Through two games, the Dallas Stars have been shorthanded 9 times. They only killed five of them, but we'll be going deeper into the ineffectiveness of the penalty kill tomorrow morning. Right now, I want to point out a certain stat: of those nine times the Stars were shorthanded, Steve Ott was in the penalty box for 5 of them.
That might not come as a surprise to many of you. Steve Ott has led the team in penalty minutes for the last three seasons, and notorious around the league for being one of the best agitators in the game. Creating havoc isn't just a thing for him, it's part of his job.
But still, five penalties through two games is a bit concerning, especially when you see the ramifications going on the PK had for the Stars. Looking at each of Ott's penalties individually, you begin to see just how....well, odd some of them were..
Game 1 (@ New Jersey Devils)
The first penalty against the Stars all season came only 3:48 into the opening game. Can't blame Otter here for much, as David Clarkson started pushing and shoving at Ott after the whistle. Mark Fraser came in to break it up, and Ott and Fraser were sent off with unsportsmanlike penalties. This is why Otter can be so effective at agitating; he takes a penalty, but gets the other guy sent off the ice as well. Nothing wrong here.
At 18:12 in the 2nd, Fraser and Ott got into it again. Fraser crosschecks Ott hard, but doesn't get any call. Ott turns around and shoves him back, and both get sent to the box. At this point you have to wonder why the ref didn't call the first crosscheck....but you knew Ott was going to retaliate, and the game turned into another 4-on-4 battle. Nothing came out of it, fortunately. The thing here is: You never like taking penalties at the beginning of periods, because it disrupts any momentum your team could gain. You end up having to fight back and gain momentum the rest of the period, usually. But luckily for the Stars, Ott managed on both penalties to bring an opposing player into the box with him.
At 8:53, however, Otter makes a bad decision. The Stars had Jamie Benn had just leveled a Devil into the bench, and the Stars seemed to gain an extra spring in their step....for the next few seconds at least, when Ott made a vicious late hit on Alexander Urbom in the corner. Maybe vicious is a bit much, but for a late hit, it was pretty rough. It was untimely, and it was (as Razor pointed out) blatantly unnecessary. That gave the Devils the man advantage, and they cashed in to tie the game.
After the jump, we analyze Ott's penalties against the Islanders and try to figure out what to think of this...
Game 2 (@ New York Islanders)
You know what I said earlier about starting periods with penalties? Well, Otter does it here. Only 1:53 into the game, Ott hooks
Ned Nederlander Nino Niederreiter as he drives to the net. To be fair, Niederreiter embellished a bit at the end, but it was a hook nonetheless. So Ott went off for the fourth time in 3 periods and less than two minutes, and the Stars successfully killed off the penalty. Ott was off the hook (no pun intended), but still not a good time to take a penalty.
His last penalty of the weekend came at 14:31 in the 2nd period, and honestly I can't even take myself seriously by calling it a 'penalty'. Ott pokes his stick near the feet of Blake Comeau, trying to knock the puck loose, and Comeau flops to the ice and draws a penalty against Ott. No obvious fault on Otter there, as it looked pretty obvious (to Ralph and Razor, at least) that Ott was a victim of a dive.
So what do we make of this?
Is Ott showing signs of being overly aggressive early on, or was he simply the victim of a few iffy calls and bad luck? I think the answer is both. A couple of those calls were obviously a bit shaky. To be honest, Ott won't get the benefit of the doubt with some refs because of his reputation as an agitator. Calls that would be on the fence most of the time will usually go against Ott more times than not. It comes with the wonderful annoyance that is the Otter.
But at the same time, there's no doubt that on these calls, Otter was playing a bit sloppy and perhaps too aggressive at the wrong times. It's the beginning of the season, and of course players like Ott are itching to get the motors going at full speed. But that means that this is the time that the line between playing on the edge, and over the edge is easiest to cross, and Otter may have needed to tap the brakes a bit.
Now, there's obviously nothing to worry about long-term. This is a very small sample size. But the effect the adrenaline of the opening weekend can have on a player's aggressiveness is an interesting thing to think about. Maybe a few days of practice in between games will help Ott be more focused at times on the ice this weekend.