The Dallas Stars struggled early this season for a host of reasons, including the tremendously disappointing play of their top defensemen.
Alex Goligoski has no points in 10 games and a minus-10. His early season partner Sergei Gonchar has just one assist in nine game and a minus-4 rating.
So Stars coach Lindy Ruff broke them, probably for good.
“We’ve talked about having that pair together, and it just hasn’t been something that’s working,” Ruff told the Dallas Morning News.
Goligoski has been a solid producer for the Stars, scoring 103 points in 202 games since his arrival from Pittsburgh. Gonchar scored 64 points in 110 games during his last two seasons in Ottawa.
But both players have been a shell of their once-effective selves this season. Ruff moved Goligoski out of the lineup and paired Gonchar with rookie Kevin Connauton.
Those two players were plus-2 in their first game together.
“We’re going to get Goose back in, whether that’s tomorrow or the next game, but he’s going to go back in,” Ruff said. “I thought Kevin did an OK job in the game. For his first game, I thought he had some nerves early on, and I didn’t think he quite skated as well as I saw him skate in the pre-season, but I think you can package that all into the first game, and we’ll say you got it under your belt and we’ll go from here.”
What about Gonchar’s play?
“I think he’s getting better,” Ruff said . “You had moments where I wanted the puck to move quicker, but I thought his battle was better and, as a pair, they worked a little bit better.”
Several elite NHL defensemen were merely so-so during the first half of the NHL season. And some of them are picking up their pace:
Alex Pietrangelo, Blues: His 43 points in 79 games last season were just a starting point. He possesses 50- to 60-point potential. He scored just five goals and added just eight assists in his first 38 games. After scoring two points in 14 December games, he scored eight points in his first five games of January.
Dan Boyle, Sharks: He has a steady 50- to 60-point scorer, great on the power play. He averaged a team-high 26:14 per game last year, including a team-high 4:17 with the man advantage. The addition of hard-shooting Brent Burns should have made him even better this season. But scored just two goals and dished 14 assists in his first 35 games this season. Then he scored seven points during a five-game span.
Jack Johnson, Kings: He broke out with 25 power-play assists for the talented LA squad last season. But he remains a plus-minus liability; he was minus-57 in his first 200 games. In his first 38 games he scored just five goals with eight assists with a minus-9 rating. Then he scored seven points in his last six games.
Lubomir Visnovsky, Ducks: He is coming off a career-high 68-point season for a strong offensive team and a REALLY strong power play. His plus-18 rating, 11.8 percent shooting percentage and 13 even strength goals were also career highs. He scored 15 goals the year before. But he scored just five points in his first 19 games. Since then he has scored eight points in 11 games.
Drew Doughty, Kings: LA caved and gave him the money that he wanted. Now he needs do MUCH better than his 40 points in 76 games last season. He scored 59 points the year before. The reduction was due in large part to his power-play scoring rate falling from 4.31 points per 60 minutes to just 2.57 points/60. He scored just 15 points in his first 35 games this season with a minus-3 rating. But he scored eight points during a span of 12 games.
Brent Burns, Sharks: He brought 15- to 20-goal potential to an already potent power play. This guy can shoot the puck and San Jose should take advantage of that. But he had six goals, six assists and a plus-10 rating in his first 37 games. Then he had a goal and two assists during his last three games.
Alex Goligoski, Stars: Last season he scored 15 points in 23 games after moving over from Pittsburgh. But then the Dallas power lost Brad Richards to free agency and Goligoski scored just 10 points with a minus-4 rating in his first 29 games this season. Then he scored goals in back-to-back games and added an assist.
Filip Kuba, Senators: He posted a 3-6-9 line in his first 30 games. He earned a plus-9 rating and scored twice on the power play. After scoring just four points during a 19-game span, he scored four points with a plus-8 rating in his next six games.
Mark Streit, Islanders: He offers 60-point skill on an emerging offensive team. If his repaired shoulder holds up, he’ll be an elite weapon. He scored just two goals to go with 17 assists in 37 games. He scored just 11 points during a 28-game span. In his first five January game he had four points and a minus-1 rating.
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