Establishing a balance is crucial to a team’s identity. Balancing the desire to be patient and capitalize on your opponents’ mistakes with forcing the other team to make those mistakes instead of waiting around for them to happen.
Both styles have pros and cons. Being overly aggressive opens up your defense and leads to odd man rushes. Sitting back and being patient will get you dissected by some of the most offensively lethal players in the league. The problem for the Stars is they at times this season switch back and forth between the two extremes.
No team is going to walk the line between these two styles perfectly, but, the Stars fluctuate back and forth depending on the score and time left on the clock. If the Stars want to make the playoffs, and stick around for a while, they need to get closer to the center. This team has great players on the roster who are capable, so what do they need to do to strike this balance?
If you can make the other team uncomfortable, good things will happen. The Stars have proven a good forecheck leads to turnovers and goal scoring opportunities throughout the season. Look no further than the team’s last meeting with the Calgary Flames. The Stars applied an aggressive two man forecheck and were rewarded with an early goal because of it. They continued this strategy throughout the game and went on to win 2-0.
Establishing a good forecheck starts with good play by the other players on the ice. If the forecheck is beat, the non-forecheckers will have to be ready to deal with a potential rush by the other team. The discipline of the team at times has been suspect and will certainly be a cause of concern for the rest of the season. Balancing pressure on the opposition’s defensemen to force turnovers and taking careless penalties in the offensive zone has been a problem for the Stars.
The impatience by the Stars with the puck has been their undoing. The team’s composure has been rattled due to a multigoal deficit or an aggressive forecheck by the opposing team. It quickly switches to a game of hot potato and puts pressure on the goaltender of the night to bail out the team after a costly turnover. When the clock ticks down or the team feels the pressure of the game slipping away, we often see home run passes from their own zone in hopes of something good happening. The team has paid the price for it, except when Bishop or Khudobin have shown off some true heroics. Entries into the zone have looked like an honors math calculus test for the Stars and they are struggling to make the grade.
The solution requires patience and discipline. Individuals don’t win games, teams do. Benn, Seguin, and Radulov are spectacular players who can pull off highlight reel goals. They aren’t capable of doing this every night though. The other players need to pick their spots and be intelligently reckless. If you think you have a chance to make something happen, commit to the action. If you aren’t confident in your action, make the simple play. Keeping it simple is often the best way to go about your business.
Shots On Net
Shooting the puck recklessly for the sake of shooting will accomplish absolutely nothing. Especially when the net is empty for if it gets past your blue line, you are practically toast. Discipline in waiting for a teammate to get to the front of the net and shield the goaltender improves your chances of scoring. The problem for the Stars is they don’t seem to consistently get to the net, unless your name is Jamie Benn. If the team is going to consistently score goals, they need players in front of the net to help strengthen their offensive output. Jason Dickinson gets a pass on going to the net. He takes enough objects to his face already without going to the net often.
At times though, the Stars have been reluctant to pull the trigger and instead pass it off at what can be viewed as a panic move. The Stars need their other players to feel emboldened to shoot the puck. Fear of shooting is not going to help the depth scoring one bit. If you feel a lane is open to shoot, shoot. Be prepared to deal with the consequences of your action though. Shoot responsibly.
Consistent success has eluded the Stars for much of this season. A new coach and new system in three years can help explain some of the issues. The team has to find an identity and believe in it. The Stars are approaching the midway point of their season rapidly and are in position to make the playoffs. For a team that sports some of the best players in the NHL, that is not an acceptable standard. Patience and aggressiveness.
If the Stars walk the line, they will find success and make some noise in the playoffs.
Feature Image: Si.com, Glenn James/NHL/Getty Images