Getting Back to Basics Has Served Stars Well During Current Streak
Saturday, 02.25.2012 / 8:37 PM / News
By Steve Hunt
As can often happen in the National Hockey League, things have quickly turned around for the Dallas Stars over the past week. The Stars (32-26-4, 68 points) are currently on a three-game winning streak after Friday’s 4-1 win over the Wild, a game that also marked their first victory of the season in the second game of a back-to-back.
“We got a little bit more focus on our starts and a little bit of our puck play has been our focus, our puck management,” Stars head coach Glen Gulutzan said after an optional practice on Saturday. “We’re doing some of the little defensive things that help you keep things tight and win and we’re doing them consistently. That’s what’s enabled us to keep the shots down and the goals against down.”
Gulutzan then added that he feels like there has been some luck involved, but elaborated by saying that when you go to the net on a consistent basis, a team can create its own luck.
“I would say that we’ve gotten some bounces a little bit as far as creating our own bounces. We’ve gotten to the net pretty well,” he said. “We’ve put pucks there, got some screens, tips and I think we’ve done a good job of that.”
Rookie winger Tomas Vincour agrees it doesn’t matter how they score or how pretty a goal is, as long as they find the back of the net and keep winning, which is all that matters this time of year.
“Getting pucks to the net, going to the net and get those greasy goals because this is the time of year that every point matters. It doesn’t matter if you score a pretty goal or an ugly goal, every goal counts,” Vincour said. “We have to be greasy and go to the net hard.”
Veteran defenseman Sheldon Souray agrees that returning to a formula that worked for them earlier in the year, when they got off to a great start under Gulutzan, has been a big factor in their recent success.
“Sometimes simplifying things is definitely the way to go. We got confidence out of that little winning streak we went on. We learned how to play the right way and then we kind of got away from it, thinking that maybe we could play a different way, try to get cute and get results that way,” Souray said.
He added: “We kind of lost our identity there for a second, but I think over the past little bit guys have worked real hard for each other, wanted to simplify things, just do their own jobs and do them well. It’s served us real well because we’re not a fancy team. To be quite honest, we’re not as good as some of the teams that have all that talent. We have to play a certain way and everyone has to play that way. If we don’t it’s noticeable and know it for sure.”
Other than the attention to detail, the Stars have also gotten rock-solid goaltending from both starter Kari Lehtonen and rookie backup Richard Bachman since the All-Star break. Dallas has also gotten strong contributions on both ends of the ice from both Mike Ribeiro and Michael Ryder as they have combined for a total of 26 points in the 14 games since the break.
“He [Ryder] has been very good for us. It seems like the more important the game, the better Ryds goes and we need that,” Gulutzan said. “We’ve got 20 important ones [left].”
The Stars head coach heaped similar praise on Ribeiro but added that part of the reason for his recent surge has been that he’s shooting the puck more.
“Yeah, Ribs has been real good. I think the biggest thing with Ribbie is he’s simplified his game. He’s shooting the puck more,” Gulutzan said. “He’s shot the puck more and in consequence, the other guys have scored more because they’re getting on the net. He needs to shoot more. He can be a 20-goal guy. He thinks so too.”
Ryder attributes his and Ribeiro’s production thus far in the second half to them being very comfortable skating together as well as with linemate Loui Eriksson.
“Maybe we’re getting a little more used to each other and getting a better feel. Loui’s playing with us and he’s been good all year. It’s the time of year where we’ve got to make a push, get on a roll and try to make a playoff spot,” Ryder said. “We knew that we had to try and contribute as much as we can both offensively and defensively to do that.”
The Stars will go for a fourth straight win on Sunday afternoon against Vancouver, a team they have yet to face this season. The Canucks are currently on a two-game winning streak and besides holding the league’s best record at 40-16-6 and 86 points, the reigning Western Conference champions are also an NHL-best 22-10-2 away from home and 8-1-1 in their last 10 games.
“They’ve got a great team and they went to the Finals there for a reason. We’re going to have to be defensively sound and disciplined for sure,” Gulutzan said.
While All-Star center Jamie Benn will miss a sixth straight game on Sunday due to a knee issue, the news appears a bit more favorable when it comes to rookie defenseman Philip Larsen, who took a puck to the face in the final period of Friday’s win over the Wild.
“I would say he’s probable for tomorrow,” Gulutzan said. “He’s just going to have a little bike ride today here and see where he’s at.”