Archive for ‘General’

November 1, 2010

Happy Movember!

by Chelsea

 

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October 18, 2010

Death by Penalty Kill

by Chelsea

What happened to the Dallas Stars’ penalty kill?

During the preseason, they had absolutely no problems killing off penalties. Then we hit the regular season and they start coughing up power play goals to the other team left and right. What happened?

In five games, they’ve already allowed 10 power play goals (on 25 attempts), with 8 of those goals coming in the three road games so far. Four of the goals happened Monday in Tampa Bay. Ouch. That’s a very, very leaky ship they’re trying to sail.

I spent some time after the game staring at numbers. What I found out is that two of the Stars’ leading penalty killers in preseason have not played a second of shorthanded time in the regular season.

One of them is Severin Blindenbacher, who played over 10 minutes in the three of the four games I focused on without seeing a single power play goal against. In two of those games, he was part of the leading defensive pair on the PK that night, with either Fistric or Grossman, which saw a combined 13 penalties against with 0 PPGA. He is now playing for the Texas Stars in the AHL.

The other is Aaron Gagnon, recently called up from the Texas Stars. He played mostly with Toby Petersen on the penalty kill during the preseason and faced over 12 minutes total in the four games. The Dallas Stars killed off 25 of 27 penalties in those games, and Gagnon was not on the ice for either of the two goals they allowed.

Of course, you’d want those two guys to have more NHL experience before you throw them out there shorthanded. That said, it would be nice to see the Stars give Gagnon a shift or two with Petersen and see if they can recreate some of the success they had in preseason against real NHL rosters.

Another player that had some success killing penalties in preseason was Brian Sutherby. He had limited ice time but was not out for a single power play goal against. However, he has only been given 4:36 SH TOI in the regular season despite having only been on the ice for one PPGA, which came during the Detroit game. While that was partially his fault, you can’t overlook the fact that he had almost 2 minutes on the PK Monday and was one of two players who logged over a minute of SH time and did not get scored on. The other player was Steve Ott.

Am I saying Sutherby should be playing big minutes killing penalties? Not at all. Could he take a few shifts from a player like Brenden Morrow who is an adequate penalty killer but may have better ways to spend that ice time? Sure.

This brings me to my main point, which is that it is not really the forwards I have a problem with as far as personnel goes. It is more important to find the right combination of guys like Sutherby, Burish, and Wandell, who have so far been fairly interchangeable when it comes to successfully killing penalties, than it is to figure out who is better. For the defensemen, however, there is a big glaring issue that I see.

Trevor Daley has managed to be on the ice for HALF of the power play goals against (and is leading the team in that regard). To put that into perspective, he allows a goal for approximately every 3:30 he plays shorthanded, or once per game. He is horribly ineffective, and yet is second only to Karlis Skrastins for SH TOI.

There is no reason that I can see not to give some of his penalty killing time to Mark Fistric or Matt Niskanen. At least they don’t look completely startled every single time the puck comes at them. How many times have we already seen Daley do something completely boneheaded that cost the Stars on the scoreboard? He has no awareness of himself in relation to Lehtonen, as evidenced by all the screening, skating into, and deflecting pucks past that he’s already displayed this season.

Moving away from the “who” to the “what” problem, that seems pretty simple. For some reason, the Stars have been completely unable to get the puck ALL the way out of their zone on the penalty kill. One of them will pick it up down low and try to clear it, only to have it caught by the other team and tossed right back in. It doesn’t seem to matter much how they try to get it out. Down the middle? Bad giveaway. Along the boards? Caught at the point, if not before. Carry it out? Swarmed and had it stolen.

Someone needs to sit down and come up with a gameplan for getting the puck out of the zone on the first try. Maybe go over video of the Capitals, who have successfully killed off 21 of 21 penalties. Or maybe just pay very close attention Thursday when they take on the Panthers, who have only taken 8 penalties and have killed off all of them.

