Playoff hockey in February? What a pleasure! But, what a price a tough win costs.
Absolutely riveting hockey transpired in Columbus last night, in one of those games that the Stars looked like a lonely band of brothers in enemy territory, playing another team that is equally desperate and equally clinging to a slight grasp on a playoff berth with a few dozen games to play.
Marty Turco was absolute money at times last night. He got plenty done in a 2nd period where the rest of the team seemed content to cheer him on – but maybe not help him too much. You knew this team would respond with a lot of grit and fight against the Blue Jackets after a pretty disappointing night in Chicago Saturday night, and if nothing else, they fought their tails off with determination in that final period and overtime.
Obvious bad news appears to be the strong possibility that Brad Richards is gone for a while. TSN claims he has a broken wrist, but the Stars have not announced anything from their medical staff yet. If that is the case, I am quite concerned. Richards does so much on this team, and this would be a lengthy and significant loss to add to the Morrow and Zubov subtractions. You could make the case that in September if you asked me to list the 4 most indispensible skaters on the Stars, I would list 91, 10, and 56 as 3 of the top 4 (Ribs).
Razor said it last night, this team has played well in the last 10 weeks, and part of that is great hockey they have played and earned, but part of it is that the team has remained healthy. Now, with Richards hurt and Steve Ott leaving the game in Chicago, we are starting to feel the effects of the war of attrition yet again.
With Richards out for several weeks, I assume, I am not too excited about what that does to the lineup. I guess they would have to consider the 3rd and 4th centers as Toby Peterson and Brian Sutherby. I think Steve Ott is a fine option, but I think he needs to remain on the line with Ribeiro and Lehtinen where he has been very effective.
Otherwise, that was a huge 2 points last night. I know the injury to Richards is something that bums us out, but if you didn’t pump your fist last night during the shootout when Neal when high-blocker and Turco shut the door all 3 times, then you fell asleep. That was plenty of fun.
Two other items:
This Quote told me we shouldn’t expect much at the deadline :
Stars co-general manager Les Jackson said before the game that the team is studying trade options before the league's March 4 deadline, but a tight internal budget will be restrictive.
Like it or not, the Stars have a “tight internal budget” and any idea that they would use the cap relief from the Zubov and Morrow’s injuries to go buy reinforcements is fantasy land in the current economical climate. Liverpool made no purchases (in fact they sold Robbie Keane) in the Winter transfer window. The Texas Rangers spent $0 this winter , so the idea that the Stars have Tom Hicks blessing to go buy some help seems far fetched.
And finally, another item that made me happy last night was seeing young and talented Mark Fistric going to battle with Rick Nash. When we discuss the blue-line and the need for help, I have been suggesting that the first thing they should do is see how ready Fistric is for prime-time. By all accounts all he lacks is experience and confidence.
Check out the TSN Scouting Report from earlier this winter:
Mark Fistric - Defense, 22 (1st round, 28th overall, 2004)
The one player who will be most pleased when Fistric hits the NHL ice full time will be Marty Turco since the Stars have not had a defenseman like him since Matvichuk and Hatcher. The 6-foot-2, 232 pound blueliner is one of the meanest and toughest defensemen not in the NHL. He has adjusted quickly to the pro game over the past year and a half in the AHL and has looked solid in his 37 game NHL call up last season. Fistric has jumped between the NHL and AHL this season and like all young defensemen, it takes time to develop their craft. But he looks ready to handle regular minutes at the major league level. He has the hockey sense to handle the speed and tempo of the NHL but he does not have the puck skills and passing ability to produce much offense. To his credit he keeps things simple and moves the puck quickly while remaining poised and relaxed. He can blast the puck from the point so he can keep forwards honest when they apply pressure. A good skater overall, his quickness and agility have improved since his junior days. Plays a tough physical style and enjoys laying big body checks and intimidating his opponents. Imagine the cartoon character Shrek on skates and you get the idea. Is as solid as they come without the puck and handles gap control and the angles well against the rush, while keeping his head on a swivel. Once in position he locks down that area and uses his body to block out forwards, keeps his stick in lanes and if you linger he will hurt you because he finds it fun. He has the capability to be a top defensive defenseman that shuts down opponents and is a natural leader with character and intangibles.
Tell me that isn’t the perfect addition to the group. It is tough to remember all the way back to when Hatcher and Matvichuk were young and inexperienced, but they were once. And then, they slowly learned how to play at the big level and were rocks and foundation pieces for a solid decade.
Anyone thinking that Nik Grossman and Mark Fistric paired together last night could be the start of something brilliant? It crossed my mind.
Anyway, I am told that Ott should be back for Edmonton on Thursday, but Richards is feared to be pretty bad.
Those who can, March On.