Posts tagged ‘THN’

October 20, 2010

Power Rankings Round Up

by Kristine

Welcome back to the Round Up. This week, there’s a lot of focus on stats at THN and TSN, and ESPN rates based on season predictions in addition to play so far.

Actual rank: 8 pts, good for 1st in Pacific, 2nd in West, 5th in league.
Record: 4-1-0. L10: 4-1-0.

ESPN by Pierre LeBrun (Oct 18)
….Stars: 5 this week; 3 last week. “OK, OK … I can’t totally ignore early-season perfection. Brad Richards (UFA July 1) has been on fire, and so has goalie Kari Lehtonen, who is the masked man GM Joe Nieuwendyk is gambling on to turn around the fortunes of this franchise.”
….Of Note: Chicago at 8 this week; 22 last week. “Two weekend victories and Hawks fans can step off the ledge. Two weekend wins by Marty Turco, no less, I might add. The veteran netminder was terrific in both victories.”
….My Thoughts: Let’s just go ahead and get this out of the way. Turco is starting to play better without us, and we’re already playing better without him. I have mixed feelings about this. On the one hand, good! Glad we’re doing better without him because I spent all last season wishing he would go away.  But on the other hand, why does he have to be playing well too? It’s like a breakup. You want to be the one moving on while the other person flounders around without you. Or maybe that’s just me… In any case, I’m happy to see that we’re still at 5th in this week’s ESPN rankings, because LeBrun stated in his intro that he’s ranking teams this week based on his projects “for the rest of the season, too. So no, the Leafs and Stars will not be ranked 1-2.” Fair enough. If that’s his criteria, I am MORE than happy with 5th. That puts us smack in the middle of the playoffs. Just for fun, let’s see how those playoffs would shake out if the league really ends up in the order LeBrun has it in this week.
….Taking into account division leader seeding, the first round in the East would look like this: Capitals (1) vs Thrashers (8); Maple Leafs (2) vs Penguins (7); Flyers (3) vs Lightning (6); Bruins (4) vs Canadiens (5). Some good match-ups there. I’d be interested to see Flyers vs Lightning especially, and the Habs would have a chance to redeem themselves from their first-round loss to the Bruins last year. Then in the West, you would have: Red Wings (1) vs Avalanche (8); Kings (2) vs Sharks (7); Blackhawks (3) vs Canucks (6); Predators (4) vs Stars (5). Kings vs Sharks would be fun, and serve to eliminate a Pacific team right off the bat, like last year with Sharks vs Ducks. I would be okay with facing the Preds in the first round. We were 2-1-1 against them last year and 2-2-0 against them in 08-09.
….This is a pretty useless exercise since there is a looooonnnnggg season still ahead of us and chances are very, very slim that the playoffs will look like this at all. But if anything, it will be interesting to look back and see who’s still on top.

TSN by Scott Cullen (Oct 18)
….Stars: 1 this week; N/A last week. “Such is the dominance of the Stars through four games: while all four games have been wins, two were via shootout and one in overtime, so while it’s a strong start for the Stars, it cannot be overstated how premature these rankings are at this stage of the season. Key Injuries: LW Jamie Benn (concussion).”
….Of Note: Florida at 6 this week; N/A last week. “Such is the nature of the early rankings, the Panthers have recorded shutout wins in half of their games, allowing a total of five goals against in four games. As great as Tomas Vokoun (1.26 GAA, .952 SV%) is, 40 shutouts this season is a longshot. Key Injuries: None.”
….My Thoughts: This is TSN’s first power ranking of the season, and the Stars are first. It’s still weird to me that we were the last unbeaten team in the league (Toronto lost their fifth game about an hour before we did), and I appreciate that we’re getting credit for it around the league. However, Cullen makes a good point – only one of our four wins to start the season was in regulation. We still found ways to win in overtime and the shootout, but I’d really love to stop giving 75% of our opponents an OT point. So how much does our strong start really mean? It’s hard to say. On the one hand, there have been some huge positives in the first five games. I can’t say enough about how solid and calm Lehtonen has been in net so far. The top lines are churning out points like it’s their job (oh, wait…), and the league’s top five in plus-minus are all Stars. Niskanen is actually laying hits on people, Burish has a great energy about him, and overall everyone seems to have a great attitude. But. There’s always one of those, isn’t there? But we can’t overlook the fact that we are dead last in the league with our disastrous PK. Chels put up a great post about how that could improve, but unfortunately for all involved, nobody important cares what we think.
….Another point of concern is that we’re allowing an average of 3.00 goals against per game. That isn’t worst in the league, but it’s close at 21st. Best in the league? The Panthers, who we play tomorrow night, at 1.25 goals against per game. I guess you could consider it lucky that we’re at the top of the league in goals FOR per game (at 3.60), but they’re right behind us with 3.00 G/G. That really doesn’t balance out in our favor. In order to beat them, we’re going to have to take FAR fewer penalties and allow far fewer goals against. One way to do that might be to take a long, hard look at our shots against per game versus shots for per game, a ratio that averages out to 38.0 : 21.8 (second to last and last in the league). If you isolate those stats, it’s amazing that we’re winning hockey games. If there are solutions to these problems, they need to be found quickly.