October 18, 2010

SHR +/-: Two-Game Homestand

by Chelsea

October 14, 2010 vs DET

The Dallas Stars organization: -10 for that meh “tribute” to Mike Modano. The Flyers put together a montage of all of Simon Gagne’s biggest goals for his first return to Philly, but the best you could do for the face of your franchise was stick a camera on him with the caption “Thank you, Mike”?
The Dallas Stars fans: +15 for properly honoring Mo with a long and loud standing ovation.

Nicklas Grossman: +1 for leading the team with seven hits; +1
Matt Niskanen: +2 for the assist and +1 for the surprisingly high hit count (five); +3
Trevor Daley: +2 for the assist; +2
Brenden Morrow:
+3 for the goal; +3
Toby Petersen:
-1 for losing more faceoffs than Krys Barch did in the same amount of tries; -1
James Neal:
+3 for the goal, +2 for the assist, but -1 for the penalties; +4
Loui Eriksson:
+3 for the goal; +3
Mark Fistric:
+1 for squashing a certain whiny Swedish bug; +1
Steve Ott:
+1 for winning 11/16 faceoffs; +1
Kari Lehtonen:
.962 save percentage; +3
Mike Ribeiro:
+2 for each assist; +4
Brad Richards:
+3 for the goal and +2 for each assist, but -1 for kind of stinking at the dot with only 2/8 faceoffs won; +6


October 16, 2010 vs STL

 

Nicklas Grossman: +1 for leading with seven hits again, +2 warrior points for getting a skate to the face and finishing his shift anyway, but -2 for a pair of stupid penalties; +1
Trevor Daley: +1 for leading with five blocked shots; +1
Brenden Morrow: +1 for being fiesty-Captain; +1
Adam Burish: +2 for nice PK work, including a bit of a sell to draw a call during the Grossman 4-minute penalty; +2
James Neal:
+3 for the goal, +2 for the assist, and +1 for the hard work he put in to get those points; +6
Loui Eriksson:
+3 for the goal, +2 for the assist, +1 for displaying impressive hockey smarts, and +1 for the shootout goal; +7
Tom Wandell:
-1 for having yet to do much of anything aside from losing a lot of faceoffs; -1
Kari Lehtonen:
+3 for stopping 41 of 43 shots and +1 for turning into a brick wall after the first period; +4
Mike Ribeiro:
+1 for the physical play, +1 for the shootout goal, and +1 for being impossibly shifty; +3
Brad Richards:
+2 for each assist and +1 for the shootout goal; +5

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October 15, 2010

Three in a row!

by Kristine

Did you see that?! The Stars kicked ass last night (pardon my hockey language)! They only managed to get 15 shots on goal, but four of them connected with net. The top lines delivered like they should. The checking line played hard. The fourth line was – well, the fourth line. Lehtonen was solid. The penalty kill actually managed to kill penalties. The powerplay got the game rolling with an almost immediate goal. I guess what I’m trying to say is that the boys really earned that third win, and looked like a real NHL team doing it. I don’t have time to review the whole game today, but we’ll be back later with our +/-. For now I want to touch on a few things…

The Stars had a couple big announcements today. First, in another wise personnel move from GM Joe, the Stars added Gary Roberts as a player development consultant. You might recognize the name. Roberts is the man responsible for Neal’s added bulk this season, and he transformed Steven Stamkos from a bench-warmer into a 50-goal scorer. According to the official press release (here), “Roberts will be working with the Stars’ young players throughout the club’s hockey system, at both the NHL and developmental levels, in tandem with the club’s strength and conditioning team, coaches and trainers.” I can’t wait to see what he can do here, especially with Grossman, Fistric, and Wandell. I’m fully behind this decision although I’m a little surprised we can afford to add another person to our payroll.

