Friday, March 8, 2013

Dallas Stars Game 23: The Good and the Bad

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Dallas Stars 5-2 win at the Los Angeles Kings
Shots: Dallas 22, Los Angeles 33
PP: Dallas 2/3 , Los Angeles 0/1

The Good:

Drawing calls- Too often we’ve seen the Stars end up with much fewer opportunities on the power play than their opponents, but tonight the story flipped. The Stars drew penalties through good, hard work in the offensive zone. Each penalty for the Kings came on a chance when the Stars were attacking the net. Cole was tripped in the first period. Oleksiak was weaving his way to the net when the last defender, Martinez stuck out his knee and tripped up the Big Rig. And Daley drew the hooking call that led to Eakin’s goal by simply skating the puck straight at the net and taking a shot. It’s a very good sign that the Stars finally have a game (yes, even if it’s just one for now) where they know how to draw penalties in the offensive zone rather than commit them there.
This was a good chance by Daley, flying in at the net. He was hooked on the play, but he got a shot off. Quick made the save and the Stars went on the power play. 

Oleksiak pushed up on the forecheck out of nowhere. He stole the puck at the blue line and  made a move to get around one player and protect the puck. Then he put the puck between Martinez's legs, but Martinez led with his knee and knocked the Big Rig down, eliminating the chance but giving the Stars a power play. 

Power play goals- There weren’t very many power play chances for the Stars but they made the few count. On the first goal, the Stars couldn’t even enter the Kings’ zone. It took a few tries and clears, but once they entered the zone and got the puck to an open Benn along the boards, they got a goal. The Stars again struggled to even enter the zone on the 2nd and 3rd power plays. But on the 3rd power play, Eakin’s goal came on a play where he just skated into the zone and right at the net as he kept with the puck.

Dallas goal #1- Jamie Benn (#14, bottom center) sent a pass through the slot and to Jagr (top left) who was headed to the net. He deflected in past Quick. 

Dallas goal #2- Eakin (#20, center) flew into the offensive zone. He stuck with the puck as it bounced off his skate, stick and the Kings' defenders. He finally settled it when he was behind the defense and backhanded it past Quick. 

Back check- The Stars forwards were really strong on the back check this game. Roy was very noticeable on both ends, especially in the defensive zone as he collected rebounds off Lehtonen and took the puck in support behind the net several times. Benn was constantly seen somewhere along the boards and Fiddler seemed to find himself around the Stars’ net often. The most notable back check of the night came on the Stars’ second power play when the kings had a 2-on-1 short-handed chance. Smith sped to the defensive zone, picked his man and tied up the stick to eliminate a high-percentage shot.

My favorite back check of the night. The Stars gave up a short-handed 2-on-1 chance to the Kings but Smith hustled all the way down the ice, took a man and completely shut down the chance. They didn't even get a shot off.

Forecheck- They didn’t throw an extremely aggressive forecheck at the Kings, but rather took a hard-working, opportunistic approach. In the first period, the Stars forced 3 turnovers and two scoring chances off the forecheck alone. There were a number of turnovers turnovers throughout the night in result of the forecheck, and the Fiddler line was probably the best at it this game. Smith’s work deep in the Kings’ zone drew 2 Kings players and led to Morrow’s goal. In the third period, Smith’s forecheck led to him stealing the puck on a misplayed puck by Quick, but his pass to Eakin was deflected away.

Smith attacked the offensive zone, lost the puck but hustled after it. He drew two defenders on him, which allowed Eakin (top left) to swoop in and make a pass to a wide open Morrow (#10, bottom right).

Dallas goal #3- This was Morrow getting a piece of the puck on his goal, just enough to squeeze by Quick for the game-winning goal. 

Kari Lehtonen- Another great job in net. A goal from an open player on a tough angle and a bounce off his defender and in are all that made it by him. He was a mistake-eraser and he made lots of saves through that massive heap of bodies out in front. He was seeing the puck well and got himself in good positions before the puck was ever off the stick. He gave up a few big rebounds, but with all the good he did, especially his positioning, it wasn’t a big deal. He stopped 31 of the 33 shots he faced.

This was a great save by Lehtonen. Williams (#14, bottom left) and Kopitar had a back-and-forth play but Lehtonen read it and, as you can see, he got in position before the shot was even taken.

Another one of the better saves of the night for Lehtonen. Dustin Brown (#23, center) skated at the net from the left post and took the shot at the right post. Lehtonen read the play and was in position the entire time, stifling Brown, not giving him any light to shoot at. 