THN by Adam Proteau (Oct 20)
….Stars: 5 this week; 5 last week. “Only Anaheim averages more shots allowed than Stars’ 38.0”
….Of Note: New Jersey at 29 this week; 29 last week. “Jason Arnott, Patrik Elias and Jamie Langenbrunner a combined minus-18.”
….My Thoughts: Oh look, I’m not the only one calling out the Stars on how many shots per game they’re allowing. I don’t even know what else to say about this, other than it needs to change. As far as stats go, I’m just glad not to be a Devils fan. They’ve had a rough start to the season – 1-4-1 – and three of their top players are a combined -18. They aren’t the only ones struggling – even without them, the rest of the team combined is -29. Only four players are pluses (maxing out at +3), four are even, and the rest are at least -1. In contrast, only five Stars are negatives (with -3 being the worst), five are even, and the rest are at least +4. Of course, stats don’t tell the whole story, but they do provide some helpful details. I’d talk more about this, but quite frankly I’m already sick of analyzing numbers. Let’s just hope the Stars can improve a few areas of their game so we don’t have to hear about these things all season.

So there you have it, everyone. Do you agree or disagree with these rankings?

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 12, 2010

Power Rankings Round-Up

by Kristine

Hey everyone, welcome back to the weekly Power Ranking Round Up. This is a feature I will be posting once a week, after all the power rankings are released at ESPN, THN, and TSN. Last season this was on Monday or Tuesday so unless the rankings are published on a different day this season, I’m going to stick with Tuesday for my posts. For now, only ESPN has updated their rankings for the start of the season. Normally I would wait to make this post until next week, but their opinion and rank of the Stars is something I want to talk about. So without further ado, let’s kick this off for 2010-11.

Actual rank: 1st in Pacific, 3rd in the West, 7th in the league.
Record: 2-0-0. L10: 2-0-0.

ESPN by Scott Burnside
Stars: 3 this week; 20 last week. “Who knows how long the Stars can stay at this lofty perch, but kudos to coach Marc Crawford for helping his team earn two straight road wins in New Jersey and Long Island out of the gate. Who knows? It may help spur the sale of the team, if nothing else.”
Of Note: Pittsburgh at 27 this week; 7 last week. “A disappointing start at the Consol Energy Center for Pittsburgh after the Penguins dropped back-to-back one-goal games. Goalie Marc-Andre Fleury has shined at times but looked weak on Montreal’s winning goal Saturday night. Surprising lack of finish for the Pens early on.”
My thoughts: That is not a typo. Burnside really did rank us third in the league this week, only under the Wings (1) and Hurricanes (2).  Just let that sink in for a second. I took a few minutes to scan through all my old PRRU posts and the highest anyone has ranked us since I started in February of 2008 was 6th, and that only happened twice at the end of October 2009. We’ve been ranked in the teens or twenties every other time. I guess being one of five teams to start the season with a 2-0-0 record earns us a little bit of respect. In case you were wondering, the other four are Detroit, Carolina, Toronto, and Edmonton. So a few surprises there. There are also a big surprise on the (shorter) list of teams that started out 0-2-0: Pittsburgh, Anaheim, and Ottawa. I mostly find this notable because I can’t stand the Penguins, and I’m enjoying our spot at the top even more because they get to experience life at the bottom for now. However, personal bias aside, it’s a perfect example of one reason I love hockey: every season is truly a new season. Things can change so much between June and October. Who would have ever predicted we would have 2 wins in a back-to-back road trip to start the season? And who would have predicted the Penguins would drop their first game, not only of the season but also in their new stadium, and to a division rival at that? Probably very few people. But that’s how it’s played out, and it’s a lesson that this season is a fresh start and a chance to get back into the winning tradition we’ve been spoiled to have around here.

