2.18.2009

Columbus vs Dallas and Richards hurt

A few nights ago, the Stars had a win against the Blue Jackets in a shootout. The game was kept close by goaltenders Marty Turco and Steve Mason, while James Neal was scored the shootout winner.

However, perhaps one of the most important events of the game could turn out to hurt the Stars.

Brad Richards took a heavy hit from behind in the second period, and never returned the game. Now it has been announced that Richards will be out for 6-8 weeks with a distal radius fracture in his wrist. That’s probably the most accurate injury report an NHL team’s given out in a while.

However, it’s the length of recovery time that could affect the Stars the most. Recently, Richards had been the second leading scorer on the Stars, and his absence could potentially mess up the lines.

Previous to the injury to Richards, they were:

Ott/Brunnstrom-Ribeiro-Lehtinen
Eriksson-Richards-Lundqvist
Neal-Modano-Connor/Parrish
Petersen-Sutherby=Barch

Now, post injury, there’ll be a huge gap in the second line.

Ott/Brunnstrom-Ribeiro-Lehtinen should stay together, although it’s been more successful with Ott playing bodyguard then with Brunnstrom as another scorer.

Eriksson and Lundqvist could potentially be centered by Petersen, who has a lot of talent, but doesn’t get much ice time to show it. However, he has a lot of chemistry with the team as a whole and his role can be versatile.

Another option is to move Lundqvist to the fourth line, and play Petersen between Eriksson and Brunnstrom. This would leave the Ott-Ribeiro-Lehtinen line together, reunite a solid checking line of Lundqvist-Sutherby-Barch, and allow the Neal-Modano-Connor/Parrish line to remain unchanged.

However, the Stars mainly want Richards back. It will once again be a struggle to make the playoffs for Dallas, as they are now without top players Richards, Brenden Morrow, and Sergei Zubov. They won’t be happy with a playoff-less season after all the work they’ve done to return to that level.

On another note, please, please, Hull, or Jackson, or whoever decided to play Brent Krahn, go back on your decision and return to Tobias Stephan as the backup. There’s nothing wrong with Krahn, but Stephan fits better with the team. Trust me on this one.

2.15.2009

There's a new Sean?

Out of curiosity today, I read the NHL’s story about Sean Avery’s first AHL game since being suspended.

Most of what was expected was there; minimalistic but helpful offensive contribution with three shots on goal, and of course, two minor scraps of the typical Avery fashion.

However, one quote by Avery stood out to me while reading:

“I had a few comments, but nothing that was too drastic,” Avery said. “Or something the old Sean would say.”

That surprised me.

I wasn’t expecting anger management and any personal goals by Sean to turn out that apparent. For Sean to acknowledge that there were major differences between the way he was in December compared to now, that’s probably a big step.

Now, don’t think for a second that I want Sean back with Dallas. He screwed up the chemistry with the team, and since the Stars got rid of him, they’ve been playing like a real hockey team.

But maybe this man, who once waved his arms around in front of Martin Brodeur in an attempt to distract him the same way a 5-year-old might in street hockey, has a chance of making it back to the NHL now. He’s playing in Hartford; the Rangers will have a good long look at him for the rest of the season. Perhaps a deal can be worked out through re-entry waivers? Time will tell.

2.10.2009

The week(-ish length of time) in review

Well, the Stars have had a good week or so since my last blog.

Let’s see…

The Stars had wins against Calgary, New York, and Nashville, while they lost a close one to Colorado.

The highlight of those games was without a doubt the Stars-Rangers match-up.

The Rangers were supposed to be a fairly good team this year, and at times, they were. The game was expected to be close.

However, after a relatively close first half of the first period, the Stars took control. Leading 3-1 going into the second, Nik Zherdev’s minor scare of the game with a goal was quickly silenced as the Mike Ribeiro scored not long after. The third period ensured that Dallas would have a win, as they scored 6 unanswered goals to dominate the Rangers 10-2. Mike Ribeiro, James Neal, Steve Ott, Matt Niskanen, Fabian Brunnstrom, Mike Modano, Jere Lehtinen, and Darryl Sydor all had multi-point games, and Brian Sutherby and Brad Richards each contributed a goal.

The Calgary game wasn’t quite as exciting, but it helped Dallas continue their push for a playoff spot. A 3-1 victory was sparked by power-play goals from James Neal and Jere Lehtinen. The Stars power-play has vastly improved since the start of the season, and is a big reason why the Stars have gotten themselves back into the playoff race. Solid goaltending by Marty Turco also helped.