Mass in front of the net- All 3 lines did well getting a mass of bodies in front of the net to block any Kings shots and chances. Even when a trailing player picked up the puck and seemed to have a good shooting chance, the mass would huddle up and there would be one Stars player sprawling in front of the puck for the block. Lots of the Kings’ shots didn’t make it to Lehtonen thanks to this, and even more rebound and second-chance opportunities were eliminated by it.

Good example of the mass seen several times. Key point is the head man that attacked the puck and sprawled or hustled for the block. 

This mass blocked out three Kings players and led to the empty netter that sealed the deal for the Stars. 

Counterattack- It was extremely prevalent this game. It seems that every broken play or save in the Stars’ zone, resulted in 2 or 3 Stars heading up with the puck into the Kings’ zone.

The Bad:

Faceoffs- Easily one of the worst so far game of the season for the Stars in terms of faceoffs. The Kings won 21 of the first 27 faceoffs and 25 of the first 33. Razor said the Stars lost 9 of 11 draws in the defensive zone through the first half of the game. The Stars finished the game winning only 19 or 60 faceoffs. How did the Stars get their 4th goal? They actually won a faceoff, and it was in the offensive zone. The faceoff win began the play that, a few seconds later, ended in Jagr’s second goal of the night. End stats: Benn won 4 of 16, Roy won 8 of 19, Eakin won 3 of 12, Fiddler won 4 of 10 and Roussel, Cole and Garbutt lost their only draws of the night. 

Power play setup- As said above under power play goals, the Stars could not enter the zone cleanly and furthermore could not get set in the zone. The Kings got way too many easy clears and even got two great short-handed chances on the Stars. They tried tweaking up the defensemen on the power play, putting Robidas in on the first unit and Goligoski on the second, and it instantly paid. Robidas created more opportunities from the point and was better placed to keep the puck in and then Goligoski came on, took the puck up ice and made the pass that led to Eakin’s goal. Stars have been pretty good recently on the power play and they did manage two goals so it’s not that big of a problem at the moment.

Leaving players open to the side- both of the Kings’ goals were a direct result of leaving a man open to the side of the net or a little of the side boards. The first was over pursuit down low by Goligoski and Oleksiak and hesitation by Fiddler out front that left Trevor Lewis open to take a wide wrap around wrister into the net. The second goal was after the the Stars were outplayed behind the net by Mike Richards and Dustin Penner, and Jeff Carter was left wide open in the right circle to throw the puck on net.

Lewis collected the puck behind the net and swung around for a wide bad-angle shot. Fiddler should've attacked the puck instead of standing in front of the net trying to block the shot. Or you can argue that Oleksiak should've been on the puck before Lewis even got it.

Los Angeles goal #1- Goligoski and Oleksiak were both behind the net along the boards, battling one Kings player for the puck. Lewis skated in, took the loose puck, took a wide turn for the wrap around and wristed the puck into the opposite top corner of the net. 

Again a battle behind the net and good work by the Kings' Richards and Penner, and Carter found himself wide open for a pass with 3 Stars behind the icing line. 

Los Angeles goal #2- Carter (#77, bottom center) threw the puck at the net, and it hit off of Jordie Benn's left skate and went into the net. 

Lines seen tonight:
Benn- Daley

PP- Jagr-Benn-Eriksson-Cole-Goligoski
PP- Eakin-Smith-Morrow-Roy-Daley
PK- Fiddler-Nystrom-Jo. Benn-Daley
PK- Eriksson-Roy-Dillon-Oleksiak
PK- Eakin-Cole-Benn-Daley

Notable Notes:
  • Stars are now 6-1-1 in their last 8 games on the road

Re-alignment was approved by the NHLPA. This is how the NHL will be set up next season. More on this in another blog coming soon.

Biggest hit of the night: Doughty absolutely leveled Goligoski as he skated into the zone. Goligoski was ok, got up and didn't miss any time. 

Dallas goal #4- Benn wins an offensive zone faceoff. It goes back to Daley, who shoots it on net. The rebound comes to Benn, and his backhand shot bounced off Quick's pad to a wide open Jagr. 

Dallas goal #5- Richards' shot from the point hit Kari's pad and Roussel makes a little pass ahead to Roy. He skates it out of the zone and shoots wide of the empty net. Roussel was hustling and won the race to the puck and backhanded it in. 

Stars did a good job of simply getting to puck to the net, taking the punishment. Cole and Roussel had good exampled early on. 

This was the coverage that led to the Kings' first goal. Through all of that, Lewis skated in and took the puck easily and eventually scored. Oleksiak should never have been in the position he is here. 
Strange situation during the game. Stoll grabbed Jamie Benn and tackled him to the ice and put him in a headlock. No penalty or anything on the play. (Getty Images)

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