Posted Oct 24, 2009, 11:05 PM CDT
The Stars are in St Louis tonight to finish their road trip and take on another team that seems to give them fits recently. In fact, it just looks like they have had too much speed for last year's version of the Stars. We shall see if that form holds tonight in another good test for the Marc Crawford Stars.
But, this roadtrip so far has been enough to tell us that this team seems to have plenty of intrigue.
Example: I have been asked several times what I think so far of this team.
I have no stinking idea. If anything, I may be more confused about how the Stars are than I was before the season started. At least in September, there wasn't the to and fro nature of watching a consistently inconsistent team tease, disappoint, rise up, and repeat.
Last year was easier. They didn't rise up too much, so when they disappointed, at least you knew what to expect.
This team is different. I am not sure how much better they are (as time will be the ultimate test) - but efforts like hanging on for a result in Anaheim when they were under a full siege and then fighting back for a point in Los Angeles when all hope seemed lost down 4-1 after 2 periods tell us that they seem to be finding out for themselves that success can follow hard work.
I love that. I also love that some of the finer moments have been performed by the kids. Benn and Neal and Fistric on Thursday is nice to see. We need more like that.
There is no doubt they need some better fortune with health. If they lose 91, 63, 10, 29, 3, or 35 for any length of time they will be in big trouble. For different reasons, this team cannot survive time without those pieces. Brad Richards, for example, provides almost a 50% jump in Power Play success when he is in the lineup. Since 2008, they jump from 11% to 17% when he joins them. That is too much to overcome.
I will tell you that the results in Chicago, Anaheim, and Los Angeles are all encouraging, but at the same time the games give you a real uneasy feeling about the ease with which the opponents can turn the corner on our defensemen. This is something that gave me pause the entire summer, and when the Stars were unable to make a significant upgrade with the group we knew this was coming. But, for this team to continue to find the success that it is looking for, Charlie Huddy, Crawford, and the guys will need to get that cleaned up.
Kopitar's magic show on Thursday was special, but it shouldn't be that easy. In all 3 games, the Stars spent time pinned in their own end. I think this is where they need to focus when they get some days to practice after St Louis. They must work on proper breakouts, and owning more of the possession. In home and road games alike, the Stars spend huge chunks of the game being dominated in their own end. Even if the results haven't been devastating yet, that seems like a recipe for disaster down the road. I think that is an often underrated attribute of 3rd and 4th lines. They may not score, but they must play 200 feet of the ice and get a solid forecheck going. If not, and if they cannot get down the ice at all, then they are just hurting your overall effort when the 1st and 2nd lines get a quick break on the bench.
So, in conclusion, ahead of tonight's game against Doug Armstrong's young and promising squad, I like some of what I see so far. But, as any of you would likely also say, I want more of the good and less of the bad. I would also like to see the Stars take some of these home games by the scruff of the neck. But that must wait until Wednesday when Toronto rolls in. Until then, let's see them stand up to the Blues.
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