The other big news today is that Fabian Brunnstrom has been placed on waivers, and they don’t seem to really care whether he’s picked up by another team or he plays in the AHL all season. According to Heika, Niewendyk attempted to trade Bunny but there were no takers; however, he goes on to quote Neiwendyk as saying, “I know there are some teams interested in him. Whether they claim him or not, I don’t know.” So I guess we can read between the lines there a bit and figure that there are some teams interested, but not interested enough to give up anything to have him. So it will be interesting to see if anyone makes a move to get him now. If not, the plan seems to be for him to stay in Austin for the majority of the season. I appreciate that – he really needs to play every night – but I do wonder why we resigned him only to try to trade him and then, when that didn’t work, send him to the AHL. If we didn’t want him, why didn’t we just let him go?

Finally, THN updated their Hart Trophy Watch today. For those of you who are unfamiliar, it’s a running feature where Ken Campbell lists the top 10 contenders for the Hart Trophy at a given time, plus a few on the bubble. Richie made the list at #4 this week, with Campbell noting, “The Stars have shocked the hockey world by getting off to a 3-0-0 start, thanks in large part to Richards. After a couple of years of floundering, Richards is busting his way back into star status.” Maybe now people will stop saying how overpaid he is. I know $7.8 million is a lot of money, but where would we be without him? He has 7 points in three games, which puts him on pace for 191 points this season. Obviously that isn’t a realistic number and his point production is guaranteed to slow down, but for now he’s tied with Ovechkin for first in the league in points and he’s tied for the lead in both assists (Ribs is there with him, for the record) and plus-minus (with Loui and Robi included in the five-way tie). If you ask me, he’s worth those big bucks.

October 9, 2010

by Kristine

We're back!

Sorry for disappearing last season, everyone!  We spent the first few months of it trying to muster up enthusiasm for something we were quickly losing faith in. Blogging started to feel like work. Chels got burnt out on her losing-game-after-losing-game reviews, and I started to hate reporting another slide in the weekly power rankings. Then at some point Chels put off her game review for a few extra days. I skipped a Picture Fantastic. Before we knew it, we weren’t updating the blog at all. Other parts of our life took over and the blog became something we just didn’t make time for. We were even making less time for hockey.

But we’re done doing that. We missed the connection the blog allows us with other hockey fans. We missed being excited to talk to everyone about every little detail of the games. So now we’re back, and we’re letting you know that we’re really excited about this season. It’s probably no surprise that we won’t be missing Turco, and we agree with those of you who wish Mo had just retired but we do like how losing him shifted the balance towards being a younger team. Plus we like the addition of Burish – we watched Hawk team videos just to watch him and we’re sure that his energy is infectious – and we feel like the team has found all the chemistry that was missing last season. So we’re going to be here, talking about that, all season. We’re going to start out slowly with just a few features: SHR +/-, the Weekly Power Rankings, and Chemistry by the Numbers. And, of course, if we have some thoughts to express about anything at all, you’ll be sure to know.

Also, SHR 2.0 features a more user- and Stars- friendly layout, an updated sidebar and footer, the ability to “Like” posts (from the comment page), an organized list of tags for you to browse posts by, and the ability to subscribe to an email alerting you to SHR updates. We love it and we hope you do too!

Excited to be back,
Kristine

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November 11, 2009

Power Rankings Round-Up

by Kristine

The big word in the power rankings this week is “goals.” Let’s see why…

Actual rank: 12th in league; 8th in West; 4th in Pacific.
Record: 7-4-6. L10: 4-3-3.

ESPN by Pierre LeBrun
Stars: 13 this week; 13 last week. “Marc Crawford’s group is producing goals: 3.18 per game, eighth in the NHL.
Of Note: Montreal at 19 this week; 18 last week. “Win one, lose one, win one, lose one, win one, lose one. …
My thoughts: The Stars can score… Or can they? They started off the season scoring at least four goals in almost every game, but have scored only two goals in each of their last four games. They’re not quite at the “win one, lose one, win one, lose one” pace the Habs are at (and the Stars were at most of last season), but they will be if they don’t rediscover their offensive prowess. With their next three games on the road – two of which are against Pacific teams – they need to really get their legs moving and hope that more pucks start finding the back of the net.

