Monday, May 20, 2013

Injuries, Veteran Scoring and Puck Luck Contributed to Stars' Early Exit

(Credit: Steven Christy)
The Stars had exit interviews Sunday with Les Jackson, Jim Nill and Scott White and started leaving for points north Monday. A few players and the coaching staff were around for questions on Monday. With the weekend to collect their thoughts and process the games in OKC, it was a good opportunity to talk about the series in general. There were a few common threads running through the team's thoughts on the series, among them the effects of injuries, impact of veteran scoring and the often-elusive puck luck.

Injuries

Texas had some significant injuries to deal with in the playoffs that came out today now that the season is over.

"Morin's line was great during the regular season, and that line was beat up in the playoffs," said Coach Desjardins. "[Fraser] breaks a finger [in Game 1] and you think, 'How bad can that be?', but when you're a shooter, that's about the worst thing you can have. Morin's banged up, and Sceviour is banged up too."

"All the sudden a group that's instrumental can play hard but isn't as effective. That's just how it was, and it hurt us. You can't change it though."

Some level of alarm was raised as well that the team was seeking to move Alex Chiasson to center, a move they made with Jamie Benn in Dallas. Chiasson allayed any concern that they had moved him from his natural winger position. The move was due to injury.

(Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)

"Dowling had a finger issue and couldn't take faceoffs," said Chiasson. "So I rotated in there. Going into playoffs, I felt comfortable there. It wasn't a switch; they needed someone to win faceoffs."

As to who played the position of center, especially in the defensive zone, that was less clear.

"Dowling and I switched on the ice a lot, but that probably hurt us. [OKC] knew what we were doing. I didn't do much that series; they're a good faceoff team. It's good for me as a player though. You want more in your bag."

With many of their key players injured, the Stars struggled to generate offense. Colton Sceviour had a shoulder issue; Travis Morin was still not 100% after the puck to the head against Milwaukee. Mike Hedden was similarly banged up as well.

"We had guys banged up who we would rely on for goal scoring," said Coach Lidster. "We have to develop secondary scoring."

(Lidster also noted that the Stars were very close to shutting down Patrik Nemeth for the season after his re-injury.)

Veteran Scoring

Part of that desired secondary scoring needs to be of the veteran variety, according to Lidster. He felt that OKC's veteran scoring and playoff experience was a big difference in the series.

"You look at their team. When the NHL went back to work, there was a transition. I know [OKC's coaches] were happy with their team because they thought they were stronger and more cohesive unit. They had guys like Arcobello who've been in the trenches and in the wars. It's not often that you go into the playoff without a lot of experience [like we did]. I think that was a difference."

Sceviour was one of only two top six forwards with AHL playoff experience. (Credit: Josh Rasmussen/Texas Stars)
Among the Stars' top 6, only two had AHL playoff experience, Sceviour and Morin. On the other side, OKC had players like Jonathan Cheechoo, Mark Arcobello and Josh Green just to name a few.

"They're a good team," said Chiasson. "Whoever gets out of the other series, they're going to give them a good shot. They have some experienced guys. You can't take the 50 goals [in the NHL] away from Cheechoo; those are guys that you have to watch."

Both coaches said that they felt OKC played a little bit smarter than Texas in the series with Lidster comparing it to Texas Hold 'Em.

"They had their cards, and they knew when to go all in. When they didn't, they knew when to fold them. They played a smart game. Goaltender was excellent, and we didn't challenge him enough. We have to work on that. Some of their key guys came through."

Puck Luck

The often-elusive puck luck played a big part in the series for the Stars, who had clearly spent some time over the weekend thinking about the chances that could have been.

"There were plays that we just didn't score on," said Desjardins. "Pucks were just laying there. We're up 3-2 in Game 4. We have two breakaways, and we didn't score. Those go in, and it's a different series. That said, they didn't go in, and we have to learn from that."

Colton Sceviour added, "If you give them chances, they can score 3 goals on 3 chances. They have those kinds of guys that can bury pucks given the opportunity.  We couldn't score on our chances and ended up giving them too many."

"We just didn't capitalize on our grade A chances. There were tons of chances where you look at it and say, 'If that goes in, it changes the game'."

Coach Desjardins had some sage words on the whole playoff series though, as closing thoughts.

"[In the playoffs,] opposing teams get better, and you either get better yourself or fall by the wayside. I have no complaint about whether our guys wanted it. Playoffs bring out the best in you. Before the last game, I said, 'A diamond is just a chunk of coal that made good under pressure.' That's what the playoffs are. Right at the start you don't always turn into that diamond. It doesn't mean we can't but just not this year."

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