THN by Adam Proteau
Stars: 4 this week; n/a last week. “Two road wins to start season is great news, but they’ll need to beat good teams before they’re taken seriously
Of Note: Detroit at 1 this week; n/a last week. “Ageless wonder Nick Lidstrom leads all Wings skaters in average time on ice (24:57)
My thoughts: Well. Detroit is coming up. If we beat them – which will mean three wins in a row for the first time since 08-09 – will we be taken seriously? Or do we have to beat the Penguins, Hawks, Caps, Sharks, etc as well? Something tells me it’s going to take a huge start this season for people to consider the Stars as contenders for the playoffs. After the last few seasons, we have to prove that our 2-0-0 start is not just a fluke – and it’s not just the media that’s skeptical. The fans are, too. I know I’m nervous about Thursday. Win three in a row? With the third being against Detroit? Eek.  Speaking of the dreaded Wings, they have the top spot according to Adam. They have a 2-0-1 record coming into Thursday’s game and have looked pretty on-point so far. Both of their goalies have had pretty good starts – Howard has a .932 sv% in two games and Osgood had a .929 sv% in his one game – and their big names are putting up points early. ll Basically, it’s going to be a good game Thursday night. We’ll be there, applauding Mo’s return and waiting on the edge of our seats for the Stars to give people a reason to take them seriously.

So there we have it. One ranking, one top three spot, one fresh start. If that isn’t a reason for optimism, please find me something that is. That’s it for this week, but if The Hockey News or TSN update their power rankings in the next few days, I’ll update the post to include them. Otherwise, I’ll be back next week. Go Stars!

Update: THN’s rankings are in. I’ve updated the post with them.

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 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 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.

October 14, 2009

Power Ranking Round-Up

by Chelsea

With the first road trip out of the season out of the way, it’s time to see how the people-in-the-know around the league are feeling about the Stars.

Actual rank: 17th in league; 9th in West; 4th in Pacific.
Record: 1-0-3. L10: 1-0-3.

ESPN by Scott Burnside
Stars: 18 this week; 25 last week. “The Stars are undefeated in regulation and beat up on the Flames and backup Curtis McElhinney. Sophomore James Neal is off to a good start with three goals and an assist.”
Of Note: Toronto at 30 this week; 28 last week. “Easily the worst team in the NHL right now. No goaltending. Can’t kill penalties. Aren’t even that tough. Ouch.”
My thoughts: The bad thing about dropping three points in three shootout losses? …Well, dropping three points in three shootouts. But the good thing about it? Technically, the Stars are undefeated right now. The only other team in the league to be without a regulation loss so far is Buffalo. Of course, losing three times in post-regulation play versus winning three times is a little different. The Stars are going to have to work on a few details of their game if they want to start picking up the full two points. One major detail they can relax a little bit about is the backup situation. Alex Auld carried the team to their one win – and The Monster’s problems in Toronto have us appreciating Auld that much more. He’s already been placed on IR, leaving the Leafs with a struggling Vesa Toskala in net and the second-worst penalty kill in the league (behind only – you guessed it – the Stars).

The Hockey News
by Ryan Dixon
Stars: 19 this week; 18 last week. “Wonder if Fabian Brunnstrom will just fade into oblivion.”
Of Note: Nashville at 18 this week; 16 last week. “Continued production from Patric Hornqvist would help paltry offense.”
My thoughts: As much as it pains me, I think we’re all kind of wondering that about Fabian Brunnstrom. I heard a rumor that spoke of the Stars using him as trade bait for a puck-moving defenseman and in some ways, that makes sense. Send him somewhere else before he gets a reputation as being a free-agent bust; use him while he still has some trade value. He also doesn’t seem to fit into the line-up the way fellow sophomore James Neal or rookie Jamie Benn do. You also have to wonder if he would be farther along in his development if he had been playing somewhere else (like Detroit). Maybe he’s a bust, maybe he’s having trouble adjusting, or maybe the Stars just aren’t the best fit for him. I think he has extraordinary potential, but I’m not sure he can reach it in Dallas. As for Nashville, let’s keep our fingers crossed that their “paltry offense” keeps ticking right along, at least through tonight. They’ve scored six goals in their four games, which averages out to a league-worst 1.5 per game. The Stars are scoring 3.5 times per game on average. If the trends continue, tonight’s game against them ought to have a good outcome.

