps.
The strongest symptoms are with one Jamie Oleksiak. He was the AHL equivalent of Adam Pardy in game six. I don't mean if you waived Pardy and put him in the AHL lineup you would have what Oleksiak did in game six. I mean he shouldn't have been on the ice. It was really bad I think is what I'm saying.
Admittedly game six was a big outlier, but regardless I felt like I wanted to take further stock of their defensive effort. Game six prompted me to track the Texas zone entry defense in game seven to see where some positives could be found. The club has been dominant this year so they obviously are doing a lot of things right. Tracking how well they defend their own blue can give us some insight into what is going right.
What I tracked was the total number of times the Toronto Marlies attacked a given Star at the Texas defensive blue line. The total number of times the Marlies went at a given player is under total. Dump % is how often that player caused a dump in. Carry % is how often that player allowed the Marlies to carry the puck into the zone. Turnover % is how often the player created a turnover. Finally, shot % is the percentage of entries that led to a shot for the Marlies.
The first column is the player number. The players are as follows:
3 - Jyrki Jokipakka
6 - Jamie Oleksiak
9 - Derek Meech
12 - Patrik Nemeth
18 - Maxime Fortunus
24 - Cameron Gaunce
29 - Radek Faksa
This is their story:
Oleksiak and Nemeth were awesome.
Oleksiak had a huge rebound effort. Late in the third he blocked two shots aimed at empty nets. He rarely spent any time in his own end. The turnovers were largely gone. He led a few rushes. Everything you want to see from Oleksiak to make you think he can be a top four NHL defenseman was present.
On 73 percent of the entries directed at Oleksiak the Marlies either dumped the puck into the zone or turned it over. They didn't register a single shot off of those entries. His biggest two issues are turnovers and play in the defensive end. When he is able to keep the puck out of his own end he's a major positive. If he can do that more often at the NHL level and/or clean things up in his own end he can be a key guy going forward.
Nemeth did his thing. The Marlies only attempted to carry it by him once, and that was late in the game when they adjusted by trying to carry it in more often. They took two shots off of entries past Nemeth, but they were largely unsuccessful when going towards him.
Jokipakka had a forgettable game. The Marlies carried the puck in at will against him. They created several prime chances again him. There was one play in particular where Jokipakka almost made a stop at the blue line before Frazer McLaren drilled him to the core of the earth as he tried to make a play on the puck. This was a pretty forgettable game for the best name in the system.
The Texas Stars are awesome. This game shows part of the reason why. They protect their own blue line incredibly well. If you haven't watched many of their games I would strongly encourage you to do so via AHL Live when the Calder Cup Finals start. You won't be disappointed.
You may also fall in love with Brett Ritchie and Curtis McKenzie. Be careful if you're married.