The game against Nashville, also a win for Dallas, was again spurred by strong special teams play. The Stars didn’t allow a power-play goal, and Brian Sutherby, who’s been picking up his offense with 3 goals in 5 games, managed to score a short-handed goal. Brad Richards popped in a goal on the power-play, Mark Parrish potted a rare shot that turned out to be the game winner, and Steve Ott tied his career high goal-total with an empty-net goal. And once again, Marty Turco, who’s goaltending has been phenomenal as of late, had a great night.

Looking ahead, Dallas’ schedule for February is jam-packed with home games. This will definitely help the Stars in the standings if they can keep up their outstanding play on home ice.

2.03.2009

(Late) Half-season review for Dallas

Again, I have to feel the need to say sorry for not posting in a while, although I’m sure none or very, very few of you missed my blogs.

Anyways.

The Stars have recently gotten their selves back on track, and have jumped to the upper half of the crazy race in the Western Conference. Every team from 6th to 10th place has 53 points, and the Stars are lucky enough to be at the top. However, one slip, and Dallas could be back in 9th, 10th, or even lower. Vancouver sits in 11th with 52 points, and Colorado holds 12th with 49 points. It’s a dangerous predicament, but the Stars should be able to take advantage of their recent success and stay in a playoff spot.

Winning the division is essentially out of the question. The only team ahead of San Jose right now in terms of points has also played 3 more games and is still only 3 points ahead. However, the Stars have the chance to grab second if they play well against Anaheim, who has 57 points, but has taken 53 games to get their 26 wins, compared to Dallas’ 48 games to get 23 wins. Dallas’ only other worry in the division would be Phoenix, who’s had an up and down year but has still managed to keep in the race, putting together 53 points in 51 games.

A 4-game winning streak that the Stars hope to improve upon tonight against Calgary has been yet another sign of the Stars’ turnaround following the departure of Sean Avery. Before the past two games, the Stars hadn’t won 3 or 4 games in a row the entire year.

In the past couple of games, Loui Eriksson and James Neal have regained their scoring touches following a short slump, which makes the Stars offense much more threatening. Mike Ribeiro and Brad Richards are piling up the assists, and Steve Ott has added a scoring touch to his mean streak, racking up 8 goals in 32 games so far, on pace to break his previous career high of 11. The Stars have also received helpful secondary scoring from players like Toby Petersen, Mark Parrish, and Fabian Brunnstrom. Not to mention, veterans Jere Lehtinen and Mike Modano are still capable contributors even at their old age.

In the defenseman position, Stephane Robidas has smoothly taken the spot of blueline leader. Once thought to be a third-pairing guy who wasn’t very necessary, Robidas has taken control of the blueline this year and provided some very helpful offense. Matt Niskanen is also developing an offensive touch, while Trevor Daley seems to have been infected with Orr-itis, often rushing down to the opposing goal line to create an offensive chance. If he’s not careful, the Stars will place him in a Dustin Bfyuglien role and call up Mark Fistric. Meanwhile, Nicklas Grossman, Darryl Sydor, and Andrew Hutchinson have quietly held down the fort in the defensive end.

In goal, Marty Turco has perhaps made the biggest turnaround. At the start of the year, he was horrific. His save percentage was at the lowest of his career, and his goals-against average had ballooned to around 5 goals. In about the past 15-20 games, though, the amazing Marty Turco returned. He’s managed to lower his GAA down to 2.98, and his save percentage is only slightly bad, at %.899. Tobias Stephan hasn’t recieved much action at all, only appearing in 7 games and only getting the win/loss in 3, earlier in the year. If the Stars are locked for a playoff spot with some regular season time left, expect him to get a little more action. Otherwise it’s all Turco, all the time.

The Stars are in the middle of last year and the year before as far as general scoring. Two years ago, Mike Ribeiro was the leading scorer with only 59 points. Last year, he shot up to 83 points to lead the team again. At 43 points so far this year, he’s leading the team and will likely get more than 59 for the year, but it would probably take some gargantuan effort (or the surprise return of Brenden Morrow in the next week) for Ribeiro to best his 83 points of last year.

Despite the relatively low scoring, however, the Stars appear to have regained their usual talent and could be up in the top of the league as soon as next season, if not later this year.