TSN
Stars: 17 this week; 21 last week. “The Stars are playing strong defensively, giving up just 24.5 shots per game, so they would fare better if G Marty Turco can improve on his .880 save percentage.Key Injuries: C Mike Modano (ribs). “
Of Note: Detroit at 19 this week; 3 last week. “A sluggish enough start to the season is now compounded by the injury to Johan Franzen. For a Wings team that was already dealing with the loss of Marian Hossa in the offseason, they’ll have to find some new sources of offence to make up for the 74 goals that Hossa and Franzen tallied last season. Key Injuries: RW Johan Franzen (knee).”
My thoughts: How ironic, that the Stars are playing strong defensivley in an offensive-minded system when they couldn’t block shots to save their lives in a defensive system. TSN is the only site this week to mention Turco’s struggles. Some people have said it’s only three games, give him a chance to work through it – but really, isn’t it a season and three games now? I thought the off-season was his chance to work through it. I don’t know where the Marty Turco of old has run off to, but he is no longer in Dallas. That being said, much has been made of our absolutely awful PK this season. The Stars are playing great defense on even strength, but as soon as they go a man down, they’re getting scored on. Chels made a BOLD PREDICTION in her game review of the Vancouver game that involves changing up the personnel on the ice during our penalty kills. That may be the solution here. In the meantime, Detroit at 19? Two spots below the Stars? Ouch. They may be missing some offensive stars, but I don’t think that makes them so much weaker of a team that they should be dropped 16 spots this week. Detroit always finds a way to win, and I think it would be a mistake to let your guard down when it comes to this team. They’ve been a powerhouse team for years, and that isn’t going to change now.

So let’s review. Once again, the Stars don’t crack the top 15 on any list. All three sites rank us about the same: TSN at 17, ESPN at 18, and THN at 19. Tonight’s game against Nashville will be a big one. Nobody seems very worried about our offense this season, and for once nobody is worrying about our blueline. The main concerns, in the media and locally, are Turco and our league-worst PK. Big problems, to be sure, but hopefully nothing that some hard work and creative thinking won’t fix.

October 6, 2009

Power Rankings Round-Up

by Kristine

Hockey games that mean something are finally back, and that means so are power rankings that mean basically nothing. I’ll be updating every Tuesday with a look at what the experts think of the Stars, as well as other teams around the league. Let’s see where we rank as the season kicks off…

Actual rank: 19th in league; 9th in West; 3rd in Pacific.
Record: 0-0-1. L10: 0-0-1.

ESPN by Pierre LeBrun
Stars: 25 this week; 26 last week. “The blue line is a concern, but there’s not a lot of money to spend.
Of Note: St Louis at 4 this week; 12 last week. “Can’t wait for that season opener at the Scottrade Center. Just hope the roof doesn’t collapse from all the noise. A great market finally gets a team worth cheering for. Talk about a statement with two season-opening wins in Stockholm over the mighty Red Wings.
My thoughts: If even ESPN is worried about it, you know there’s some cause for concern. A Cup contender needs to have at least one of two things: a strong blueline, or an elite goalie. At this point, we definitely don’t have one and we’re twiddling our thumbs while we wait to see if we have the other. Our young guns on the line are constantly improving, but mistakes happen. When they do, Turco needs to be there as our final defense – and he wasn’t last season. As for the Blues, they have the honor of being the biggest jump this week – from 12th to 4th. They’ve got some very talented offensive players rising through their ranks in TJ Oshie and Patrik Berglund, and they added former Star Darryl Sydor to their blueline. Syd joins fellow former Stars BJ Crombeen and Brad Winchester, who give the Blues some grit. They’re definitely a team to be aware of this season. Finally, it’s interesting to note that this is week 2 of ESPN’s power rankings for this season, and they started the Stars at 26th. Wonder where we’ll be ranked this time next month?

The Hockey News by Ryan Dixon
Stars: 18 this week; n/a last week. “Wonder what James Neal’s high-end output is; 35 goals, maybe?
Of Note: L.A. Kings at 27 this week; n/a last week. “Super sophomore Drew Doughty scores two points, but is a minus-2 in opening 6-3 loss to Coyotes.”
My thoughts: It’s Neal vs Doughty in the Pacific Division Battle Of The Sophomores, and James Neal is winning. His two goals and even plus/minus bests Doughty’s goal, assist, and -2 plus/minus. On Saturday, Neal reminded us why we loved him as a rookie: he missed an easy open net, banged a few bodies into the boards, and nailed an impossible shot that went straight to the back of the net. Twice. We saw the same thing last season. He gets frustrated and uses it as motivation. With that kind of attitude, 35 goals does seem like a reasonable thing to aim for (pun barely intended). As for Doughty and the Kings, here’s hoping they’re not quite the Cup contender the buzz made them out to be during pre-season.

