It feels strange to talk about the Dallas Stars' recent struggles. They're the first team in the NHL to hit 20 wins. They're 2nd in Shots For Per Game, and 1st in the NHL in Goals For per game.
But they're coming off an embarrassing loss to the Calgary Flames; a defeat that felt like a culmination of recent Stars' games where they seemed to struggle at times, and failed to dominate in ways their record suggests.
But last night was different. Outside of a few individual gaffes, the team pulled together for a full 60. So on to the tweetdown:
1. GoGo Gadget Megrim
This isn't ideal pic.twitter.com/TUOuzDStL3— Josh Lile (@JoshL1220) December 4, 2015
When it comes to player analysis, Stars' fans are as bipolar a group as you'll find. Alex Goligoski is the undersized beacon under which this debate shines and shivers. Believe it or not he had the second best On Ice Corsi Differential on the team. Yet his inability to juggle the puck on the first goal (and subsequent positioning as seen above), and that inexplicable turnover on the second feel like the qualitative arguments to Corsi's quantitative affair.
2. Nuke Dice'Em
With Nichushkin skating on the top line tonight, here's a look at the different line combinations used this season. pic.twitter.com/uOoLrryqU2— Mark Stepneski (@StarsInsideEdge) December 4, 2015
The number of different line combinations Ruff has assembled could fit into a book by Marcel Proust.
To be fair, Valeri Nichushkin on the first line with Jamie Benn and Tyler Seguin isn't just a quantum dart thrown on Ruff's quark board. He explicitly stated that Nuke would eventually get looks on the first line. Yes, the numbers favor a Seguin/Sharp relationship given Seguin's ability to create high slot chances, which Patrick Sharp is good at converting; but the first line can play a young man's game, and Val is looking every bit the playmaker he was billed as when Jim Nill took him at #10 in the draft.
After 5 points in 21 games, Valeri Nichushkin now has 4 in his last 3. Slowly waking up...— Dobber (@DobberHockey) December 4, 2015
4. Bromancing The Art Ross Stone
It's important to come to terms with the fact that no one will ever love you as much as these two love each other. pic.twitter.com/4dxG91PTRK— Holly (@holly_holl) December 4, 2015
Benn and Seguin played one of the better games in recent memory despite not getting on the board all that much (Benn didn't even record a point). But the depth of their chemistry was on full display; Seguin continues his Boston Strong checking at times while Benn's two way play is well documented.
5. Not Bad for a 3rd Liner
Despite the connotation "Ruffling" has, at the heart of constant line shuffling is the pragmatic philosophy of adjustment; hockey is played against different systems by different players, so the logic should follow that the same line won't always be effective in different situations.
Willie Desjardins matched up Henrik and Daniel Sedin against Cody Eakin's line with Antoine Roussel and Patrick Sharp; while they didn't dominate, they also didn't get smeared, generating quite a few chances going the other way. Sharp was a big part of that so it'll be interesting to see how often this combination is tried.
6. So Long and Thanks For All the Brooms
That is now 10 straight wins against the Vancouver Canucks; a team that could probably use a much better scouting staff and less barely coherent musings (from its fans and management) about 'sticking up for one another'. Now for some stray observations.
- Jamie Oleksiak and Patrick Nemeth looked fine. They weren't all that sheltered, and didn't make a whole lot of mistakes. But I'm still a fan of getting them out of their green zone, and paired with vets. I mentioned in my last recap that I'd like see Nemeth with John Klingberg. Nemeth hasn't earned it. He's looked off kilter, and still gets beat from the outside way too easily for a guy billed as a "pure defender". But in his limited time with Klingberg (just over 60+ minutes) last season, he posted his best possession stats at over 60 Percent. Small sample size, but one worth trying when the injury bug hits; especially while they're playing moderately well and looking comfortable.
- Ales Hemsky has been in a funk of sorts, but he looked like he was getting Red Bull fed to him intravenously. If you ignore the cap hit, that's a hilariously talented 4th line.
- Kari Lehtonen continued his strong play. Whether it's Jeff Reese, or just the ability to rebound from a serious concussion, he's in rare form. He wasn't asked to be spectacular, but he was consistent and steady when some of Dallas' players were not.
- Bittersweet reference to the music fitting for describing the Stars' record? None other than STP's (RIP Scott Weiland) Crackerman, in my opinion.