TSN
Stars:
14 this week; 11 last week. “Goals are suddenly at a premium in Big D, as they’ve managed eight in the last four games, after scoring 21 in the previous five. Key Injuries: LW James Neal (groin).
Of Note: San Jose at 1 this week; 1 last week. “Eight straight games without a regulation loss, the Sharks get to keep top spot for another week and the forecast gets even better now that Joe Pavelski has returned to anchor the second line. Key Injuries: D Rob Blake (shoulder), RW Devin Setoguchi (leg).
My thoughts: See? Even TSN has noticed that our goal scoring has dropped considerably lately. The Sharks are not afraid to get the puck on net, averaging 31.5 SOG/game. However, they’re also allowing 29.3 SOG/game. Maybe the biggest key for this game will be just to get the puck to the net and see what happens. The Stars do love breaking win streaks (remember the first Calgary game this season?) almost as much as they love being the underdogs.

The Hockey News by Ryan Dixon
Stars: 19 this time; 11 last time. “Brad Richards has recorded a point in every game he’s played except two this season.
Of Note: Detroit at 15 this time; 21 last time. “Speaking of banged up teams, Red Wings lose another body as Jason Williams sustains broken leg.
My thoughts: I love when we lose eight places but the comment is something positive. On the opposite side, the Wings jumped up six places but the comment is about an injury. What gives, THN? I think what they mean is “Brad Richards is recording points, but the Stars are not.” I honestly don’t have much to say about dropping so far down except that it doesn’t surprise me. One handful of less-than-stellar games and plenty of people go back to discrediting the Stars. I think they’d be sitting on top the division and people would still be waiting for them to fall.

I guess overall I’m a little frustrated. The Stars are having trouble finiding consistency, which makes it easy to forget that they’re still at a .588 point percentage for the season. Regardless, I get discouraged when I see them losing to teams they should be able to easily beat (ahem, Minnesota), and it seems like the power rankers feel the same way. They moved down 3 at TSN, 8 at THN, and somehow stayed the same at ESPN. They’re also ranked highest at ESPN (13th), and lowest at THN (19th). They play the Sharks and Coyotes before the next rankings come out, which could mean a big jump (if they beat at least one of them) or a big fall (if they lose to both). My bold prediction: They manage a win against the Sharks, but turn around and trip over Tippett’s Yotes.

November 5, 2009

Weekly Picture Fantastic

by Kristine

Welcome to the WPF! This week we’re looking at Halloween weekend up until the Flames game last night.


October 30 was Coach Crow’s 1000th NHL game coached, and the Stars honored him before the puck drop.


We finally got Lehts and Mo back November 4th against the Flames.


I’m not sure why Morrow has a black eye when the last time he fought was… last season after Brown nailed Ribs into the boards?


The most exciting new line we have this season – Swedes and Sudsy.


I have a new love of the Ice Girls for getting our Stars to pose with their pompoms. You can see more Stars with poms here.

November 3, 2009

Power Rankings Round-Up

by Kristine

After a somewhat dismal group of games to close out October, let’s see what the media is saying about the Stars this week.

Actual rank: 10th in league; 6th in West; 4th in Pacific.
Record: 6-3-5. L10: 5-3-2.

ESPN by Pierre LeBrun
Stars: 13 this week; 14 last week. Backup netminder (at least in theory) Alex Auld drew back-to-back starts in losses to Florida and Nashville as the Stars continue underwhelming (2-2-2) play at home.”
Of Note: Phoenix at 6 this week; 16 last week. The Coyotes continue to prove they are for real with three straight wins, and Ilya Bryzgalov continues to shine in goal. (He’s allowed just 25 goals in 13 games.)”
My thoughts: Underwhelming is one way to put it. You could also substitute “pathetic” or “uninspired” and be okay. For a team that had a 16-19-6 road record last season, the Stars are winning road games they should not be winning – and losing home games they should not be losing. This season’s 4-1-3 road record is definitely better than 2-2-2 at home, but the L5 of 2-1-2 isn’t stellar. No matter where they play, the Stars need to pick it up. Having a goalie with a breakout season like Bryzgalov would go a long way towards that, but so would some solid defense and consistent special teams. Sound familiar?