Yahoo by Ross McKeon
Stars: 17 this week; n/a  last week. “Firing Dave Tippett was a big mistake. Dallas’ loss is Phoenix’s gain. And wouldn’t the Stars be shocked to have the Coyotes finish ahead of them? Just might happen. Either way, Dallas isn’t going to make the top eight in the West for the second straight year. And it’ll be Marty Turco’s last season in Big D.
Of Note: Phoenix at 20 this week; n/a last week. “Watch out here. Everyone thinks the disaster off the ice will make the Coyotes an easy mark. Not so. Dave Tippett is a solid coach who knows the Pacific Division very well. Phoenix is going to surprise even if they don’t finish in the top eight.
My thoughts: Yahoo is new to my round-ups this season. I both agree and disagree with them on their assessment of the Stars. I do think this may well be Turco’s last year – unless he is a maker of miracles and plays Vezina-level hockey all season – but I’m optimistic enough to believe we’ll finish in the top eight. And the reason I believe that is because I think firing Tippett was exactly the right move. It’s hard to judge with just one regular season game under our belts, but so far the Stars seem motivated and cohesive under Crawford. They’re working harder than they have in years, and I think it’ll pay off. As for Phoenix, maybe Tippett is their gain, but Tippett needs to take a more open approach to developing his youth than he ever did in Dallas. Phoenix is a young team, and Tipp prefers to coach older, more experienced players. It remains to be seen if that will be a problem there like it was here. Either way, Phoenix vs Dallas might become a bigger rivalry now than it has been in the past.

So let’s see here. Yahoo has us highest, at 17th. THN has us at 18th, and ESPN has us at a lowly 25th. Clearly, the expectations going into this season are low, at least from the media. I can’t say I’m too torn up about this; the Stars love being the underdogs, and this gives them a chance to blow some socks off. And if they come out of the gate flailing instead of swinging, nobody will be disappointed. Really, it’s a win-win (but fingers crossed for swinging).

At time of publication, Andrew’s and TSN had yet to update their power rankings. I’ll update this post with them as they come out.

March 17, 2009

Power Rankings Round-Up

by Kristine

It’s Tuesday, which means it’s time to check out the weekly power rankings. This week, I’ll be taking a look at the playoff race in the West.

Actual rank: 18th in league; 8th in West; 2nd in Pacific.
Record: 33-28-8. L10: 4-5-1. Points: 74.

Andrew’s by Mark Stepneski
Stars: 16 this week; 18 last week. “The Stars’ top line of Steve Ott, Mike Ribeiro and Loui Eriksson are carrying the offensive load right now. Key road trip to Vancouver, Calgary and San Jose this week.”
Of Note: Detroit Red Wings at 2 this week; 3 last week. “The Red Wings are on a 3-0-1 run and have hit the 100-point mark for the ninth straight season.”
My thoughts: While the Stars have been busy fighting for that 8th seed, the Wings have been busy becoming the first team to clinch a playoff spot this season. As the standings sit as I write this, that makes them our first-round match-up. I actually feel pretty good about that. The Stars have played very well against the Wings this season, 6-1 loss at the Joe aside. Plus, Turco finally won at the Joe earlier this year, which hopefully would boost his confidence should we find ourselves facing them to kick off the post-season.

ESPN by Joy Russo
Stars: 21 this week; 21 last week. The Stars are 7-for-64 on the power play since playing their first game without Brad Richards (broken wrist) on Feb. 19.
Of Note: San Jose Sharks at 4 this week; 5 last week. “Evgeni Nabokov returns and the Sharks win two straight games.”
My thoughts: The Sharks win two straight – and become the second team to clinch a playoff spot. If the Stars keep hovering between 7th and 8th, and the Sharks and Wings keep battling it out for 1st and 2nd, chances are good that we’ll face the Sharks in the first round. This is another match-up I like. Sharks fans are already worried about their team choking in the post-season, the Stars have played hard and well against the Sharks this season (even if the scores didn’t always reflect that), and we should get a bit of a confidence boost from knowing that we”re the ones who booted the Sharks out of the playoffs last season. ESPN makes a good point about our special teams, but with Richards already doing full practices, the outlook for our PP isn’t as bleak as it seems. Richards back on the point will help that dismal 7-for-64 record a lot.

