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Archive for the ‘Matt Niskanen’ Category

Brad

I guess it’s time to update my category list and move a bunch of players around. And coaches, too! Don’t forget coaches.

First of all, I’d like to say that I was shocked and saddened by the news of the plane crash carrying the KHL team Lokomotiv. I was already going to miss Karlis Skrastins and now I get all teary whenever he’s mentioned. It’s very sad. I really liked him while he was playing with the Stars. He was underappreciated, I thought. I’m a big fan of responsible, dedicated, unsung but important defensemen. They’re getting fewer and fewer these days. The defensemen that really should be forwards get all the press these days, but those like Skrastins are the ones that get the job done. From all accounts he was the nicest guy in the world and we’re going to miss him. We were going to miss him anyway.

On to less serious topics.

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After being indirectly insulted all day Monday by all the Dallas Stars bloggers/tweeters who tend to accuse anybody that disagrees with them of being an idiot, or worse, somebody that doesn’t know anything about hockey, I think I’ve settled on an opinion about the latest trade.

Joe Nieuwendyk traded James Neal and Matt Niskanen to Pittsburgh for Alex Goligowski.

First, I’ll say that I hate trades. I never like to see people traded. I almost always get over it, though. I still wish Philippe Boucher were still around, but most other trades I’ve learned to live with.

After the initial shock that Nieuwy would trade a young forward with the kind of potential that Neal has, I can see that he’s probably the one that would have to be traded. He’s good and teams want him, but he’s in a category (forwards) where the Stars have a surplus.

Neal has high potential, but I think it’s apparent that it might take a little while for him to work out his inconsistency kinks and reach that potential. I still expect him to be a star in the league, but he’s young and he has some work to do.

As everybody says, over and over, ad nauseum, the shortage on the Stars is in puck-moving defensemen. So they traded from a surplus to fill a shortage and that’s really all you can do.

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This has been a very long year for me. I was stressing over the job situation and various other stuff all year, and the fact that the Stars missed the playoffs for the second year in a row just dragged me down further.

So, in an effort to keep from going crazy, I decided to brace myself for the ’10-’11 season and try to be okay with things going poorly. I went ahead and assumed that it wasn’t going to be a good year, that things weren’t going to change much overnight.

There have been some big changes, of course. Our beloved Mike Modano is gone now. I’m not sure what happened to him, but I hope he’s happy. Our once-beloved-but-lately-maligned Marty Turco is gone now. He went to play for the Stanley Cup Champion Blackhawks (a much easier story to swallow). I admit I haven’t been keeping up with how that’s going, but I hope he’s doing fine. (Blackhawk fans, it might take a while for the defensemen to get used to his puck-handling. Be patient. [Not that there might not be other troubles.].) And our beloved Jere Lehtinen is kind of forgotten but not gone. If I’m not mistaken, he’s still “thinking about it.”

There has been one big lack of a change – at coach – that bothers me a little. Not that I expected there would be a change, but I don’t expect any kind of championship run until there is. If even then.

I say all this to say that I’m okay with how things are going. The hot start was what I didn’t expect. I’m kind of glad it didn’t last long enough for me to get my hopes up too far. I’m calm. I can live with mediocrity this year because I prepared for it.

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I’ve been collecting notes and opinions and rants for the last week or so, but I just haven’t had time to post any of them. Every new one kind of negates the previous one, even though I still want to rant about the previous one.

I was all in a tizzy about Crawford and his insistence on cramming square pegs into round holes without even attempting to shape the pegs a little first. And I kind of freaked out about how he decided to put Jamie Benn at center even though he’s never played the position and even though Mike Modano could use some more minutes.

I also was highly comforted by Mike Heika’s explanation of why Nik Hagman was allowed to leave in free agency and I wanted to remind you all that I miss Nik Hagman. In case you forgot.

And DO NOT get me started on Marty Turco. Believe me. I had pages and pages of rants about that. Let’s just say that I’m glad Alex Auld is getting a few games. I’ll come back to Turco later, maybe.

So, while I was seething all week about the Stars troubles, they went and pulled out a couple of wins. So I’m much calmer.

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Dallas 3, Detroit 1

Not bad. Not bad at all. I guess the win-lose-win-lose-win-lose power is stronger than the PLEASE-NO!-NOT DETROIT! power. It was helped, of course, by the lose-to-bad-teams, beat-good-teams thing they’ve got going on, too.

The Stars looked very good the whole game. The Wings had trouble getting past them into the offensive zone. Alex Auld had a fine game tonight and made some pretty good saves. He got a gift from the refs on that one non-goal, but hey, life’s tough.

Modano had another great game, getting an assist on Loui Eriksson’s goal and just being all over the place all night. James Neal got an assist on Loui’s goal, too, with a beautiful pass. That brings Neal’s point streak to ten games. Matt Niskanen got his back that the scorers took away from him in the last game to give to Neal.

Mike Ribeiro had a much better game than he’s had lately. He got a nice, albeit flukey, goal but he worked hard all game. Brenden Morrow had more energetic game tonight, too. I think Brenden and Ribs got a little shot in the arm by being moved to new lines. Brad Richards added two assists to his impressive total for the year.

One of the best things I’ve seen lately is the improvement in the penalty kill. According to Razor, they had killed 17 penalties in a row at that point. They killed all five against Detroit tonight. And they got two power play goals! Everything’s all topsy-turvy.

Myra and I will be at the game tomorrow night. Let’s break the pattern, boys.

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Dallas 2, Phoenix 3

They keep saying they’re looking for consistency, but as Ryan Lambert, the Puck Daddy What We Learned guy, points out, win lose win lose win lose win lose is consistent. They need to start winning games when it’s their turn to lose one.

I’m almost expecting them to win against Detroit on Wednesday night. I never assume that, but this win-lose-win-lose thing might be more powerful than the usual pattern against Detroit of lose-lose-lose.

Phoenix is doing a lot better this year, of course, now that they have a decent coach. Yet, they’re not doing so well that the Stars can take them lightly. As we saw.

The habit of spotting every team two goals is getting pretty tiresome. At least the Coyotes only got one before we tied it up the first time. That was a great goal by Modano, by the way. Not many can do what he does with his backhand.

I’m sure Dave Tippett was pretty pleased with the win even though he tried to play it off as just another game. I’m glad he’s having some success in Phoenix, but I don’t want to see them win against the Stars again this season. We couldn’t even beat them last year, when Gretzky was throwing fits on the bench and they were losing everywhere else.

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Let’s see what we’re looking at here.

The defense isn’t half bad. Oooh! The young defense is going to be overmatched! Ooh! We need a free agent d-man everybody’s heard of! That was the cry during the off-season, and it continues now. But we can’t afford a free agent defenseman in his prime and we don’t need one that’s past his prime. I think the defense is already showing that they are learning the system and are the type that can work it.

Fistric is basically a stay-at-home defenseman that can skate like an offensive defenseman. Same with Grossman. Grossman is leading the NHL in plus-minus right now. Fistric played left wing for two games. Trevor Daley can overtake anybody that might take the puck from him. Niskanen can zig-zag through the opposition just like a forward, and is improving his defensive game. Robidas is still the leader he’s been for a couple of years and is basically in his prime. And Skrastins is actually helping out quite a bit. I like a professional shot-blocker like him. He makes some good plays and blocks a lot of shots.

I might be a little Pollyanna about the defense, but I think it’s doing pretty well. Certainly better than the skeptics predicted.

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