There have been some bumps in the road for Ryan Garbutt this season. There were some costly penalties. There was a five-game suspension for a hit on Anaheim’s Dustin Penner. As a result, there was a challenge from head coach Lindy Ruff.
“We’ve discussed how I would like him to play because I do think he has some real special qualities that can help our team if he keeps his mind in the right place,” Ruff said. “I don’t put any value in him running around hitting people taking penalties, because I don’t think it is a big part of the game or impacts the game in any positive fashion for us. So I issued a challenge to him and [Antoine] Roussel that I don’t want bad penalties and that if we take bad penalties, we just won’t play. I said I am not going to be harsh about it, it’s just going to be simple – if I see something I don’t like the next time we’ll be sitting out.”
And there was a response from Garbutt. Since returning from that suspension he’s been an effective player for the Stars, and over the past few games he’s been a productive player offensively. He has five points (three goals, two assists) in his last three games.
“I took [the challenge] in a positive light,” said Garbutt. “It’s obviously fun playing for Lindy. He’s a great coach and I like to listen to everything he has to say. After he challenged me following the five-game suspension, I’ve tried to play a different kind of game. I’ve tried to be smarter out there and use my speed to my advantage.”
Garbutt’s speed was evident in the Stars’ recent win over Anaheim. He beat Ducks defenseman Cam Fowler to a loose puck and scored to give the Stars their third goal in a 53-second span. That goal turned out to be the game-winner in a 6-3 win, and Garbutt was named the game’s first star after registering a career-high three points.
“He’s so fast,” said Roussel. “To me, he’s one of the fastest guys in the league. He’s got a good shot, and he gets it away quick.”
Garbutt tallied a career- high two goals and registered a career-high eight shots in Sunday’s 3-2 shootout loss to Edmonton. He tallied on a shorthanded breakaway, and had another breakaway chance in the game. He had seven shots on goal in a recent game against the New York Rangers. Since returning from the suspension, he’s registered four goals, two assists in twelve games and has been averaging close to four shots per game.
“He’s creating [opportunities] himself, he’s creating them with speed, he’s doing a really nice job for us,” Ruff said.
And he’s been doing a pretty good job staying out of penalty trouble. There have been a few here and there, but he’s kept the reckless stuff in check. Ruff doesn’t mind the physical stuff, he just wants players to be smart about it.
“It’s great to see good hits, and if they have a chance for a good hit take it,” Ruff said. “I don’t like the momentum swinging hits where you take penalties or the late hits that put the team in a bad place.”
“It’s not difficult. I just have to pick my spots,” said Garbutt. “It’s a lot easier when you have two linemates you trust out there and you know where they are going to be on the ice. It makes it easier to pick my spots, and if I have a chance I am going to take the body. I am trying to create offense and play as strong defensively as I can.”
Garbutt has found some good chemistry playing right wing on a line with center Vernon Fiddler and Roussel on the left side. That line produced three goals in that recent win over Anaheim and has been an effective trio recently.
Left Wing - DAL
Goals: 5 | Assists: 2 | Pts: 7
Shots: 55 | +/-: 0
“We all know where each other are going to be. We play direct,” said Roussel. “When you play direct, you know where the puck is going to go, it’s easy to read and it’s easy to get chemistry.”
It’s been a good formula for the 28-year-old Garbutt, who is in his third NHL season after working his way up through the Central Hockey League, ECHL and AHL following a four-year career at Brown University. Through 20 games this season he has five goals, matching what he produced in 56 games over his first two seasons.
“I feel like I am playing with a little more confidence,” Garbutt said. “Anytime you can help out offensively it is always nice.”
And he’s doing it with discipline, smarts and speed.
“I’ve been trying to use my feet more than my stick,” Garbutt said. “When I use my feet I tend to stay out of trouble.”
And when he’s not getting in trouble, he’s having a positive impact and that keeps head coach Lindy Ruff happy.
“I think he’s really been an effective player for us,” Ruff said. “His focus has been really good.”
This story was not subject to the approval of the National Hockey League or Dallas Stars Hockey Club. Mark Stepneski is an independent writer whose posts on DallasStars.com reflect his own opinions and do not represent official statements from the Dallas Stars. You can follow Mark on Twitter @StarsInsideEdge.