The Hockey News by Ryan Dixon
Stars: 18 this week; 22  last week. “Coach Dave Tippett may have found something putting Brendan Morrison on the right side with center Mike Modano.”
Of Note: Chicago Blackhawks at 15 this week;  10 last week. “Starting to feel like a first round playoff win will be tough, especially if they line up against Vancouver.”
My thoughts: If there’s one spot I really hope we don’t end up in, it’s the 5th seed lining up against the 4th place Hawks. I think it goes without saying that meeting them in the post-season would likely be a disaster. To be entirely honest, I hope THN is right and that Vancouver knocks them out for us so we don’t have to deal with them at all in the playoffs. THN also touches on Tippett’s movement of Morrison to Mo’s wing, something Heika talks about today on his blog. With Lehtinen on the other side, where does that leave James Neal? Him and Mo have both played their best hockey this season when on a line together, but they’ve also both found chemistry with other lines. I think our post-season success will be based largely on whatever line chemistry Tippett manages to create. Obviously Ott-Ribs-Louibot is lethal, but I’ve also liked Neal-Sutherby-Bunny and yes, Lehts-Mo-Morrison (which I’m counting based purely on the fact that even though he hasn’t actually played there yet, Lehts will improve Mo and Morrison’s chemistry because that’s what he does).

TSN
Stars: 23 this week;  22 last week. A good sign for the Stars is that LW Loui Eriksson, who was expected to see his production slip since Brad Richards’ injury, has shown he can get it done anyway, scoring 11 points in the last eight games. Key Injuries: C Brad Richards (wrist), RW Jere Lehtinen (upper body).
Of Note: Nashville Predators at 19 this week; 14 last week. “Losing three of four, to go with the No. 1 centre being sidelined, knocks the Preds down, but they are still in that playoff mix, tied for the last spot in the West. Key Injuries: C Jason Arnott (upper body).
My thoughts: TSN continues to hate the Stars, moving usdown a spot even as they compliment our leading goal-scorer. That aside, valid point. Loui is a point powerhouse for us and his consistent production is one of the key reasons we’re still in the mix despite our six-game slide. The Preds are in a similiar situation as they’ve gone 2-2-1 in their L5. They’re currently trying to swing back up with two wins in their last two games, and it’s put them at one point ahead of the Stars in the 7th seed. Add the Oilers’ 73 points to the mix, and you’ve got a real battle for the last two seeds.

What do you think? Who would you most and least want to face in the first round, and why?

March 10, 2009

Power Rankings Round-Up

by Kristine

Welcome to the return of PRRU. I skipped last week due to the excitement of the trade deadline, and a lot has happened between the last one, on February 24, and this round. Petersen was placed on IR, we acquired Steve Begin from Montreal, Ott got mugged and suspended, we went on a five-game losing streak at home, we snagged Brendan Morrison off waivers from the Ducks, and Landon Wilson returned from his shoulder injury. Looking at that laundry list, it will be interesting to see how our rankings have changed. I’ll be noting not only where we are this week compared to last week, but where we were for my last PRRU post (pre-trade deadline).

Actual rank: 19th in league; 9th in West; 2nd in Pacific.
Record: 31-27-8. L10: 3-6-1.

Andrew’s by Mark Stepneski
Stars: 18 this week; 21 last week; 11 pre-deadline. “Stars’ come off solid 2-0-1 road trip by losing to Montreal to extend their home losing streak to six games.”
Of Note: Nashville Predators at 16 this week; 18 last week. “The Predators’ six-game winning streak ends with a 4-1 loss in Philadelphia. Nashville with a 12-5 edge in third period goals over their last eight games. “
My thoughts: See what losing six straight home games will do? Bump you down on EVERY list – including power rankings and playoff contenders and actual league rankings. What good does a solid 5-of-6-points road trip do when you can’t win a home game? If anything, the back and forth and lack of consistency is dooming the team to missing both the playoffs and a decent draft pick. In the mean time, while the Stars are busy losing, the Preds have been busy winning. They currently sit above the Stars in the 8th seed in the West and seem to be making a hard last-hour push. Are they the Stars’ biggest competition right now? I might say yes if I didn’t believe that the Stars’ biggest competition is themselves.