TSN
Stars:
6 this week; 11 last week. With four points in the last four games, Fabian Brunnstrom is starting to contribute offensively, giving the Stars all kinds of depth up front. Now, they just need Marty Turco to get over his illness, because he’s been much better than Alex Auld so far this season. Key Injuries: G Marty Turco (flu).”
Of Note: Boston at 20 this week; 20 last week. Not the Bruins handle the man advantage much better, going 2-for-36 (5.6%) over the last 11 games, a trend that might prompt a change in power play personnel, like getting Dennis Wideman back on the first unit in place of Derek Morris, for example. Key Injuries: C Marc Savard (foot), LW Milan Lucic (finger).
My thoughts: Finally, Fabian Brunnstrom gets some credit. Everyone is so busy talking about Holy Cow Jamie Benn that they’re overlooking the fact that Bunny has quietly accumulated six assists and a goal so far. It’s also nice to hear that our starting goalie has been better than our backup goalie this season, considering that’s kind of how it should be. Turco’s been a bit shaky at times, giving up goals at critical times, but his overall game is much better than it was last season. So far he’s got a .917 sv%. More importantly, he’s sitting with a 2.26 GAA in front of a team that’s scoring 3.43 goals per game on average. That’s behind only Calgary, Washington, and Philly, in case you were wondering. It helps that, unlike the mighty Bruins, the Stars are occassionally managing to score on their PPs. With Brad Richards back and healthy, our middle-of-the-league power play should improve. As long as that happens, and Turco keeps up the good work, the Stars should also continue to improve.

Yahoo by Ross McKeon
Stars: 16 this time; 17 last time. “Marty Turco is off to a better start this season than last. You don’t think it has anything to do with it being a contract year, do ya?”
Of Note: Colorado at 2 this time; 30 last time. “Best story of the early season, bar none. Craig Anderson is emerging as a star in goal. And if you haven’t gotten a glimpse of teen-aged rookies Ryan O’Reilly and Matt Duchene you really are missing something.”
My thoughts: Another ranking, another talk of our goaltending. Turco needs to have a big year, but more than that, the Stars need Turco to have a big year. Of course, Turco being off to a better start this year than last doesn’t say much, considering he started last year with 29 goals against in his first eight games. At least this year, he has a viable backup in Alex Auld (who I still believe in despite his rocky back-to-back starts last week). Meanwhile, Colorado has in Craig Anderson what we wish we could have in Turco, as Anderson has been leading the surprise charge to first place in the West for the Avs.

Overall, despite a less than stellar handful of games to close out the start of the season, the media seems to be remaining pretty optomistic about the Stars. It has been an encouraging first month. They have points in 11 of their first 14 – points that could be very valuable when the playoff crunch rolls around. For November, I’m hoping they start picking up those points in regulation instead of giving away points in a good third of the games they play. As much as the points we’ve gained in OT losses could help us in the final crunch, the points we’ve given to other teams could hurt us. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.

At time of publication, The Hockey News had yet to update their power rankings for the week.

October 29, 2009

Weekly Picture Fantastic

by Chelsea

Welcome to the weekly picture fantastic. This week features pictures from the Stars’ practices and the most recent three games. Enjoy!


Doesn’t Skrastins remind you of Tickle Me Elmo?


Ribs, ready to brush the dirt off his shoulders.


Wandell and Grossman act out a live version of Rock ‘Em Sock ‘Em Robots.


It was good to get B.Rich back to go against the LA Kings.


And the winner of “most awkward body positioning” goes to Tom Wandell.

As always, images are property of their respective owners.

October 27, 2009

Power Rankings Round Up

by Kristine

Dallas continues to move up the power rankings. Let’s take a look at why…

Actual rank: 9th in league; 6th in West; 3rd in Pacific.
Record: 5-2-4. L10: 5-2-3.

