In a perhaps not entirely unexpected development Alexander Radulov was healthy scratched last week for the game against the Winnipeg after being benched for practically the entire third period in the loss to Minnesota.
Radulov leads the Stars in penalty minutes this season with 30, 11 minutes more than the next leading penalty taker – Jamie Oleksiak. Combined with a rumored lack of commitment in practice, it’s clear that Jim Montgomery felt the need to send a message to the forward.
Radulov has always been a passionate player and at his best this can be a huge asset, lifting not only his own play but that of his team-mates as well, at his worst he can have a level of volatility that is damaging to the group effort. This has been demonstrated by the number of stick penalties he’s taken in the first third of the season.
While some have argued that as Radulov has gotten older and perhaps a half step slower, what would be an acceptable poke check has become stick penalty, the reality is that it isn’t a new development for the Russian to try and force the play in a way that ends up being called for a penalty.
It’s clear though that the Stars are a better team with him than without him. Radulov’s analytics show how elite the winger is. Radulov’s offensive upside is far greater than his defensive downside with a 20% bump in even-strength offense against league average, particularly in front of the net and only a -4% drop in even-strength defense. Although Radulov also draws a fair number of penalties, the amount he takes relative to the league average is more than a little horrifying (96% above the league average).
The good news is that Radulov has, as he did last year on being scratched when late to practice, responded well. He came out against the Islanders and was outstanding, scoring a goal and being credited with an assist on the Gurianov goal for which he did much of the hard work. It was an impressive team performance and Radulov was named the first star of the game.
Hopefully, the time sitting in the press box has given him a little perspective that allows the current play to continue.
Featured Image: LM Otero/AP