ESPN by Joy Russo
Stars: 21 this week; 20 last week; 11 pre-deadline. “There’s no place like the road for the Dallas Stars? They matched a franchise record with their sixth consecutive home loss in Sunday’s 3-1 decision versus the Canadiens. Last time that happened? 1970.”
Of Note: Anaheim Ducks at 20 this week; 15 last week. “Chris Pronger and Scott Niedermayer are still in town, Travis Moen and Kent Huskins are not, and the Ducks seem to be slowly falling further out of playoff contention.
My thoughts: It’s no secret that I hate the Ducks. Their players are dirty and they’re just mediocre enough that I can’t respect them for their talent. So to hear that people consider them to be falling further out of playoff contention makes me happy until I realize that their L10 of 3-6-1 is exactly the same as our L10. Ouch. Going by that, if they’re falling out of playoff contention, so are we. ESPN touches on the fact that our six home losses is good for worst home losing streak since the Stars moved to Dallas. It amazes me, honestly, that anyone can still consider us playoff contenders when we’ve been on the worse side of inconsistent since the end of our five game winning streak at the end of January. Take a look at the last 20 games, which starts in the middle of said winning streak: W W W L W W L W L W W L L L L L W O W L. Can you imagine if you condensed that into a seven-game playoff series? Winning every other game won’t get you very far into the playoffs in that scenario, depending on if your series went W L W L W L W or L W L W L W L. Playing all seven games of every round would exhaust even the best teams. The Stars are going to have to find a way to win more than two games in a row soon if they want to even think about beating other teams in the post-season.

The Hockey News by Ryan Dixon
Stars: 22 this week;  25 last week; 13 pre-deadline. “Just seem to be sucking fumes these days.
Of Note: St Louis Blues at 19 this week; 14 last week. “Not dealing Keith Tkachuk shows St. Louis believes it can make the playoffs now.
My thoughts: I think THN sums it up well. It’s not the most insightful comment that could be made, but it’s true. The Stars seem to be running on empty lately. They’ll pull out a game or two here and there that will give everyone hope, and then it’s back to sloppy hockey (see: Anaheim, Montreal games). Sometimes they only manage a period or two of good hockey before sputtering out. Is it the result of playing with a playoff mindset for the entire last half of the season? Is the injury situation finally hitting home and wearing them out? Speculate all day if you want to, but I agree with the person who said we should change our motto to “Our Team, Next Time.” Obviously something just isn’t clicking this season, but the parts are all there and ready to work together next season. In the meantime, the Blues are hanging out at the bottom of the playoff race with 66 points. They’re 6-3-1 in their L10 and their next game? A home game against the Stars tonight. We lost to them 3-1 two weeks ago as part of our dismal homestand, and with them pushing for that 8th seed, it’s going to be a tough match-up.

TSN
Stars: 22 this week;  22 last week; 19 pre-deadline. “Grabbing Brendan Morrison off the waiver wire isn’t exactly making a big push for the postseason, but he’s a serviceable stopgap on the Stars’ decimated forward ranks. Key Injuries: C Brad Richards (wrist), RW Jere Lehtinen (upper body).
Of Note: Phoenix Coyotes at 28 this week; 28 last week. “In the grand scheme of things, the Coyotes aren’t necessarily much worse off without Olli Jokinen, Daniel Carcillo, Derek Morris and Mikael Tellqvist, but they’re on a streak of six straight games in which they haven’t scored more than two goals, so it’s hard to say they’re better. Key Injuries: None.
My thoughts: You can add “Fabulous Fabian” Brunnstrom to that list of key injuries, as I consider him to be an important cog in the duct-taped machine that is the Stars this season. I’m disappointed in the lack of impact Morrison has had so far; the only thing he’s really done has been to center Neal and Brunnstrom, which was not nearly as fiery as when Sutherby centered it. However, like TSN points out, he’s a body, and we’re short on those right now. It’s also important to note that no matter how bad we are, we still aren’t the Yotes! Our franchise is firmly planted here in Dallas, and we’re in the 9th seed and not the Coyotes’ 14th. As far as division rivals go, the Coyotes may have our number this season, but we seem to be the only team they can beat right now.

As always, what do you agree or disagree with? I’d love this series to be an open forum for you guys to share your thoughts on where the Stars are at and how they’ve been playing, so please feel free to comment.