Everyone knew going into this season that the defensemen were not going to be one of the strengths of this team. The defense has been fairly consistent throughout the season. They haven't been very good, but they've been consistent.
And, that's why I said- AVERAGE to BETTER THAN AVERAGE at best.
What has changed recently is the play of the forwards. They're not scoring, they're not helping out defensively, and they're not backchecking the way they were earlier in the season.
That is true, but IMO, that reason is secondary to our defensive squad that gives up way more SOG on most nights. A Copper & Blue post indicated (as of Jan 20, 2011) that our Corsi numbers were rather horrible, save only for (gasp!) Niskanen who had positive numbers. Therefore, even during our best stints, we weren't a good defensive unit and that too against much weaker opponents than what we've faced recently and what we expect to face come March.
Getting guys like Benn and Richards healthy will help, but the team really need Neal and Eriksson to break out of their slumps. It would also help if guys like Langenbrunner would start to contribute.
I see an improved play, but considering our March stint against our divisional opponents, against whom we've fared poorly thus far: 1-2-1 vs Phoenix, 1-2 vs L.A., 1-2 vs Anaheim, and 2-0-1 vs SJ (Do correct me if I'm wrong here), I'd have to say that our chances are rather slim.
The defense is playing at a level that was expected of them. They were bad to start the season and their still bad at this point. The difference is that the forwards have stopped covering the mistakes made by the defense (either by backchecking or simply outscoring the other team). The forwards are capable of playing much better than they have been since the All-Star break. Even if Joe managed to acquire a player like Pitkanen, McCabe, or Rivet, I don't think you would see a significant improvement unless the forwards remembered how to score and backcheck and help out defensively. This isn't a Stanley Cup caliber team, but if guys show up and play a the level they are capable of, this team can easily make the playoffs.
The defense is playing at a level that was expected of them. They were bad to start the season and their still bad at this point. The difference is that the forwards have stopped covering the mistakes made by the defense (either by backchecking or simply outscoring the other team).
I think I already mentioned that despite our forwards covering up mistakes before the ASB, we were still posting overwhelmingly negative Corsi numbers on account of getting outshot almost every other game. I'll just append that with an excerpt from Defending Big D's post-game analysis
"For most of this season, the success of the Stars hinged on the goaltending. We said all along that the goaltending was covering up some very disturbing traits on this team and now that Lehtonen is showing some wear and tear -- the Stars are being exposed. What's amazing is that early in the season the defense was confident and actually showed signs of improvement in front of Lehtonen -- as if his stellar play made them better as a unit. Now, all that progress has been reversed. No longer is the defense making a difference in offensive chances. No longer is the defense maintaining perfect gap control. We're seeing a defense fall apart in front of our eyes and tonight -- despite most goals coming on the power play -- the Stars showed just how many holes truly exist on the blue line."
The forwards are capable of playing much better than they have been since the All-Star break.
I agree. Loui's slump, Neal's agonizingly streaky play, and Langenbrunner's overall ineffectiveness is affecting whatever offense we have left. As for their defensive roles- do read above.
Even if Joe managed to acquire a player like Pitkanen, McCabe, or Rivet,
At this juncture, the team needs two defensive players- one shutdown type of guy and a puck-mover, and realistically, we can't get both of them with our tight budget.
This isn't a Stanley Cup caliber team, but if guys show up and play a the level they are capable of, this team can easily make the playoffs.
The issue really is the forwards and the PK. It's obvious this team's PK misses Benn and Burish. The PK needs some solid drilling and reworking though. It's never been good, even during its best times. Crawford needs to try something different.
The forwards need to be motivated out of this slump. Idk if Burish was the voice in the lockerrom keeping these guys positive, but they all seem down on themselves. Langs has done nothing to help. Neal needs to remember the player he is, Loui needs to get his head on straight, and Ribs needs to step up.
This team shows no heart right now. It's maddening, and sad to see at the same time. Just a month ago we were talking about the Warrior Sword and how much character this lockeroom has. What happened?
Last edited by MetalGodAOD: 02-16-2011 at 01:05 AM.
What a bummer, this season had been such a pleasant surprise thus far, but it's looking more and more like this team is falling back to where most expected them to be...out of the playoffs again. I really don't wanna become the next Florida Panthers.
It's rare to have a team that excels at all positions. It's perfectly reasonable to make a playoff run and win the cup with great play at 2 of the 3 positions. Detroit and Chicago on with forwards and D. The Pens won with forwards and goaltending. The Stars' run in '08 was mostly Morrow and Marty. I'm all for shoring up the D, but I don't want to take quality away from our top 9 to do it.
With that said, the quality of that top 9 has come in to question here recently..
I also agree that the recent slide is mostly due to the forwards. Aside from a few exceptions, they've really fallen flat. Backchecking, shot blocking, cycling/control deep in the attacking zone, supporting the D when the tie a guy up on the boards, staying down close to the D for easy outlet passes.. All of those details have gone by the wayside.. Winning was easy when they were doing all of that stuff, so then they started to play like winning was just plain easy.
Injuries are part of it, but the slide started before Benn and Burish went out. I will say that I think they pull out of this when we get both of them back. Hopefully it's not too late.
I think coaching is partially to blame as well. Look at the Chicago game.. We looked like crap. Then we picked up the hitting, then some of the details came back, then we dominated and tied the game.. For whatever reason, the physical play got our forwards into the swing of things.
But then, after we tied it, the hitting disappeared and the play was back to even. Crawford let the guys off the hook in the hitting department, and let Chicago back into the game.
The hitting was absent in the Columbus and Edmonton games too.