ESPN by Pierre LeBrun
Stars: 14 this week; 13 last week. Snubbed by Team Canada at its Olympic orientation camp this past summer, Brad Richards has roared out of the gates with 13 points (3-10) and a plus-5 rating in nine games.“
Of Note: Anaheim at 22 this week; 20 last week. Here’s a deadly combo: 24th in offense and 27th in defense. So far, the balanced scoring we were supposed to see this season hasn’t materialized.”
My thoughts: There are plenty of people on the Stars roster with something to prove this season, and Richards is at the top of that list. Not only was he snubbed by Team Canada, he also has to carry the burden of a loaded contract and the pressure to follow up two less-than-healthy seasons. So far, he’s doing just fine proving the haters wrong. His offense is invaluable to the Stars, and the powerplay noticeably improves with him on the point. We all owe the unbalanced Ducks some thanks – for our win over them, and for Toronto’s win over them. The Leafs got their first win of the season versus them Monday night thanks to a hat trick from Nicklas Hagman, which means they won’t be coming into the AAC tomorrow night hungry for win #1.

The Hockey News
by Ryan Dixon
Stars: 11 this week; 15 last week. Marty Turco starting to hit his stride.
Of Note: Toronto at 30 this week; 30 last week. Maybe return of goalie Jonas Gustavsson can help right ship.
My thoughts: The three power ranking writers rarely agree on many things, but one thing they unanimously have been in agreement on this season is that the Maple Leafs are the league’s worst team. THN published their rankings yesterday, which means they correctly predicted Gustavsson’s return being beneficial to the team (he was in net when they beat the Ducks). With The Monster and his Leafs rolling into town tomorrow night, it’s starting to look like Dallas vs Toronto will be a goalie showdown more than anything. I predict fairly even save percentages, but with the Stars vastly out-shooting the Leafs. If THN is right, and Turco is hitting his stride at the same time our offense is finding its feet, the Stars are on their way to becoming quite the threat in the West.

TSN
Stars: 6 this week; 11 last week. Youth is being served in Dallas, too, as three of their scoring wingers — Loui Eriksson, James Neal and Jamie Benn — are all under 25. Key Injuries: C Mike Modano (ribs), D Matt Niskanen (head).”
Of Note: Buffalo at 1 this week; 6 last week. Starting goaltender Ryan Miller has yet to lose in regulation and his strong play backstops a Sabres team that may not be finishing enough, but is carrying the play, outshooting the opposition by double figures five times already. Key Injuries: None.
My thoughts: No, that is not a typo. TSN – notorious for Canadian team favoritism – has Dallas at 6th and Buffalo at 1st this week. They make a very valid point about the Stars; if it weren’t for our youth (qualifying that as TSN did, with players under 25) scoring, we would be less 17 goals and 27 assists. It’s also interesting to note that every single player under the age of 25 on the Stars roster has recorded at least one assist so far this season. Regardless of our explosion of youth scoring, the other rankers seem a little reluctant to jump on the Dallas bandwagon. TSN seems to be fully on board, which is fun, but a little odd. Last season I was continually frustrated with their lack of faith in the team. It’s nice to see them getting a bit of attention from the Canadian media. As for the Sabres, they’re sitting pretty at 3rd in the East with a 6-1-1 record so far. I chose to feature them for two reasons: they’re a team not named the Penguins who hold the first spot in a ranking, and they were in 6th last week. Can the Stars follow their lead and continue to move up?

In that vein, let’s look at the upcoming schedule. Our next three opponents are Toronto, Florida, and Nashville. If you average out the three power rankings, they are currently at 30th, 28th, and 27th respectively. The Stars are, on average, at 10th right now. On paper, we have the next six points in the bag. However, with Ott suspended until the Nashville game and a few big names already battling injuries, it would be a mistake to go into any of these games over-confident.

In any case, it’s exciting to watch the Stars move up the rankings this season after spending all last season watching them plummet. October is wrapping up, and it’s so nice to say “it’s been 10 games already” instead of “it’s only 10 games…”! Now they just have to keep getting wins and gathering points, and prove to ESPN and The Hockey News why TSN is on their bandwagon.